On April 29th, 1992, a Ventura County judge acquitted four LAPD officers of beating Rodney King. Reasonable force. More than 50 swings of a baton (a baton is made from wood, plastic, rubber, or metal; they function well in regards to breaking windows to rescue victims in driving cars or blazing buildings–imagine that force). Batons are meant to strike, not via a direct hit, but rather, by bringing the arm down sharply so that the tip moves faster than the handle, like a slingshot. I’ve studied this case in every Criminal Justice class I’ve ever taken. I have a degree in it. And yet I’m here, 25 years after the Los Angeles Riots, still trying to make sense of it all.
Rodney King was on drugs. Primarily cocaine. Also, PCP and Marijuana. This will become relevant later on.
I’m here in downtown LA, and people of all colors are holding hands in solidarity.
I drive down Skid Row. Count the tents. One is one too many.
Trap houses. Drug lords. Crack whores. They line the street here. Dilapidated porches; crumbling doorways. Weeds poking through the pavement, their little heads peering through cemented sidewalk. Poverty.
Some kids are playing ball. And Gary Webb is dead. He shot himself, in his dreary, downtown apartment. .33 Caliber bullet to the head. A lot of people would make the argument that he wasn’t holding the gun, but no one knows who was. The CIA is good at that.
The inner city of Los Angeles has been battling a drug war. For a couple of decades. This whole country is. So much so, that local PD’s are mandated to carry Naloxone (Narcan), an opiate overdose antidote. Well, an antidote of sorts. All it really does is temporarily alleviate the symptoms of an overdose. You inject it, nasally or subcutaneously, and it knocks the opiates off the opioid receptors. Cops show up on scene, find a patient in respiratory arrest, and quite literally bring that person back to life. Temporarily. It only lasts for a little while, before the naloxone fades, and the opiates re-bind with the receptors.
Part two. Ever heard of drug amnesty? It’s a thing now. Because if you call 911 to report an overdose, the cops show. Which means you go. And the cops got tired of finding bodies dumped in the back woods and on the side of highways. So they made a law. A Good Samaritan law. That says that when you call 911 to report an overdose, you can’t be prosecuted for drug use.
These are good responses. It’s community policing. A way to solve a problem. But what do you do when that problem stems from the government?
Crack Cocaine is an epidemic. In Los Angeles, you can thank the CIA. You can thank the CIA because they were fiscally supporting a group called the Contra Rebels, a counter revolutionary group in Central America who was at war with Nicaragua. A group that brought crack cocaine to LA, paid for by our Central Intelligence Agency.
Gary Webb exposed them. And now he’s dead. And so are a lot of other people.
You know who suffered? Not the CIA, but Webb himself, and the impoverished, vulnerable African American communities. Who saw a temporary solution to their shitty lives. And what happens when a new trend breaks out in Los Angeles? Yeah, it breaks out nation wide. Because Los Angeles is the cultural hub of this nation. Next to New York, countries around the world look to us for inspiration and advice. We do crack cocaine? We put it in our music videos? We make it cool? Guess what? Everyone else starts doing it. We’re trendy as fuck. And trends are never based on rationale or logic; they’re merely based on our human desire to fit in. Psychology 101.
So I’m sitting here, looking at weary faces, and wrinkled eyes. Vacant, empty eyes. Skull-like cheekbones, caved in like collapsed mines. Pale skin, even on the darkest faces.
And I’m mad. I’m pissed. I’m pissed because there’s no solution. How can I fix things that are institutionally driven? How can I fix these weary faces? How can I erase their burdens? Can I remove the wrinkles from the lining of their eyes? Can I restore the coloration in their complexions?
There’s no photoshop technology to repair the human spirit. That doesn’t exist yet. And these people can’t afford our high cost yoga classes and who the fuck has time for meditation when they’re busy dodging bullets?
I’m not opposed to government, but I have an expectation that they will recognize their wrongdoings. I have an expectation that they will immerse themselves into these communities, and see the damage they have done. I have an expectation that they will repair and right their wrongs. Is that so naive? Am I a fool? Am I hoping for something far too great?
At the homeless shelter, I cradle a tiny body in my hands. Her parents are hungry, so I give them a moment’s reprieve from their work. She’s in red footie pajamas. A little blonde head of hair. She wraps her arms around my neck. I fear for her future, mostly because she trusts me far too much. And that worries me.
I cry. I cry and I try not to but the tears come and they come hard and they come fast. Her tiny fingers cling to mine. She closes her eyes. Falls asleep in my bare arms, a stark contrast to her mother’s, which are lined in track marks. I don’t blame her. How can I? I have lived a privileged life I do not know this pain. I cannot resonate with this level of suffering. But it breaks me nonetheless.
In high school, I did a project on gang life in LA. A fellow student asked me for my solution. I couldn’t give him one. I didn’t have an answer. I still don’t. I’m trying. Trying to figure it out but the best I figure is I can’t fix the world. But I can love it. Better than it has ever been loved before.
I kiss the crown of her head. I tell her she is beautiful, and perfect, and worthy. I hope she hears me. I hope she remembers. I hope she knows she’s sacred. Precious. Worthy. So fucking worthy.
Go love someone. Love them fiercely, and deeply. The government missed out on this. Their empty three-piece suits have forgotten the importance of connection, and so I cradle a darling girl in my arms. I can’t fix her. I can’t fix her parents. I can’t fix the trap houses or the ghettos or the poverty. But I can love it. And love it I will. With every ounce of energy I possess. And, hopefully, these beautiful people will find their worth. But, until they do, you’ll find me here. Cradling children. And loving with every ounce of energy in my body.
There’s more to come on this. I haven’t finished speaking yet. I have a lot of voiceless people to speak up for.
Photo Cred: The LA Times.