As I watched news reports of the civil unrest that began on April 29, I was struck by the number of times reporters expressed "shock and bewilderment" at the response of many people to the jury verdict in the police officers' trial in the Rodney King case. I wondered how people could report accurately about something they didn't seem to understand.
Now I'm equally perplexed at the reaction of the media and mainstream leadership in Los Angeles to the support the four young men accused of beating truck driver Reginald Denny, often referred to as the L.A.4+, have received from segments of the African-American community.
Nothing seems to better illustrate the problems of race relations in Los Angeles than the different perspective some communities have about the Denny defendants. Depending on your perspective, they are either hoodlums, thugs, heroes, martyrs or victims of a society that would rather not recognize their existence.
Are they heroes? Absolutely not! Nothing they did was heroic. Are they victims of a double standard of justice? Absolutely! The scales of justice for African-American men are very seldom balanced and the rule rather than the exception has prevailed in their case.
On March 3, 1991, the nation watched in horror as members of the Los Angeles Police Department brutally beat motorist Rodney King. However, when the jury in Simi Valley watched the same horrifying tape of brutality, they somehow found the officers innocent of virtually all charges.
When the L.A.4+ were arrested earlier this year they were treated much differently than the officers accused of beating King. The bail for the police officers was reasonable; bail for the L.A.4+ was excessive. The police officers were released on bail, the L.A.4+ remain in jail.
Then the district attorney's office began playing musical chairs with the judges who were to preside over the trial of the Denny defendants. An African-American Superior Court judge was given the case, then surprisingly removed him from the case.
This chronology of bizarre events have led many people in the community to question whether the four can be given a fair trial.
The debate is not about guilt or innocence, rather it's about justice! Will the young men accused of beating Denny be treated fairly or will justice once again stay beyond the grasp of the African-American community?