Archived: 20 Years Later, Has Anything Really Changed?


As Los Angeles County prepares to observe the 20th anniversary of the 1992 Los Angeles riots, we have to wonder if rioting of this magnitude could ever happen in the county again.

The violent outburst following the finding by a jury that police officers — seen on film repeatedly beating Black motorist Rodney King — were innocent resulted in 55 deaths and billions of dollars in property damage. For six long days, Angelenos watched in horror as the National Guard patrolled the city and businesses burned.

The type of outrage that many minorities felt 20 years ago about the unequal treatment they received compared to police officers still exists today.

The same holds true for the special treatment afforded elected officials, celebrities, and the very well connected.

But the distrust that some have for the police is one that has been passed on from generation to generation, and unfortunately born out of the reality of what African Americans, Latinos, and yes, poor Whites feel when their efforts to seek justice are ignored, belittled, or turned against them.

Though perhaps not as true today as it was 20 years ago — and that depends on whom you talk to — it’s a hard for society to erase the wrongs of the past from our collective memory.

Today, undocumented immigrants feel they are the recipients of unfair and unequal treatment by our legal system.

Many other members in our society also feel they have been betrayed by the legal and financial systems. They feel it’s the big banks and the courts that have failed to protect them, aided by the legislators they elected to represent them, but don’t.

The Occupy Movement is a demonstration of that sentiment.

The inequality felt by many Americans today is so apparent that we have to wonder if there is an event, like the Rodney King beating 20 years ago, on the horizon with the capability of lighting the fire of rage, hopelessness and helplessness simmering below the surface of people’s feelings?

When people feel desperate, alone, disconnected and unvalued, they are more likely to do act out.

After World War 1 we said this would never happen again. After World War ll we said this would never happen again. After the Watts Riots we said this would never happen again. After the 1992 LA Riots we said… You get the picture.

While we do not want to negate some of the positive changes that have taken place since 1992, it’s important to remember that just because things are better, it doesn’t mean everything is all right.

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