Rodney King Juror Talks About His Black Father and Family For the First Time
One of the most often-repeated facts about the Simi Valley jury that let four police officers off the hook in the Rodney King beating was that not a single member of the panel was black. Twenty years later one of the jurors explains why that's just not true.
The Ventura County-Star decided to call up the members of the jury to talk about their notorious decision. Not all of them were alive and most of the surviving members shied away from questions—with the exception of Henry King, Jr. who has a fascinating story.
Although Henry King, Jr. (no relation to Rodney) has fair skin and blue eyes and passes for white, his father is black. After the decision, he knew that he would have to face internal criticism in his family—along with the public scrutiny. He said: "After the verdict, I had to face that part of my family. Some were supportive, and some weren't."
King said that he hates hearing the refrain repeated to this day that there was no black perspective on the jury and that the decision was rooted in the racism of a white jury. He knew well the kinds of racist things white people will say when they think black people aren't around—and he even had the N-word hurled at him during childhood—but he says that wasn't an issue with this jury: "I didn't feel anything like that during the trial."
It's interesting to read the 69-year-old man struggling with the language to describe his own racial identity and experience throughout the in-depth interview, which is worth a read. Was he black? Part black? Mixed race? Did he have black blood? Was he a mulatto?
"Forty years ago, you really didn't say that you were part black," said King. "Now, I'm proud of it."