In the early 1990s I was plucked out of the newsroom at GMTV – then ITV’s breakfast show – and offered a plum new job as Los Angeles correspondent, based in the Hollywood Hills.
ME?! Really? Hollywood? I was on the plane before you could say Kim Kardashian!
I leased a car, found somewhere to live, and after a couple of days getting to know my bearings, went on a bit of a recce of my new hometown. I didn’t know where I was heading, but as most of the signs were posting to South Central LA, I thought I must be heading in the right direction. Los Angeles, California! Here I come!
Little did I know then that South Central LA wasn’t a city centre as we know it, although I started to get wiser when beaten-up cars with bullet holes splattered across the bodywork lined up alongside me at the traffic lights. I was scared.
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Some of the cars, I later found out, incurred their shotgun wounds in the LA riots of 1992, following the brutal police beating of Rodney King – a black man. An innocent man.
The assault was witnessed by a bystander, who filmed it and sent the footage to a local news station. When it was aired, to universal uproar, it ignited a fury, followed by rioting after the police involved were acquitted of any crime.
In the jury’s skewed eyes, the crime was the victim’s. For being black. It was almost as if the unwarranted beating hadn’t happened at all.
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Thank goodness, then, that times have changed in the US, but racism as we learned from the police killing of George Floyd, persists.
Let’s hope there comes a day when there’ll be no need for reminders.