In 1991, when video was released of Rodney King being beaten by Los Angeles police officers, Alton Sterling of Louisiana was 12 years old. Philando Castile of Minnesota was seven.The King video was supposed to provide irrefutable evidence of what black Los Angeles residents had been describing for decades: systematic, racist police brutality. Now, many assumed, the violence black Americans had long endured from police would not be denied. Now, finally, officers would have to face legal repercussions.
But instead, the officers who abused Mr. King walked free. And today, videos of Mr. Sterling and Mr. Castile being killed by police officers circulate online, joining videos of police officers killing Laquan McDonald of Chicago, Walter Scott of North Carolina, and Eric Garner of New York, among others.
The legacy of the Rodney King video was not justice, but sequels.