Average Jane

Forgiveness: Rodney King and Me

There is a sweetness about Rodney King. An air of humility. A seemingly new found dedication to life.

No. I have not met Rodney King, but I have been watching him on his journey through rehab and sobriety on VH1’s Celebrity Rehab/Sober House (which I am not proud to admit but at least it’s not People’s Court).

It has been a literal cast of characters that has gone through rehab and starred in this what-should-be-serious show about getting help for drug and alcohol addiction. Most come for the spotlight. Some haven’t used in years but just need help maintaining their sobriety. Most are B-listers. Some are big names.

Then there was Rodney King.

Not a celebrity, per se, but a victim and an addict… a victim of his addiction, truly.

When the other “celebrities” walked into the house on the first day, they found a large Black man sparking whispers of, “Rodney King? Is he a football player?” As an American, as young as I was when the “incident” occurred, I was appalled. In one episode, Rodney told his story. It was the first time I had heard him talk about it and it was moving. Stunning. Enlightening. He came across a gentle giant, acknowledging he had some fault. Acknowledging they did, too. He was dedicated to his sobriety. For himself and his two nearly estranged grown daughters. He was too embarrassed about his addiction to call them and so he didn’t for months at a time. But part of staying sober is fighting the demons that haunt you, the ones that feed your addiction, and so he decided to write a letter to the police officers that beat him forgiving them for what they did. He took the letter and a peace offering to the site of the beating and Dr. Drew came along. Rodney King read that letter on the iconic site of his beating and started the process of letting go.

I was overwhelmed. It was a “celebreality” moment that transcended Brett Michaels on the Rock of Love or Flava Flav on Flavor of Love. I wanted to share the moment with a new someone in my life. His take on it was different.

“The most well know crack head in America!” he said. I protested. He continued. “The first cops did nothing wrong. He resisted, they beat him. He coulda killed someone.” I protested again. He kept going. “Now, the next set of cops were out of fucking line. They just went to town.” I stepped back momentarily from the immediate conversation and reminded him that I wasn’t really talking about the incident itself. It was a long time ago. But regardless of who was right or wrong, Rodney King was ruined for life. He was broken. His addiction broke him, then the police broke him, and he couldn’t get put himself back together.

“I don’t think it’s about whether the cops need to be forgiven for doing something wrong…” I gave some bogus example of a kid being screwed up in the head for breaking curfew and getting hit by his dad, and needing to forgive his dad for it before he could learn to trust again… But I had something else in mind. I just don’t know him well enough to share that part of me with him.

I need to forgive my dad. I need to forgive him for not being nice to me or my mom. I need to forgive him for slowing killing himself without regard for my family. I wanted to explain that he just because he doesn’t “deserve” forgiveness, or maybe because he didn’t commit a forgivable offense to begin with doesn’t mean I don’t need to forgive him… for me.

This past Yom Kippur I spent far too much time contemplating this very concept. Where do you fall with God if you don’t ask for forgiveness from someone, but they forgive you anyway? If my dad’s a douchebag and never says he’s sorry, but I forgive him over and over again, is he good? Am I? According to Rabbi-In-Training J, accepting an apology is like giving a gift. According to Rabbi-In-Practice-Z, if the other person didn’t ask, it’s a non-starter because it’s on them, not you. Essentially, “Fuck em.” Perhaps that’s off the point, but I do tend to agree with J on this one.

Forgiveness to me is precious. And personal. Maybe it’s not about the other person at all. Forgiveness is not forgetting. I see it as the right to move on.

I guess this all hit me because I’m going to FL to see my parents in a few days, and I am in an amazing place right now. Mentally, emotionally, physically… I am good. I am ok. I am fine. And seeing him may change that, and that is not ok. So I am making this promise to you in the hopes that you will hold me to it: This trip will be different. I will go there with an open heart and open mind and pocket full of forgiveness to hand out whenever I damn well see fit.

This is not about what happened to Rodney King all those years ago. I am not passing judgement on the events or the response. But he has taken his life in a new direction with a sincerity and a bravery that inspired me to do better and be better.

And I think that is a celebreality success.


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  1. * Jessica:) says:

    Will you put a big hug from me in the pocket opposite from the forgiveness? Just in case you need it while you’re there. Good luck, and try to enjoy it. The weather, if all else fails šŸ™‚

    | Reply Posted 9 years, 1 month ago
  2. * Emily says:

    So I learned from this post that we have something else in common…(dads)
    I agree with you that we need to forgive to be able to move on, but I’ve found that I also have to set boundaries. I no longer let him treat me badly. I stick up for myself or leave.

    I hope your visit goes well and you maintain the peace you’ve found in yourself.

    | Reply Posted 9 years, 1 month ago

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