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Like the Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas hearings a few months before, the Rodney King beating, the acquittal of the Los Angeles police officers who "restrained" him and the subsequent civil unrest in Los Angeles flashed Race across the national consciousness and the gaze of American culture momentarily froze there. Pieces of everyday racial dynamics briefly seemed clear, then faded from view, replaced by presidential politics and natural disasters.

This Essay examines in more depth what was exposed during the momentary national focus on Rodney King. Two main events – the acquittal of the police officers who beat King and the civil unrest in Los Angeles following the verdict – serve as starting points for an analysis of the ideological and symbolic intertwining of race and power in American culture. This Essay explicates the 'outlines of a critical race theory, focusing not solely on the Rodney King incident, but considering more broadly how racial power generally is produced, mediated and legitimated – an approach that seeks to connect developments in diverse arenas in which race and power are contested.


Courts | Criminal Law | Criminal Procedure | Law | Law and Race | Law Enforcement and Corrections | State and Local Government Law