It’s a French term, one that comes from the Italian word “voltafaccia.” The definition, according to the Web site www.thefreedictionary.com, means “a reversal, as in opinion or policy.”
Or in situation. Twenty-one years ago, Rodney King, a black resident of Los Angeles, got the most famous beat down ever administered by members of an American police force.
Four white officers bludgeoned and kicked King; the volte-face version of that incident occurred 19 years later, nearly 3,000 miles away, in the Maryland suburb just outside of the nation’s capital called College Park.
The suburb is home to the University of Maryland College Park, a Division I school whose athletic teams play in the Atlantic Coast Conference, better known as the ACC.
And Duke University is known for having, annually, one of the finest men’s basketball teams in the nation. Over the years, they’ve used UMCP men’s basketball team as, as, well, what exactly is the term I’m looking for here?
Ah, yes: I think “whompin’ fodder” will suffice quite nicely. Traditionally, Duke University men’s basketball teams do to UMCP’s men’s basketball teams what those cops did to King.
But on that night two years ago, something astonishing happened. Yes, it was so astonishing you have to wonder if it was a sign that the Apocalypse is indeed upon us.
UMCP’s men’s basketball team BEAT Duke. UMCP fans weren’t just delirious; they went absolutely bonkers.
They took to the streets, celebrating. Some say the celebration got out of hand.
The poor students must have forgotten the Maryland county they were in. That would be Prince George’s County, where the po-po have a reputation for brutality so bad that some think the official name of the police department should be “Ass Whuppings Are Us.”
Duke University men’s basketball team use UMCP’s team for whompin’ fodder. Prince George’s County cops use, well, civilians.
The Prince George’s County po-po were indeed called to the scene. John McKenna, a white student at UMCP, who had no idea that being whompin’ fodder was in his very near future, skipped merrily down a street. Cops in riot gear confronted him.
What happened next was caught on video. One cop used a shield to force McKenna into a wall. He was then forced to the ground and two cops beat him mercilessly with batons.
Here’s where the volte-face became complete: both cops that beat McKenna are black.
One was Cpl. James Harrison; the other was Cpl. Reginald Baker.
Both men were charged with assault. Their trial just ended earlier this month. Harrison was found guilty of second-degree assault; Baker was acquitted.
Yeah, go figure. I watched the video. I could have sworn I saw Harrison and Baker handing out the SAME ass whipping, not different ones. But what do I know?
Only this: the principles in both the Rodney King beating and the John McKenna beating should be the same.
An excessive use of police force is wrong. It doesn’t matter what the victim’s skin color is; it doesn’t matter what the skin color is of the cops using the excessive force either.
So some kudos are due for Angela Alsobrooks, the state’s attorney for Prince George’s County. It was her office that filed charges of first-degree assault, second-degree assault and misconduct against Harrison and Baker.
Prince George’s County Judge Beverly Woodard dropped the first-degree assault charges against both police officers. (During the trial, it was revealed that Woodard is the ex-wife of a Prince George’s County cop that was convicted of using excessive force. That should have, but didn’t, raise some eyebrows.)
Neither officer was found guilty of misconduct.
Baker didn’t testify during the trial, which might have led to his acquittal. Harrison took the stand and basically challenged the jury – and just about everyone else – to answer the question, “Who are you gonna believe? Me? Or your lying eyes?”
I guess the jurors decided to go with their lying eyes. Jurors in the criminal trial of the four cops that beat King had no eyes at all, lying or otherwise.
It’s worth noting that Prince George’s County is predominantly black, overwhelmingly liberal and heavily Democratic. So racism isn’t an issue in the McKenna beating.
The issue is power, as in “absolute power corrupts absolutely.” That’s true no matter what the race is of those who have power.
Harrison and Baker thought they had such absolute power. A toast to Ms. Alsobrooks for proving them wrong.