I really didn’t want to write about Oscar Grant. Sometimes I feel like my voice is ineffective. Writing just doesn’t seem to be enough, but then I realized how angry and hurt I was. I shed tears. Once again, America proved justice is a far-fetched notion for those of us with pigmented skin.
It seemed like just yesterday that I was writing about 7-year old Aiyana Jones who was murdered by Detroit police officers. Today it was unarmed Oscar Grant.
On January 1, 2009 Oscar Grant was handcuffed and lying face down on the subway station platform when officer Johannes Mehserle shot him in the back. His defense team argued that he thought he was reaching for his taser instead of his gun. But why would an officer need to taser an unarmed man who had already been restrained?
The verdict really comes as no surprise with California’s history of police brutality. In 1991 Rodney King was beat up by cops in Los Angeles in which all four cops were tried and acquitted for his beating. And just like the Rodney King beating, Grant’s murder was also caught on tape. Yet an all white jury deliberated and convicted the officer of involuntary manslaughter, which holds a maximum four-year sentence. A slap on the wrist conviction is what cops receive when murdering an unarmed black man.
Someone I used to follow on Twitter had the audacity to go on a tirade saying justice had been served. I disagree and opined why. After all, isn’t that the point of social media? But she took it 10 steps too far when she started sending subliminal shots about me being unreasonable, stupid, a fake and said I was wasting my time by responding to her instead of writing to my congressman.
I despise Internet thugs.
Her tweets did however get me to thinking about activism. Although I wrote about Aiyana Jones twice, tweeted until my fingers hurt, called the Detroit Police Commissioner, sent letters to print media outlets and was now doing the same with Oscar Grant, I wondered was I really doing enough. Or was I all rhetoric?
It is easy to be outraged and in that outrage express your dissatisfaction with the outcome. It is much harder to unselfishly devote your time to being involved in your community.
Outside of the riots, people in Oakland were and had been organizing and rallying since day one. The Washington D.C. area was now doing the same. I’m sure many other communities in big cities will follow suit. Unfortunately, you will never see this on the nightly news.
Speaking of the news, where was the coverage? The so-called liberal media is a joke when it comes to covering anything pertaining to a black man assassinated at the hands of a white police officer. Just like the Aiyana Jones case I flipped through the channels in search of coverage to no avail. Don’t get me started on the black journalists who were more concerned with LeBron James than the outcome of the murder of one of their brothers. The media was proving to be an #epicfail as they had many times before.
As a collective I don’t think we (myself included) do enough. Whether it’s fear or lack of concern we choose not to cause too much havoc. But then we wonder why the same thing happens to our people over and over again. For those who are indifferent about the case, I wonder what you would do if this was your son, brother, husband or father. You would want people to organize then wouldn’t you?
I cannot neglect recognizing the many people in my generation who do actively fight injustice. Those who love our people so much they sometimes sit and cry because of the racism and oppression we face not only in America, but also in the diaspora. I cannot fail to pay homage to the people I’ve met who participated in their first protest at age 10. Nor will I pretend there are not many more like them.
It is because of their passion that I will respectfully correct any elder who complains about my generation by telling them, “don’t forget who raised us.”
My anger initially caused me to believe rioting was the answer. I thought what better way than to show Oakland, the police, the judges and the country that we won’t allow this to continue to happen. As I calmed I realized destroying our own neighborhoods doesn’t result in justice for Oscar Grant. If anything it does a disservice to what we’re fighting for. The minute we result to violence or illegal activities the focus is then turned away from the injustice of the verdict and turned to our criminal behaviors.
Anyone who knows me understands I respect Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., but I’m much more of an El-Hajj Malik El- Shabazz type of girl. I do believe “by any means necessary,” but not at the cost of other black men being brutally beaten, arrested or even killed.
I hope the Oscar Grant verdict does make us angry. Most importantly I hope the anger is turned into action to change policies and laws of a system designed for us to fail.
Although @jazzzyone was out of line, too disrespectful for my liking and flat out wrong, I get it. True activism is about more than sending out a myriad of Tweets. It is done in the trenches oftentimes with no recognition.
And that’s where you will find me from now on. RIP Oscar Grant.
“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.” -Bishop Desmund Tutu