Words + Images: The Oscar Grant Aftermath

Compiled by Site Lead Arturo R. García

A white former transit officer was convicted of involuntary manslaughter Thursday in the videotaped shooting death of an unarmed black man on an Oakland train platform in an encounter that set off days of rioting in the city.

Prosecutors had wanted Johannes Mehserle convicted of murdering 22-year-old Oscar Grant, who was shot once in the back as he lay face-down.

The jury’s conviction on the lesser charge raised concerns of a repeat of the unrest that followed the shooting on New Year’s Day in 2009.

What happened to Grant is every black family’s worst nightmare for their children — especially their sons — in a country where racial profiling and police brutality of black folks is rampant and still unchecked. Being hassled by the cops for driving while black or in Grant’s case, breathing while black is almost a rite of passage for young black men. It usually happens somewhere in the neighborhood of 14-25. In my brother’s case, he was with a friend as a 16 year old just driving to another friend’s house when he was pulled over by a cop in our quiet Washington DC suburb, accused randomly & without cause of stealing the car and found himself facedown in a large intersection with a gun pointed at his head. It’s said here in the Bay Area that Oscar Grant’s mom actually encouraged him to ride the subway New Year’s Eve — because she thought it would be safer. There’s not a black mother in the United States, no matter your socioeconomic or educational level, who does not look at Oscar Grant’s mother and say — there but for the grace of God…goes I.
– Jack & Jill Politics

Photo by MC Kev Choice, musician (via Twitpic)
Photo by MC Kev Choice, musician (via Twitpic)

Don’t get me wrong, there are times when we have to take to the streets. I am down to march, chant, rally, block an intersection, commit civil disobedience- what ever it takes. But not just to make myself feel better. When we take to the streets, we should be saying what we want, clearly and resolutely- not just point out the problems but also demanding the solutions. I know too much to protest the sky, to mistake commotion for motion.
Jakada Imani, Executive Director, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights

There ABSOLUTELY were narcs up in that crowd. Taking pics, askin questions, pretending to blend in … and stickin out like a sore thumb.
– Jeff Chang, journalist

Photo by Aldrin Bulayo, photographer (via Twitpic)
Photo by Aldrin Bulayo, photographer (via Twitpic)

Oakland Police Chief Anthony Batts said two to four people had been arrested, but he expected the number to rise.
The arrests come after protesters broke into a Foot Locker near the city’s downtown.
Protesters have also set some garbage cans on fire.
– The Oakland Tribune

– Nora Barrows-Friedman, journalist

Stephen Allen, a 22-year-old protester from West Oakland, got caught near a mob that broke through the gate of the Foot Locker shoe store and looted the store of sneakers and sportswear. Moments later, a masked man, in one swift and violent blow of a long object, broke the window of the Far East National Bank across the street.

Allen was upset.

“Before the sun went down I was happy with everything,” he said. “It’s no longer about Oscar Grant. The people who went in there and came out with shoes; that’s not about Oscar Grant anymore. What we had before the sun went down, that was justice. This is just pure stupidity.”
The San Jose Mercury News

“I’m not shocked,” said San Francisco resident Ian Slattery. “The whole case has been really troubling. I think communities of color in the East Bay in particular, and understandably, are upset. Not because of this one instance but because of how the police interact with communities as a whole.”

“This [verdict] makes it difficult to have any trust between the community and the police,” Slattery continued. “This matters to all Californians. Not just in our communities here but around the state.”
Buzzy Times

To begin with, I do think it’s myopic to call this verdict a total miscarriage of justice. The district attorney pursued a case of a white police officer’s (admittedly blatant, caught-on-tape) killing of a young, black man, and then saw the case through to a guilty verdict. That’s more progress than we’ve seen in cases past (for e.g., in the case of Rodney King).

From that perspective, I’m heartened by this evening’s verdict. I’ve long believed that the answers to racial injustice in America are far more complex than our an eye-for-an-eye moral code could ever offer anyway. Mehserle is just one man — an individual who’s part of a much larger justice system — and what matters is demanding accountability from law enforcement beyond this case alone.
Anna Hirsch, Change.org

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Racialicious is a blog about the intersection of race and pop culture. Check out our daily updates on the latest celebrity gaffes, our no-holds-barred critique of questionable media representations, and of course, the inevitable Keanu Reeves John Cho newsflashes.

Latoya Peterson (DC) is the Owner and Editor (not the Founder!) of Racialicious, Arturo García (San Diego) is the Managing Editor, Andrea Plaid (NYC) is the Associate Editor. You can email us at team@racialicious.com.

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