“What is the value of a life of a black man in America?”- No justice for Oscar Grant

Oscar Grant mural in downtown Oakland
“What is the value of a life of a black man in America?”
It’s clear– NOT MUCH. Not fucking much at all. Rev. Keith Mohammed said these words this evening during the press conference after the verdict was released in the Oscar Grant trial.
Mehserle got involuntary manslaughter, y’all. INVOLUNTARY MANSLAUGHTER. That’s what you get when you get into a car accident. According to ABC News, “Regarding the upcoming sentencing, Burris [Grant's family attorney] said, ‘He should be going to jail for the rest of his life, but yet he very well may get a sentence that does not even require him to go to jail, which would be the ultimate insult and travesty that I can imagine.'”
A cop fatally shot an unarmed man and is basically getting away with it. That’s not news. What’s news at least for some of those who held a little bit of hope is that this completely racialized violence and police brutality is condoned by our justice system. As Rev. Mohammed asked, “what is the value of a life of a black man in America?” Depressingly, the message is clear. This ruling would be completely different if Mehserle or Grant was a different race. This is ALL about race, people. As Adam Serwer writes at the Prospect,

“Times change, but the radioactive fear of black people, black men in particular, has proven to have a longer half-life than any science could have discerned. This is not a fear white people possess of black people–it is a fear all Americans possess. It makes white cops kill black cops, it makes black cops kill black men, and it whispers in the ears of white and nonwhite jurors alike that fear of an unarmed black man lying face down in the ground is not ‘unreasonable.’ All of which is to say, while it infects all of us, a few of us bear the brunt of the suffering it causes.”

He goes on to quote a 2007 ColorLines study demonstrating the little progress we’ve made since the Civil Rights era. The study found that “New York City consistently has the highest number of shooting deaths by police in the country, an average of 12 every year. The city also has substantially disproportionate killing of Black people, who make up 26 percent of the population but represented 66 percent of those killed by police.” This verdict confirms this study: cops shoot and kill unarmed victims and get away with it, especially when the victim is black.
If I hear another mention of “post-racial” unless its a damnation of the phrase, I will explode.
At this moment in time we need to take care of ourselves. Not only are we healing from the pain that is the loss of innocent life, but now we have to deal with this twisting knife in our back. From someone we thought we could trust– the justice system. But I guess Rev. Mohammed said it best. If we thought there would be justice served in this verdict, maybe we hoped for too much.
I am writing this from my home in the Bay and trying to hold back tears. What kind of world are we living in?
Links here:
Justice or Just Us? Beyond the Hype of the Mehserle Trial
Justice for Oscar Grant- Please spread widely!
Justice for Oscar Grant: Update on Fruitvale BART Protest
Understanding the Dialogue around Lovelle Mixon.
There is no justice for Aiyana
If you need some good resistance music, listen to Native Guns new single “Handcuffs.” It’s all about police brutality, particularly about Grant and others. Very touching song and appropriate for these times. And Bambu’s (of Native Guns) video called “Bambu: Before The Verdict“. More background on this case and support for people’s right to be angry. Not hurt people.

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