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The decision we should’ve watched

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On Thursday, July 8, 2010, just about every young Black man in America watched Lebron James’ one hour special entitled, ‘’The Decision’’. During the special, Lebron James announced which team he would play for following his free agency. But, while we as a whole were worried about LeBron James’ decision, a decision involving life, death, and justice was made in Los Angeles. Ex-officer Johannes Mehserle received an involuntary manslaughter charge for the 2009 shooting of unarmed 22-year -old Oscar Grant. While Grant was subdued, Officer Mehserle assumed that Grant was reaching for a weapon and decided to tase Grant. Instead of reaching for his taser, Mehserle pulled out his gun and fired a shot into the back of Oscar Grant that would kill him hours later. The fact that officer Mehserle was white and Oscar Grant was Black brings up the topic of race, and the never-ending love-hate relationship between the Black man and the police force. Once again, another Black man is questionably murdered by a white law officer.

Oscar Grant now joins the ranks of Henry Louis Gates, Jr.; Bobby Hutton; Sean Bell; Bernard Monroe; and countless other Black men that have been killed or otherwise harrassed by law enforcement for unjust reasons. Now, Oakland, specifically the Bay Area, is a melting pot of street violence and protest. Truthfully, I believe that Mehserle’s high level of incompetence and poor judgment deserves a much higher level of punishment. His negligence cost the life of a brother, son, and most importantly, father. We all know that if Oscar Grant murdered Mehserle, he would be facing the death penalty. Why should Mehserle not face the same punishment or a punishment more harsh that ‘’involuntary manslaughter’’? After reading the California definition of voluntarily manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter, and believing if he did accidently use the wrong weapon, the punishment fits the crime from a legal perspective. But from a worldly perspective, the punishment does not fit the crime.

After killing Oscar Grant, Mehserle wrote an open letter to the public apologizing for the accidental murder of Grant. His words seemed genuine, but what he did was absolute negligence. This is further proof that police need a system of checks and balances. The idea of community policing is something often laughed at, but this situation proves that something needs to be implemented to not only keep police officers in line, but hold them responsible for their actions. ‘’Cop watch’’ programs where everyday citizens legally monitor , record, and report police behavior would allow the people to be proactive in their communities, instead of giving cops bigger egos and God complexes.

Also, where’s the proper training? How did Mehserle not know the difference between a tase gun and his hand gun? Isn’t the taser carried on the other side of the police officers utility belt? Why would he want to tase an unarmed, subdued ‘’suspect’’? This is a wakeup call to police academies and departments everywhere: Proper training goes a long way. Despite considerable evidence that shows Mehserle’s complete ignorance when subduing a suspect, his actions speak louder than his ‘’open letter’’. The City of Oakland is in pain. But, instead of burning down the city, attention should be turned to organization. Questions should be asked to the police department. Demands should be made from the people. City officials should promise the people of Oakland that their feelings matter and that Oscar Grant’s death will be a symbol of change in city policing.

Will any of that happen? Possibly, with time and action Oakland’s police force will be able to gain back the trust and respect it has lost from its citizens. No one forgets death.

And who is to blame in this scenario? Is it Oscar Grant for fighting on a train and being in the wrong place at the wrong time? Is it Mehserle for being incompetent in not knowing the difference between his weapons? The Associated Press reports that the jury consisted of eight women and four men; none listed their race as black. Seven said they were white, three were Latino, and one was Asian-Pacific. One declined to state their race. This is startling. If so many of us are outraged at the verdict, or the fact that the jury was all-white, we must be registered and willing to participate in jury duty. Why was the case moved from Oakland to another county? Shouldn’t the case reside where the crime happened?
Too many times our people complain about jury verdicts, but don’t register to vote and/or duck jury duty. If we are angry with the shooting and verdict, we must challenge laws that restrict our ability to legally pursue law enforcement agencies. Now, I’m not stating that an all Black jury needed to be in place to give him a harsher verdict just because he’s white and Oscar Grant is black. I simply see it as unfair to not have one African-American on a jury to where the stakes were so high. Nobody wins in this situation.

Mehserle will forever be labeled as a murder and live with the guilt of accidently killing someone, Oscar Grant’s family feels cheated out of justice, and a city is angry that another one of its sons was slain without reason. While we were all worried about Lebron and his decision, we missed out on the real decision that was made that day. I see it bizarre that more people were willing to burn a city down over Lebron’s decision, than over Oscar Grant’s death and verdict. In recent media news, Reverend Jesse Jackson has made comments about Lebron James decision and the response of the Cleveland Cavilers owner, instead of discussing the death of Oscar Grant. Where’s the common sense in that? How is a man that once marched with Martin Luther King against injustice, is now more worried about the actions of a basketball player than unnecessary death of a young Black man? Our priorities have been sidetracked significantly. None of us will be the next LeBron James, but we all potentially could be the next Oscar Grant.


Written by demon53

July 17, 2010 at 1:21 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Brittany Figaro, william broussard. william broussard said: The decision we should’ve watched: by Robert Brown #oscargrant […]

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