Oscar Grant or Lebron James? the Systemic Devaluation of Black Life in America

By Healey, Josh | Tikkun, November/December 2010 | Go to article overview

Oscar Grant or Lebron James? the Systemic Devaluation of Black Life in America


Healey, Josh, Tikkun


BACK IN JULY, A LOS ANGELES JURY announced its verdict in the case of Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) police officer Johannes Mehserle. The officer, who is white, shot and killed Oscar Grant, an unarmed black man, on January 1, 2009. The incident, which was captured on film and viewed online by millions of people, has become the rallying cry of a resurgent national movement against police violence and racial profiling.

I live here in Oakland, only one train station away from where Grant was shot. Oakland is a city of beautiful people often put in ugly situations. In a city with serious racial/class divisions, as well as a great legacy of community resistance since even before the Black Panthers, Grant's killing was a lightning bolt in an area used to its share of storms. In the days following the incident, I participated in large, passionate demonstrations, some of which included property damage by small groups of protestors. At the rallies, and on posters plastered on walls across the Bay Area, we raised our voices for the man who had no breath left: "I am Oscar Grant!"

Feeling the pressure, the Alameda County District Attorney charged OiScer Mehserle with murder; Mehserle was the first cop hit with such a charge in California history. The trial took over a year to get started and was moved to Los Angeles, but hopes for justice remained high. Police violence is notoriously common in Oakland, and community activists hoped that a strong conviction would be a signal to cops across the country that enough is enough. Instead, we got another reminder of who has power in America - and who does not.

On July 8, 2010, the jury, which deliberated for only three days and included no African Americans, found Mehserle guilty of involuntary manslaughter - the weakest of the three charges brought against him. His sentence could be anywhere from a maximum of fourteen years to as little as probation and time served. In other words, Mehserle might spend less time in jail for shooting Oscar Grant than Michael Vick did for dogfighting.

When I heard the verdict, I couldn't believe it. Involuntary manslaughter? That is what people get for unintentionally killing someone in a car accident, not for shooting a man while he is lying face down and restrained by the weight of two huge cops. Instead of the celebration of long-overdue justice we had been hoping for, I joined my neighbors and strangers in the streets for one of the most tear-filled, painful protests I've ever attended.

The next morning, I turned on the television, expecting to hear about the verdict and our response in the streets that the police were calling a "riot." But before I could find any mention of Oscar Grant, I was bombarded with endless coverage involving the decision of another young black man : Lebron James. I had spent all night trying to find details about my friend wrongly arrested at the protest, so I hadn't heard what was apparently the most important news of the year- Lebron James announced that he was going to leave his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers to join his all-star buddies of the Miami Heat.

This was the media's top story? I'm a huge sports fan and believer in team loyalty, but even worse than Lebron s decision to abandon his faithful Rustbelt fans was the hype and hysteria surrounding it. Months of "Will he? Won't he?" rumors dominated the media, and then to make the announcement itself, Lebron created a one-hour ESPN special, humbly called "The Decision." Whether Lebron s ego is really that big on its own, or a creation of the corporate media, the real question is: what does his spotlight say about us?

Lebron James and Oscar Grant never crossed paths. Why would they? Lebron is the most talented athlete in the country, while Oscar was a butcher at a grocery store in Oakland- my local grocery, in fact. Yet on the same day that millions of people watched Lebron announce he was going to Miami, twelve jurors in Oscar's case decided that, unless he can put a ball through a hoop, a black man's life is worth little in America. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Oscar Grant or Lebron James? the Systemic Devaluation of Black Life in America
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.