OUT & ABOUT: What ‘Fruitvale Station’ Tells Us About America

Filed under: Latest News,Opinion |

BY DENISE CLAY/ On Monday night, I took in a film that I’m going to tell you about in order to make this week’s column, about the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial, make sense.
The film I saw was called Fruitvale Station, and the folks at Tabb Management with the help of the Blues Babe Foundation, Landmark Theaters, and City Councilman David Oh’s Black Film Advisory Committee put together the screening.

It was followed by a panel discussion featuring attorney Michael Coard, activist Wanda Burton and anti-racism educator Conrad Moore that focused on the pitfalls that can someone befall young Black men when they come into contact with white people who have an inherent fear of them.

Kind of like the inherent fear that led to the death of Trayvon Martin last February. It’s this death that took a while for Zimmerman to be brought to trial for; a death that he was later found not guilty of.

The protagonist in Fruitvale Station, Oscar Grant, was killed on New Year’s Day 2009 by a Bay Area Rapid Transit police officer. The officer, Johannes Mehrle, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter because the jury believed him when he said he meant to grab his Taser gun to shoot Grant, and grabbed his actual gun by mistake instead.

In case you’re wondering, it’s based on a true story. And while Oscar Grant was who was being talked about in this movie, it could be Amadou Diallo. Or Sean Bell. Or Eleanor Bumpers. Or Rodney King.

Or Trayvon Martin.

I had wanted to see this movie anyway. I had heard it was a decent pic and it featured Oscar-winner Octavia Spencer as Grant’s mother.

But after hearing a weekend of seeing the cacophony of the social-media Marketplace of Ideas at work, I felt I had to see the film.

Why? I think the only politician I’ve ever endorsed in this column, Councilman David Oh, said it best before the panel discussion on Monday.

“These stories have to be told,” Oh said. “Not just for the African American community, but for the community overall.”

I kinda wished the Councilman had said this on Facebook because this sentiment needed to be heard in that online community especially.

Why? I wished others could have heard this because I’ve learned something very important over the last week or so.

I’ve learned the lives of men who look like my dad, my brothers, my nephews, my significant other, and my friends are worthless in the eyes of some. In fact, if I get asked by some member of the “Trayvon Martin Deserved to Get Shot Because Someone Like Me Perceived Him as a Threat” club, “What about Black-on-Black crime?” one more time, I’m gonna need bail money.
Because let’s face it. If people didn’t try to work on Black-on-Black crime, there wouldn’t be a new jail springing up every five minutes.

(And by the way, why are we allowed to mourn the victims of mass shootings, or as I’ve decided to start calling them, “white-on-white crime,” without having similar discussions?)

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