Imagine if there was a video of George Zimmerman pulling out his gun, aiming it at Trayvon Martin, and pulling the trigger.
As much passion, anger, and pain as the 17-year-old’s shooting death has set loose in America since it happened nearly two months ago, can you imagine if we were able to log onto YouTube, and watch it happening for ourselves? You saw how this case exploded onto the national scene when the 911 calls became available. As many couldn’t bear to listen to those, there would be many who would avert their eyes when the video was released – but the importance of that physical document would be unmistakable, and unforgettable.
Oscar Grant III was the Trayvon Martin who, three years ago, you maybe, kinda heard of…where was that again? Grant was a 22-year old father when he died, seven hours after he was shot in the back by Bay Area Rapid Transit police officer Johannes Mehserle as he lay on the ground and another officer had a knee on his neck. Like Trayvon, he was unarmed. Like Trayvon, his death inspired widespread outrage throughout the community in which it happened. But unlike Trayvon, there’s video of Grant’s shooting on YouTube.
The importance of that video can’t be overstated, as our own Chris Hayes noted when the police officer was convicted only of involuntary manslaughter in the summer of 2010 on the Rachel Maddow Show:
“It’s hard to know what to say after seeing that video and seeing the verdict it resulted in. You can note that there was not a single African American juror. That it was in Los Angeles, instead of Oakland. That even if Officer Mehserle was reaching for his taser it was completely and totally uncalled for. Was he going to put a jolt in Grant as he lay prone, for no reason?”
I’m not going to pretend that a film about Oscar Grant will give a definitive answer to why Mehserle did what he did, and I suspect that the upcoming Forest Whitaker-produced project will not even try to do so, given that unlike previous pictures about such topics, it will approach the story from the perspective of the person who was killed, not the killer, following Grant through the last day of his life.
Alyssa Rosenberg adds an important point in ThinkProgress:
And in a sense, [Academy Award-winning actor Octavia] Spencer’s presence will make a valuable point for audiences who see both movies: black families face the same risk of seeing their children legally murdered today that they faced sixty years ago. The risks are different in intensity, the avenues to pursue justice and reform somewhat more accessible. But they’re still there. “The Help” did a major disservice to its audience in adapting the book in a way that removed images of white violence against blacks, whether it’s the details of protagonist Aibileen Clark’s son’s death or the beating a young black man suffers for accidentally using the wrong bathroom that leaves him blinded. It was a movie that allowed white viewers to escape any complicity with racism, and then made sure they didn’t have to confront the most revolting consequences of racism either. Hopefully, this movie will honor Oscar Grant by making neither of those mistakes.
Hopefully, indeed. More of what’s on our radar here in #nerdland today:
- Was the former director of the North Carolina Democratic Party a sexual harasser?
- Gulf seafood with deformities are being found.
- Who’s exploiting these mandatory-ultrasound laws, besides Republicans? Crisis pregnancy centers.
- Quinnipiac has Obama up by four over Romney.
- What has Newt Gingrich lost by running for President? The Atlantic’s Molly Ball asked him.
- Just in time for Earth Day, Republicans passed the Keystone XL plan through the House (again).
- And Transamerica has a new Keystone plan (one that also involves extracting oil from tar sands, so I’m not sure how much this even matters). It’ll require months of review, which was the part of the problem in the first place.