Oscar Grant, Zimmerman trial and BART strike connected

Reposted from Oakland Local by Granate Sosnoff

When three related stories regarding race, labor and BART occur, you need to pay attention, especially in Oakland.

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As “Fruitvale Station” opens and retells the story of Oscar Grant’s murder, we also brace for juror deliberations in the Zimmerman trial. Oakland gets angry when the judicial system betrays young black men. A backdrop to these two stories is that BART is in the middle of strike negotiations and if nothing changes soon, Fruitvale station, and all other BART stations will be closing for a while.
The Zimmerman trial has already been disappointing particularly in how Trayvon Martin and his young friend have been denigrated in the media. What seemed like an open and shut case against George Zimmerman, a man who stalked and killed a young African American youth, is now seeming less so.
Those of us who lived in Oakland during the BART police shooting of Oscar Grant by Johannes Mehserle are flashing back to a similar time and feeling of impending betrayal by the justice system and wondering if we will once again need to take to the streets to let the world know that a young black man’s life is worth as much as any other life.
Even if Zimmerman is found guilty, the murder still happened, in the name of security and safety, in a country filled with fear around race and thick with racism.
And as the Sundance award-winning movie “Fruitvale Station” opens, giving Oscar Grant back to Oakland for a moment and skillfully telling a one-day story till his tragic and preventable death, wounds will open up. This shameful, tragic BART incident, revisited in the shared-story format of film, will have an impact on many.
BART has apparently been very cooperative in the making of the film, even allowing movie posters at the Fruitvale Station. A BART liaison to filmmaker Ryan Coogler was quoted to say: “The film is really about humanizing Oscar Grant, and Ryan did a superb job.” (Thank you BART?)
In the real world of BART security we are being told that reforms at BART are underway. A few weeks prior to the film’s opening, in what might be viewed as a PR move, BART released that they’ve hired a retired police chief to review these new reforms.
The other BART story is about the strike (30-day stay ticking away…) and it seems that more than the coincidence of timing connects these.
The union has released a video stating that security and safety are of high priority for workers at BART but that management refuses to respond to that need.
Unfortunately, what “more security” usually means is historical racial profiling and the targeting of youth of color and in particular black men like Oscar Grant and Trayvon Martin. The opportunity to make an important statement and connection seems lost on union organizers and begs the question of whether you can publicly make a request for added security without acknowledging the pain and public tragedy surrounding BART police.
It seems to me that this is the perfect intersection for union and worker concerns to build solidarity with social justice organizations. If you are going to make a demand for more security, in the same breath why not ask for public review of reforms and changes? What specifically is BART doing to prevent another tragedy like what happened to Oscar Grant?
BART workers are angry with management and have good cause I can imagine. They have a variety of demands but currently a focus on making visible the high pay of management and a need for more safety and security. They recently stated: “We will be prepared for the bloodiest, longest strike since the 1970′s.”
But will we, their natural allies, friends of labor, social justice workers and concerned community members be ready to stand in support of them?
The union is losing an important opportunity to link worker’s rights and social justice with this connection. In their primary (current) video they flash on a mural of Oscar Grant as if hoping the slight association and acknowledgment will say something. Similar to BART’s decision to cooperate fully with filmmaker Ryan Coogler and to allow “Fruitvale Station” posters in BART stations, it seems to lack authenticity and doesn’t say much of anything.
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Is feminism always going to feel like a white thing?

First of all: Action = Good. A drawback to social media is that it can seduce you into believing you’ve done something significant by using your powerful “like” or “share.” In addition to all our good work at the keyboard, we need to get out and participate at some point.

So… recently I volunteered for local efforts for the One Billion Rising V-Day protests/flashmob dance/events on the Communications Team and found myself reinvigorated with a shot of feminism that felt echo-y of the mid 80s.

The involvement also raised a few questions for me.

In addition to volunteering, my friend and I challenged ourselves to participate in a flashmob dance. We watched the youTube instructional video – predominantly African American young women from a Brooklyn school, choreographed by the prominent Debbie Allen, also African American. And we went to a rehearsal in Oakland where only a handful of people of color showed up. She’s Chicana, I’m mixed heritage Asian/Jewish, and there we were in Oakland, a tremendously racially diverse place surrounded by white people… weird and wrong.

I had two reactions, one was: this is awful, god what poor outreach, ugh, can we do this? And two: thank god for the goodness of good white people and their showing up … I know, weird too, but humor gets me through…

Because I had some insider knowledge, I know that people of color were involved but not in the majority for planning. I also know there wasn’t any money involved and many were working full-time jobs AND volunteering to get this thing off the ground.

Regardless, it was very retro in a bad way that a group of feminist events felt overly white. At the risk of sounding like a political Carrie Bradshaw: Is feminism always going to feel like a white thing?  Even when there are people of color involved?

Seems to me, it’s still the case that unless it is a people of color-defined organization, or maybe a youth group, activism around women’s issues (and other areas btw…) in America still has an 80s feel regarding race.

What was heartening was all the footage from around the world, New Delhi, City of Joy in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, all over Europe. Even seeing the celebrities come out and participate was a good thing. Because it’s a good idea – dancing and rising up all on one day to bring attention and a positive vibe to something so awful and in need of a world movement everyday… not THE solution, but part of all the work that needs to get done.

P.S. Not to be preachy, but action still does = good… back away from the keyboard, give your thumb a rest and try it (if you haven’t lately). Sometimes the action isn’t perfect, but if you’re not there you can’t engage to make it better.

 

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The woman from Weeds plays me in the hollywood version of my lesbian divorce

The woman from weeds plays me in the hollywood version of my lesbian divorce. She moves into my current Berkeley apartment and there are dripping faucets, yellowed paint and drawers that fall on her when she opens them in the kitchen.

She flashes back to her previously orderly and beautiful life as she opens a stainless steel oven and pulls out a perfectly browned turkey for dinner…

She “chose” this new life. She’s not a victim, no one left her or died, she stopped living with the idea of love and went in search of something.

Cut to pretend efforts to fix things in the apartment, cleaning, calling people, pretend idea to buy a drill.

“Who am I fcking kidding.”

No one feels sorry for her. She doesn’t quite feel sorry for herself.

The End.

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