Monday, September 15, 2014

Film: Fruitvale Station

Fruitvale Station is an important dramatic reenactment of the last day of Oscar Grant's life. Ryan Coogler was the director, and Forest Whitaker was the producer.

Since Oscar Grant's killing, there have been other well-publicized police killings, including Eric Garner of New York City and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. More shocking were the killings in Florida of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis and Renisha McBride by armed civilians claiming self-defense.

All of the killed were black Americans. In fact, the extra-judicial killing of black people in the United States by police is common. To a lesser extent, security guards and vigilantes also contribute to this problem.

While people concerned with justice should think about these larger trends, it is easy to forget the lives of the victims and the pain their deaths leave to their family members. The film Fruitvale Station humanizes Oscar Grant and his family. "Humanizes" means people are neither awliya Allah al-salihiin (saints) deserving reverence nor hirabiyyiin (pirates, bandits) deserving summary execution. In other words, they are like you and me. It is a much-needed antidote to ideas pundits bandy about such as "permanent underclass" and "poverty culture" and "thug life" and "urban youth."

I also hope that blog readers are following Dawud Walid's efforts to bring awareness to North American Muslims of their racism towards black Americans. I'd also recommend listening to this talk show focusing on this issue.
Updated: November 3, 2014 - PBS allows online streaming of a film about mothers in NYC whose sons were killed by the police through May 3, 2014.