By President Davis

Oscar Grant’s shooting sparked a wave of controversy, leading to a political clash amongst racial and social class lines. The division was ever more present in the labeling of his death. Those critical of the police handling of the matter consider it an execution; police supporters dubbed it accidental or involuntary manslaughter.

Many blacks, like myself, who have experienced mistreatment by Oakland police firsthand, believed we could have been in Grant’s shoes. Many likened the shooting to the treatment poor blacks received from a notorious group of 90’s rogue cops known as the Oakland Riders, or even the police brutality that lead to the formation of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense. Officer Johannes Mehserle stated he believed he thought Oscar Grant had a gun, a common quote amongst police who use force when the victim is found to be unarmed. What is it about the image of young black men that inspire this phrase to be used so frequently?

Protests in Arizona against US Immigration policies

Recently I was granted the opportunity to help film a documentary in Arizona about the anti-immigrant movement, sponsored by Center for New Community. Like the Oscar Grant situation, Arizona ignited a national outcry when the controversial law SB 1070 was passed, a law viewed by many as a legalization of racial profiling.

The unchecked policing and threat to people of color that come up through the US/Mexico border is a travesty. As Dr. King’s once said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” America has long been valued and championed as a land of justice and equality, yet has a racially disparaging closet.

Danger lurks along the US/Mexico border in the form of vigilante border patrol groups. Apparently, the border patrol allows them to do the ugly job. The state of Arizona does not require a license to purchase guns and white supremacist and neo-nazi groups are taking matters into their own hands about the immigration issue.

While most use the opportunity for good publicity and self-righteous patriotism, a few groups have used the wide-open desert as an unregulated killing zone, hunting down Mexicans who cross the border and justifying their actions as a means of protecting our country from so-called “illegals”.

When we met with the notorious Sheriff Arpaio, I asked him about his views of the vigilante groups who patrol the border. He answered by saying they “are a part of his posse.” Whether that is true or not, he condoned the deaths and terror that vigilante groups are perpetrating along the border.

When I walked along the migrant trails in Arizona, I spotted discarded clothing with bloodstains scattered along with liquid bottles that appeared to have been left behind not long ago. I wondered how many of the migrants who cross were aware of the dangers that lay ahead even if they reached America. Some of them would have crossed in vain, only to be detained by I.C.E. agents within a couple years of crossing. Too many times we turn a blind eye when a wrong is committed. To hear reports of Latinos being hunted down and killed by self-appointed renegade border vigilantes is inexcusable.

Bumper stickers on cars pronouncing “If it’s Brown, Flush it Down” are equally as hurtful and ignorant as the blogs I read that labeled Oscar Grant guilty of inviting his own death by dressing like a “thug.” Clearly, we have an issue of people dressed in police uniforms appearing to uphold civil justice. I plead with people to find the peace in their heart to ask themselves a core question when conflicts arise…’Is this a fair and just act?’

Let’s keep America, America. But to keep America, we need to keep it accountable to the founding principles and creeds that helped America form. It may not be commonly viewed as such right now, but one day this story will be likened to the historical Underground Railroad, famed by Harriet Tubman.
Justice for Oscar Grant. Justice for Sean Bell. Justice for migrants who cross the US border to meet their death at the hands of unchecked vigilante groups, Justice for you, and justice for me. A true cry from someone who doesn’t fit the description… yet. This is an injustice that threatens us all.

President Davis is a student activist at Howard University. Contact him at bsudavis@yahoo.com

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