First it was the war in Gaza. It made me remember my good friend from camp, George, whose mother was killed by Israeli soldiers at a checkpoint. And I remember my friend Rebekah who moved to Israel because she found her soul was deeply fed when she reconnected with her Jewish heritage and she wanted to be “at the heart of it.” And so when I hear the news of more and more violent deaths–I don’t think of strangers any more. I think of George and Rebekah.
And now there is the story from Oakland of Oscar Grant. Mr. Grant was killed as he lay face down, having been restrained by BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) officers. Yes, he had already been restrained and was lying face down on the floor, following the orders of the officers. And one of them took out his gun and shot him in the back of the head, execution style. From the cell phone videos that have surfaced, it appears Mr. Grant witnessed the BART police taking several young men into custody and was trying to deescalate the situation by asking the young men to calm down. For this he was taken into custody, and for no reason that can be seen on the videos, was killed.
When I heard the story of Oscar Grant, I didn’t think of a stranger. I thought of my son. He’s been in and out of trouble with the police over the past two years. The last time he got arrested it was for exactly the same thing that Oscar Grant did—he intervened to try to calm his two friends down. When the officer told him to go with him to the police car, he started walking to the first one he saw. It was the wrong one. The officer assumed he was running, shouted to fellow officers, and within ten seconds my son had three officers on his back. They injured his shoulder, knee, and elbow taking him down. Then they took him in and charged him with resisting arrest. Did I mention he was the only African-American kid involved?
I know that it’s self-protective to distance one’s self from the pain and violence in the world. But our lack of rage at such brutality means that it keeps happening. If you are in the Bay Area, please participate in the protests at the Fruitvale Bart Station on Wednesday evening and Saturday. Demand justice for Oscar Grant and for us all.
And if you live somewhere else, please write a letter to the editor, plan a peace rally, call your representatives, DO something to speak out for peace, justice, and an end to the horrible waste of lives. Call the BART police to account. Call the Israelis and Palestinians to account. Call our government to account.
In the meantime, continue those New Year’s prayers. And don’t give up hope.