Tuesday, July 6, 2010

A Note to Mrs. Grant

I'm about to be extremely presumptious.  Some will no doubt be disgusted.  How dare I?

If my own son were dead on the platform, I don't know that I could do what I'm asking.

Still, I just wish Oscar Grant's family would come out with a statement for a peaceful response to the Mehserle verdict, whatever it is.

I'm not saying no demonstration.  I'm just saying a peaceful demonstration.

The imminent protest after all is for an end to violence, isn't it?  We abhor violence. 

It seems to me that Oscar Grant's family is in the unique position to enlighten and educate folks on both sides of this terrible issue.

For his family (based on the media reports), Oscar's death is a blatant act of racist violence.  I believe they want an end to racist violence.  But in their grief, they seem focused solely on punishing Mr. Mehsele. 

Things were desperately wrong on the platform that day, no question.  Oscar Grant should not have been killed.

Will the harshest sentence be sufficient to right the wrong?  Will all who are watching and listening be edified by Mehserle's imprisonment?  What will be learned beyond crime earns punishment?

If the sentence is not sufficient to address the issue, will a violent riot help?  Will the oppressed and wounded be uplifted in their own eyes by a riot?  Will those they rail against learn the desired lesson?

Sorrowfully, no.  We will not learn enough from Mehserle's sentence.  And we will not be enlightened by a riot. 

Yet so many ASSUME we will have a riot.  Businesses are boarding up; commuters are avoiding the trains.  Children are watching and listening as we brace ourselves for violence, maybe racist violence, as though it must be expected as a response to this deplorable circumstance.

There is some logic to the anticipation afterall:  violence breeds violence breeds violence.... 

But violence doesn't seem to breed thoughtful growth.  Violence doesn't prompt the urge in one person to take on the other's experience or views.

Still, we are about to be caught in the cycle again.  We know it well and we're gearing up to repeat it.  If we do have a riot, some will no doubt call at some point for an end to it, having never learned that we each in our roles stoke and restoke the fire.
We all know the rage.  We are all enraged that we must face again the avoidable loss of a healthy young man.

We all want to lash out and issue the same pain we are dealt. 

But if Oscar Grant's family called out for peace, we might have peace.  We might stop and think and learn something new.  We might listen to his family's pain and grief and strive to break away from such horrible cycles and stunted growth. 

Oscar's family has a unique opportunity.  They might actually have the power to ensure Oscar's death bears fruit for the living. 

There will be no winners, that's clear. 

But some might hang their heads and learn.  Others might hold their heads higher, with courage and dignity, if we are forced by peace to reflect.