UPDATE TUESDAY: Just posted this on Walnut Creek Patch, but supporters of Johannes Mehserle are planning a rally to show support for the former BART police officer. The rally will take place at the Walnut Creek courthouse, 640 Ygnacio Valley Road, starting at 2 p.m.
Another example of the suburban/urban divide in this case?
The majority of people in Contra Costa County, including Walnut Creek, are Democrats, and they voted for Barack Obama for president and they opposed Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage.
These political realities tell me that, contrary to the image of conservative surburbia, we in Walnut Creek might be left of center on social issues. And, with respect to the case of the BART shooting case, I’m betting that a lot of us have been been willing to listen to and consider the arguments for why former BART police Johannes Mehserle should have been convicted of first-degree murder, not involuntary manslaughter.
Some of us are also sympathetic to the historical and cultural reasons that African-Americans in urban centers, such as Oakland, have become distrustful of white authority figures, notably police officers. Have there been racist, brutal officers on American police forces? Yes. Have people of color been treated unfairly by America’s criminal justice system? Absolutely, and it still goes on with incidents of racial profiling and with our process of capital punishment.
All this said, a fair number of people I’ve talked to on this side of the Oakland hills don’t believe that the January 1, 2009 shooting of Oscar Grant was about some larger cause of racism in injustice in America. Our view is that it was a horrible tragic accident. We agree with the Los Angeles’ jury’s conviction of involuntary manslaughter.
Moreover, we don’t think Grant is a martyr of this larger cause. Rather, he was just a guy, out celebrating the New Year with friends, who wound up in the wrong place–the Fruitvale BART station platform–at the wrong time.
Yes, I’m saying all this as a white, female suburbanite whose life experience is much much different than Oscar Grant’s or of his supporters in Oakland. I grew up in Walnut Creek, and I live here now. Walnut Creek is a pretty safe town, and I went to good schools and had the opportunity to go to college and go on to get a good career.
So maybe I’m just ignorant, and that’s why I don’t agree with some of the ideas Oscar Grant’s supporters are putting out. That’s right, I just don’t get it, and maybe I’m a bad person because I don’t get it.
I think that there are a lot of us over here in suburbia who don’t “get it.” (I’m also betting that there are a fair number of achingly PC residents of multi-million Craftsmen homes in the Oakland hills who don’t get it either.)
I’ve continued to listen to statements about the great injustice of this case. It’s hard to avoid hearing what them. The first place TV, radio, print and online reporters seem to go to for a statement about this case is Oscar Grant’s family and the Justice for Oscar Grant group.
Nothing I’ve heard so far is changing my mind. I’m very sorry for the pain Oscar Grant’s family is suffering at his loss. I’m sorry his supporters have had to put up with lots of crap from the white establishment in their lives.
But I’m also weary of the way that folks in Oakland and their political leaders have successfully built this case into something more than it is Maybe if I lived in Oakland I would understand. I would get it. But I’m just a hick suburban bumpkin.
Whatever, I also know I’m seriously starting to lose sympathy and to not care, especially after the Justice For Oscar Grant group put out a call for a rally that contained rherotic giving a passive greenlight to more destruction. While calling for a peaceful, legal rally, the group also said, among other things, “Massive street protests were the only thing that forced Mehserle’s arrest,” “People’s anger is justified because ‘we are the victims of police violence’ and no cooling off period needs to take place”; and, “if anything we need more resistance, more action, more mobilization.”
Talk about a polarizing statement. This whole case has become intensely polarized.
What we have here is more than a failure to communicate. We have what my therapist calls an irresolvable conflict. In some cases, my therapist says, people, notably married couples, can learn to live with and accept each other’s differences.
I’m not sure it’s possible to resolve the differences, the vast divide in opinion, that separates those of us who believe Grant died in an accident, and those who think he was murdered. I’m also not sure it’s possible to bridge the divide that exists between us suburbanites, who probably were most worried about our BART and freeway travel plans Thursday, and the Oscar Grant supporters who cling to their anger, self-righteousness, and sense of victimization.