Tim Brown looks at Fruitvale Station through the lens of “That could’ve been me.”
When the first rumblings of Fruitvale Station came across the newsfeed, I didn’t know what to expect. I could recall reading about the incident clearly and I’d never watched the leaked footage of what transpired. I remembered the aftermath and a lot of the social commentary about it too; specifically the always polarizing conversation about race and how it influences perception and situations in our country. Also, because we’re still fresh off the moral wounds of the results of the Zimmerman/Martin case, there’s been a residual sombering of the spirit.
Fruitvale Station is a good movie, humanizing Oscar Grant and allowing the viewer to see him as a complicated figure with a tragic outcome. It’s salient to a lot of people and black men in particular. And in the wake of GZ/TM, my previous understanding of the world has been rendered hazy, and I’m trying to recreate a frame of reference in which to analyze it. Fruitvale Station reinforced some things to me that I’ve learned on this journey to adulthood.
Do some good with your time here on earth. Oscar didn’t awake that day knowing it was his last on earth, but his characterization on screen suggests that he was good-natured and willing to help people out altruistically. This made him memorable, he became a part of other people’s narrative. If, for nothing else, we should all strive to connect to our world in such a manner: that when we leave this planet, we are remembered for an uplifting interaction.
Gun violence in this country is out of control. My heart goes out to anyone, whether they are black or white, rich or poor, or any other circumstance that has had a love one’s life cut short at the end of the barrel of another individual’s gun. In watching the movie, the pain of the family brought tears to my eyes. For the US to have as many guns circulating the streets as it does is outrageous and infuriating. It begets some very basic philosophical conversations that we collectively should have. Guns are manufactured as lethal instruments, so why should we be surprised when they are used as such? What is the purpose of having that level of lethality around every corner?
This is why minorities have a healthy distrust for the police. Let’s be honest; a police officer has a hard job. One can be very well-intentioned and still have the results go horribly awry. When charged with the keeping the peace, any number of variables can lead the outcome down a number of vastly different paths and police officers can’t always control those variables. Still, they are entrusted with upholding the values of protecting and serving. For a long time in this country, the police were synonymous with the atrocities that were muddied with that mission, and even worse, there are corrupt badge wielders who actually operate counter to it. There were police officers who were also members of the Klan, and in the Jim Crow era it wasn’t unheard of for young black kids to disappear at the hands of the police. Secret surveillance and police brutality also further complicate this relationship. It’s hard to trust the entity that would manifest your fears and deliver you to your worst fate. This is why we need stern accountability at all levels of government. It was recently suggested that officers wear cameras as part of their uniform, and it seems like a great idea.
That could’ve been me. I’m inching closer to what is considered middle age, and 22 years old is at least a decade behind me in my rearview mirror. At 22, I’d just finished my Bachelor’s degree from a top 25 public university in the country. I didn’t have a criminal record and I am a large man by stature, especially having just competed as a lineman on a football scholarship. Yet, I was susceptible to a young man’s decision making which also included at times being volatile and reckless. Somehow, by luck or divine omnipresence, I never found myself in a situation where a snap judgment had to be made about how ‘safe’ I was in that moment. I could see myself in that situation though…having done nothing more than react to the set of circumstances present…and I could see myself reacting in a similar fashion that Oscar did, which also connected me to the fate of Oscar in a way. I winced as he was shot because it was chilling to see, but I also physically felt the pop in my body.
photo: Fruitvale Station