10 January 2009

Who missed the memo?

2009 is supposed to be the year of change, hope and innovation. That's what we've been hearing about and with the inauguration of President-Elect Obama looming, this was supposed to signal a turning point for race relations in this country. So why was a Black man shot by a police officer while he was on his stomach with his hands behind his back on the very first day of this year of hope?

Since the shooting of Oscar Grant, no action has been taken by the BART police or the city of Oakland to investigate or prosecute the officer who fired his gun. Despite video evidence that is splashed across news media and YouTube, the officer has been allowed to resign and the mayor only released a statement after protests turned to near riots. All this only 7 days into the year of change.

Sadder still is the story of Kalynn Moore, a New Jersey mother who not only experienced the sudden death of her son in childbirth but was further horrified to learn that the hospital had thrown the infant's body out with the trash. And to top it all off, the hospital has given up the search for the body.

I am not a person who likes to shout racism, every time a Black person is wronged but these are two situations where not only the authorities but the media have failed to do what they are charged to. Oscar Grant was a young father who was shot in the back, yet no steps have been taken to investigate his death, and the media has chosen to portray him and the people of Oakland as thuggish and deserving of such treatment. Kalynn Moore has seen first hand that the people in power view both her and her child as disposable not even worthy of search that lasted more than a week. I hate to sound pessimistic but I honestly believe if this child had been White, there would have been a prolonged and exhaustive search for its body. It would be national news and people would be holding vigils. Because that is the value of a White life in this country.

If we hope that 2009 will truly be a year of change then we need to be that change. The United States has been talking about an American dream that cannot be realized when the lives of some Americans are worth more than others. I'm happy for President Obama but we are not all Barack Obama, we're much closer to being Oscar Grants and Kalynn Moores. "Hope"fully, that will "change".

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