As Inauguration Day draws near and the excitement surrounding our incoming President reaches a fevered pitch, there is a strange rumbling in Oakland, CA. Two months ago, when Obama took the election, the scene in Oakland was not much different. A predominantly black community, that has endured some of the worst social and economic hardships this nation has ever seen, was rejoicing. Those feelings of hope and inspiration, however, were dashed in an instant, leaving an entire community in disarray.
A few hours into 2009, hundreds of revelers were filling BART trains headed away from a popular Oakland party spot. There was a disturbance on one of the trains and a group of young black men were removed from the train at a stop in East Oakland. Transit police engaged the group, attempting to subdue them and make arrests.
One of the men, 22 year old Oscar Grant, who by most accounts was trying to act as a peace-maker, was thrust against a wall and choked by police. He could be heard saying, "Please don't tase me, please don't shoot me. I have a daughter." A few moments later, police had Oscar on his back and were attempting to subdue and cuff him, when one of the officers pulled out his gun and fired a single round. The bullet passed through Oscar's back, ricocheted off of the ground and passed back through his lungs, mortally wounding him.
Last Wednesday was Oscar's funeral. A group of a few hundred protesters who had gathered near the train station where Oscar was killed had turned toward downtown Oakland and rioted for several hours destroying cars, stores and public property; clashing with police. The last time there were this many people in the streets of downtown Oakland was, you guessed it, November 4, 2008.
We are just a few days away from one of the most historic days of our lives. Millions of Americans, including this muck breaker, will watch with tears in their eyes as a black man is sworn in as President. Few of us thought that we would see such a momentous occasion in our lifetime. And while we can marvel at how far we as Americans have come, let's not forget how far we have to go. The true face of injustice rears its head in the clash between the haves and have nots; those with guns and the authority to use them and those without. The cops, judges, lawyers and politicians of all levels still rule this country. A black man in the highest office does nothing for Oscar's four year old daughter, and Oscar's murder should serve as a stark reminder at how fragile our American condition truly is.