On July 29, 2013, I was inspired to write my first movie review after seeing the movie Fruitvale Station. Please, please watch it...however you can.
I couldn't shake the film's message from my conscience, nor could I wait to discuss what I'd anticipated to be an essential conversation in America.
However, the post wasn't widely shared (6 Facebook shares to be exact), so I figured my writing just plain sucked.
I moved on.
And, while the writing does indeed need work, America needs so much more.
Maybe our nation's collective conscience wasn't ready for a message this disturbing: While young, black men are trying to escape lives of hardship, our system continuously fails them. Maybe moviegoers couldn't handle the weight of racial inequality and police brutality on a Saturday night with popcorn and jalepeño poppers. Maybe readers didn't know what to say while sharing a post about this topic.
Perhaps too few of us felt its gravity back then.
So maybe it's time to share that review again. I'd love to know what you think.
(Originally posted 7/29/13)
Oscar Grant is far from perfect.
He’d been a teenage dad. Cheated on his girl. Sold drugs. Spent time in prison. Played loud music with offensive lyrics. Lost his job.
Still, he loves his five-year-old daughter and works to repair his damaged relationships.
He dumps the drugs and makes his bed. He is a kind, young man who texts his mom on her birthday, always trying to escape the darkness of his past mistakes. He almost succeeds.
Following New Year’s Eve celebrations in San Francisco, 22-year-old Oscar rides the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) back to Oakland with his friends and girlfriend. In the early morning hours of January 1, 2009, an enemy from prison provokes Oscar on the train, wrenching him away from the stability he’s fought to rebuild as assailants pummel him to the floor.
The train stops at the Fruitvale Station, where Oscar and his group – all of them minorities -- are detained on the platform by several white police officers.
What happens next is captured on video by witnesses on the train: Officer Johannes Mehserle shoots an unarmed Oscar in the back as he’s pinned, face-down, on the platform.
Fruitvale Station succeeds because we’re forced to see what so many ignore: the young black man’s desperate quest to overcome the shadows of his past. Oscar’s life was filled with missteps and counterbalances, with bad influences and admirable women.
He was every young black male who’s tried and failed to harmonize acceptance with responsibility.
Within the first 30 seconds of the movie’s opening, my nerves were raw; by the end, I wanted to hide my white skin. I’ve learned that Officer Mehserle – who has said he meant to use a taser instead of a gun -- served just 11 months behind bars for his role in Oscar Grant’s murder.
It was a mistake, the officer claimed. A stressful circumstance which led to an imperfect decision.
As Fruitvale Station reminds us, imperfection doesn’t only affect black men. They just pay a higher price for it.
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