Public Comment

Oscar Grant and the Real Test for Oakland and the Bay Area

By Reiko Redmonde
Wednesday January 28, 2009 - 07:22:00 PM

In his Jan. 22 UnderCurrents column. “Oakland’s Test In the Aftermath of Oscar Grant’s Death,” J. Douglas Allen-Taylor says that Oakland is being tested. I agree that people in Oakland, and the Bay Area, are being tested, but not in the way he describes. The important question is, when people rise up against brutal injustice, what stand do you take? Do you stand aside and criticize? Or do you join the struggle, and see it through? 

In the last three weeks, people in Oakland and the Bay Area have begun to stand up, speak out and vigorously protest the blatant police execution of Oscar Grant. High school and middle school students have walked out, and for this they have been brutalized and arrested. J. Douglas Allen-Taylor ignores these new injustices, and pours cold water on the struggle. He chastizes the protesters, including the RCP, while he goes out of his way to give “mad props” to Oakland police (!) and city officials for “keeping Oakland safe.” But how safe was Oakland for Oscar Grant? How safe was Oakland for the seven people killed by police in the last 15 months? How many parents saw the cellphone video of the murder and thought, “That could have been my son?” 

What should Allen-Taylor and others like him be criticizing? Police murder! 

Who should he be praising, supporting and joining? The brave youth and others who have stepped up to fight this battle. 

The Los Angeles Times recently reported that there are about 100 police killings of citizens in California each year. And it has been documented that at least 2,000 lives were stolen by law enforcement in the 1990s nationwide, and hundreds more since then.  

While Oscar Grant’s life was being stolen by BART police in Oakland, way across the country, in New Orleans, police killed another young black man, Adolph Grimes. Grimes was shot 14 times—12 times in the back—while sitting in a car outside his grandmother’s house. Meanwhile, in a Houston suburb, Robbie Tolan, son of a famed baseball player, was shot and severely wounded by police while he was in his own driveway. 

Three young black men shot by police in one horrific night. Welcome to 2009 in the USA. If you search the Internet for the words “police shoot” or “police kill” you will see that dozens of people have been shot by police around the country since the new year began. 

Why is this the consistent modus operandi on a city, state and federal level? Precisely because this problem is systemic. And yes, the whole damn system is guilty. 

This country was founded on slavery, and suffered through the days of Jim Crow and lynchings. Today it is mostly the police who carry out the system’s brutality and terror against black youth and and other people of color. 

The systematic oppression of black people is so deep and so integral to the U.S. system of capitalism that the only way it can be uprooted is through a revolution that gets rid this system and brings into being an entirely different and far better socialist system as a part of emancipating all of humanity. 

The struggle for justice for Oscar Grant has accomplished a great deal. Not only have charges been brought against a murdering cop—an all too rare occurrence—but a light has been shined on the intolerable situation faced by black and Latino youth today. It has challenged the passivity in society where too many people have learned to live with the unacceptable. It has given heart to those who live under the constant threat of police terror. It can call forth many more people to join in taking this on. And it can be a powerful force in building a revolutionary movement aimed at getting rid of this murderous system. (For those who want to dig into questions of revolution, come to the program “Making Revolution in the USA” at 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 31 at Laney College and check out the pamphlet “Revolution and Communism: A Foundation and Strategic Orientation,” available at Revolution Books.) 

And this struggle is far from over. The Revolutionary Communist Party does indeed want dialogue with others who seriously want to end the epidemic of police murder and I invite everyone to come to Revolution Books to engage. The callous and unbelieveable assertions by BART, police, and higher authorities that people should stand by and put their faith in the process, that they are “fully investigating this case” have been exposed at every turn as untruthful. Only the people’s struggle can advance the cause of truly getting justice for Oscar Grant, including making sure all the officers involved in the murder are held accountable. The eyes of people around the world are on Oakland. Let’s not fail this test. 


Reiko Redmonde manages Revolution Books, 2425 Channing Way, Berkeley. 848-1196.