by Yael Chanoff
I know I could go to jail for this, I could get killed for this, but that only makes me angrier. Driving fast through the streets that raised me ’cause I want to get away. Oakland, California, USA. Fast, the air’s whipping cold, driving towards the water. Faster, to feel that rush that calms the rage.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. We hold these truths to be obvious: police are above the law. And when you’re black your killer, police or not, will probably walk free. No one’s above the law of probability. I’m trapped in it.
Oscar Grant was trapped in it. They made a movie about him, how he was living his life, trying to make it work. How he was shot in the back by cops, how so many people got videos on their cell phones. The movie came out the same night Trayvon Martin’s killer was declared innocent.
Up on the screen, he dumped his weed in the bay. That was how he was going to pay rent, help with his sister’s rent. That was his money for food for his daughter. Or it could have been. But he dumped it because he knew what else it could have been—the plant that sent him to prison again. Minimum of four years. That’s the law.
Its dark at the pier. No lights but the moon on the empty bottles I smash against the concrete.
Oscar was going to sell that weed to Marcus. But when Marcus got to that pier, he lied. Told him he’d already sold it. After Oscar rushed to work late that day, he lied. Tried desperate excuses. But the manager said after being late so many times, there was nothing he could do. That’s the rules, he said. I have to fire you. But Oscar dumped the weed anyway. He wasn’t perfect. Who the fuck is?
And we all know how the story ended, that train trip to see the fireworks, that new years eve 2008. He gets shot in the end. He’s a 22-year-old black man. It’s just statistics.
WARNING: Persons riding the train while black risk injury or death.
And I cry when I leave the movie. Everyone in the theater is weeping. Mourning him. Mourning us all. Stirring up that sharp sickness buried deep in your chest.
You’re not allowed to drive 100 miles per hour. Definitely not while drunk. And I don’t think you’re allowed to smash bottles on the ground, listening to the crash and feeling the power shoot through you and knowing, knowing you can do something with that power, you have to.
You are allowed to curl up on the couch and stare at the wall. Let the pit in your chest grow and stab.
What else are you allowed to do? You’re allowed to leave home, to go to work. You’re allowed to go other places I guess. But Trayvon Martin was coming back from the corner store. Roy Middleton was getting cigarettes out of the car. They both got shot, too.
WARNING: Persons existing in public while black risk injury or death.
After Officer Mehserle murdered Oscar Grant, he got two years in prison. He served 11 months. Zimmerman got nothing for killing Trayvon. We serve life sentences, multiple life sentences. We serve for generations.
WARNING: The courts will try to crush you. The rules weren’t created for you. Follow them or break them, their rules will get you. WARNING: Make your own.
published 11 September 2013