justice for a life

For many, Oscar Grant III’s murder and the ensuing trial of transit police officer Johannes Mehserle immediately recall Rodney King’s videotaped beating and the acquittal of the police officers who used excessive force against him. While both cases rested on visual evidence of officer misconduct, the critical difference between the two trials is that Oscar Grant is dead. Grant joins the numbers of unarmed black men (like Amadou Diallo, Sean Bell, and a host of others) whose very presence on “the scene” was perceived as threatening, whose lives were “disposable.” That Mehserle will serve time is a comfort to some (certainly not for Grant’s family). For others, his conviction on involuntary manslaughter instead of murder is just further evidence of the devaluation of black life.


About jennifer williams

Jennifer D. Williams is a writer and professor of English and Women's and Gender Studies. She has published in academic journals and online at Ms.blog, PopMatters, among other sites. Jennifer is currently working on a book that looks at black women's urban literature between the Depression and the civil rights era.

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