No Country for Black Men: Oscar Grant’s Murder and Unjust Court Verdict

On January 1, 2009, Oscar Grant was murdered by an Oakland police officer Johnnes Mehserle ( Mehserle murdered an unarmed and handcuffed man on the ground. While he argues that Oscar Grant, a Black man, was resisting arrest and that he thought he was going for a gun in his pocket while on the ground, the murder of Oscar Grant is inexcusable. Mehserle claims that he was attempting to draw his Taser on Oscar Grant, but ended up “accidentally” pulling out his pistol and firing it and “accidentally” murdering Oscar Grant.  On July 8, 2010, the jury found Mehserle to be not guilty of second degree murder and voluntary manslaughter, but guilty of involuntary manslaughter. Are you kidding me? Mehserle’s sentencing date is scheduled for August 6, 2010.

Mehserle murdered Oscar Grant and the jury wants to say that it is involuntary manslaughter.  When is a Black man going to be considered a human being in a court of law? When will Black men be able to positively benefit from justice in a court of law? I am really not feeling too optimistic at this point. Not too long ago, a court of law sentenced former Atlanta Falcons quarterback and current Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick for 3 years for participating in dogfighting. Well, dang, dogs are receiving more justice in court than Black men. What’s wrong with these cops and their attacks on Black people? One would have thought that the beating that Rodney King suffered in the 1990s in Los Angeles would have resolved police brutality and abuse of power, but it seems that nothing has changed whatsoever.

Now, the White authorities in Oakland are seriously concerned about the significant number of Black people who are organizing to protest this verdict. Hmmm…so the White authorities are unsettled now? Well, Black people are really just exhausted with the history of mistreatment that they have been victimized by and they are simply preparing to retaliate against the power structure that enabled this verdict to be rendered in the first place: white supremacy. I fully support the protesters engaging in violent and revolutionary tactics to make their voices heard. A clear and strong message needs to be communicated that Black people are not going to allow their people to be constantly beaten and killed by police officers, predominately White police officers.

Some people are saying that during the sentencing stage Mehserle can be sentenced for about 10-12 years because of gun enhancements law that can be taken into account. Well, I certainly hope he does have to serve for 10-12 years, but what is unfair is Oscar Grant was murdered and will never be able to take another breath again. Mehserle, unfortunately, is able to breathe and will continue to have life. Involuntary manslaughter traditionally carries a 2 – 4 year sentence in prison. Unacceptable! Mehserle deserves the death penalty. If police officers, especially White ones, continue to unjustly murder Black people, then this is going to create an unnecessary Black national revolution; that is, a revolution where Black people are going to begin to murder White people, especially those in positions of power (See Frantz’s Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth and A Dying Colonialism). Unfortunately, innocent Black and White people will be killed during this revolution. I never want to see a day when this happens. This is, therefore, why we have to do something as a nation to remedy this mistreatment of Black people by police officers, especially White police officers.

While I am very much pro-police officers and believe that most of them are very decent and hardworking people, there has to be federal legislation passed to severely punish police officers who abuse their power and who resort to brutality. Some White police officers across that nation are engaged in a war to terrorize Black people, which is something that is not new to Black people because we experienced this during the epoch of Jim Crow. One would think with a Black man as the President of the United States of America he would speak out against these too frequent injustices, but he has not done it (even during the Skip Gates incident he backed away from his comments against the White cop).

All I want my readers to know is Black men are human beings too. The life of a Black man is just as valuable as any other person living. I am tremendously angry about the murder of Oscar Grant, and we need serious reform when it comes to police discretion. All Americans should be outraged at this miscarriage of justice. To my readers who will not like some of the strong words I have penned in this article, I love you all but this is what Revolutionary Paideia is all about: to unsettle, unnerve, and unhouse!

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison


  1. I lived in Oakland for three years during my young Navy days in the hippie, folk-music 70s. Stories like this was common then, and I see things haven’t changed at all. God only knows how the wife, two kids and I survived that filthy, stinking city without more than being robbed.

    My last time there was on a business trip in 2005 and I went through the old neighborhood where we lived. It looked like it burnt down and they forgot to rebuild it.

    I was going to take my traveling buddy to Jack London Square for dinner, but the trash in the streets made the way almost impassable and the graffiti made me realize I didn’t want to be there after dark, so we aborted the trip.

    RIP, Oscar Grant.

    1. I have heard that Oakland is a pretty rough area. When there is not an investment in building up or rebuilding a city, then I can see how this plays out in how police officers may choose to value (or devalue) the people that actually live in the city. There is neglect for the city and there is neglect for the people living in it.

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