As the night of July 8 draws to a close, I suspect it will take some time to make sense of the events surrounding the Mehserle verdict, the ensuing Oakland protests, and what actually happened here tonight.
That being said, it is important to keep in mind that the mainstream narrative is already being written. It is, perhaps, the nature of today’s world that times in which self-reflection and analysis are most needed are the ones that are most easily co-opted by other interests. Soon, answers and explanations that neatly categorize Oakland’s struggles will attempt to “make sense” of it all in ways that don’t express the real meaning of, or impetus behind, why things happened the way they happened. Inevitably, the mainstream media and all of those that seek to sensationalize will draw boxes around “violence”, rioting, outside agitators, and other such easy phrases, in ways that compartmentalize and fracture the communities that hope to organize for change.
Accordingly, it will take a concerted effort to make sure that the conversation remains on the real issues at hand: racism, institutionalized injustice, police murder, and accountability. Let’s reflect but remain vigilant. The struggle for justice cannot be defined by the outcome of the Mehserle trial, it did not begin with the shooting of Oscar Grant and is not over with today’s verdict; it is up to us to ensure that it perseveres.