01/18/2011 05:40 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Tensions and Frustrations: Remembering Oscar Grant on MLK Day

On the evening of the horrible Tucson shootings where Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head, I met a young Black man who scoffed at the day's events.

I was a little taken aback by his outright lack of sympathy. I took a moment, a literal second, and asked, "Why do you feel so indifferent?"

He shrugged his shoulders, took a big sigh and said, "The day the country shows the same level of care for Oscar Grant is the day I will care that this white lady got shot."


I looked into his deep brown eyes for a moment and saw his pain before he turned away. In one sentence, he had changed, deepened and expanded the reality of violence in this country for me.

Behind the statement, there was a young black male, hurting with frustration, anger and resentment.

You see, we can all agree that the level of violent and destructive rhetoric has reached a peak in American political discourse.

We can agree that 43 years after the assassination of Martin Luther King, the nation's first black President is engulfed in so much disrespect from those that fear the color of his skin that saying "he hates white people" and that he's not a real American have become a norm.

We can agree that the senseless shooting of a member of Congress, a judge, a nine-year-old girl, and many others who lost is their lives is a tragic and horrific page in our nation's history.

What you may not know is that when you are a poor young person of color, living in the urban ghettos in and around corners of this nation, someone getting shot is an everyday occurrence. Each day, young people risk their lives to go to school, to go to work, to avoid gangs, violence and continued levels of oppression.

There is a sense of anger that comes from learning that the life of someone from privilege has more value than your own.

On January 1st, 2009, when a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) Police Officer Johannes Mehserle, 28, shot a Oscar Grant, 23, a defenseless young black male point blank and took his life, where was the outcry? Where was the continued media coverage?

On November 5th, 2010, a Los Angeles jury acquitted Mehserle of second-degree murder and voluntary manslaughter. Mehserle was convicted of involuntary manslaughter - a term that carries a four year prison sentence.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Robert Perry gave Mehserle credit for the 292 days he had already served during trial and was sentenced to two years in prison. There is speculation he will only serve seven months.

Again, where is the outcry? Where was the continued media attention dominating Fox, CNN, and MNSBC?

On this Martin Luther King Day, I ponder over the words of yet another black man whose life was taken too soon by a bullet.

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice anywhere," he said.

I reflect on the young man who without reservations shared with me his inner most private thoughts on race, politics and survival.

It was clear that there was only one difference between a politician getting shot and himself getting shot - power.

Oscar Grant had no power over being told to get on the ground, put his hands behind his back and without notice, have his life taken.

Those in power who debate over our health care, immigration, economy, science and morality have the eyes and ears of media driven spectacles whose lives seem to matter more than the rest of us.

If I got pulled over tomorrow and shot "by accident," would the country mourn my death? Would it be a passing moment on twitter?

We may not all be politicians, but we are all Oscar Grant.