Fruitvale Station-A Closer Look

With great hesitancy, I went with two friends to see the movie "Fruitvale Station." When I first saw the movie trailers, I had no clue as to what the film was about. After researching Oscar Grant's story, I drew parallels to the shooting of unarmed teen Trayvon Martin.
As people struggled to accept the verdict handed down in the Zimmerman trial, I quickly became outraged at attempts to minimize the Black experience by referring to past criminal cases of reverse crime (White victim/Black defendant) and posting stories on social media that did not make national news. For the life of me, I can not understand why my personal anger incites someone else to get defensive or attempt to minimize my emotions especially when they have not lived in this world in brown skin.
As I watched the opening scenes of Fruitvale Station, I was literally cringing. After seeing social media posts about Trayvon's less than stellar school performance and "thug" ways, I was almost embarrassed at the on-screen portrayal of Oscar Grant. Here he was selling drugs, being incarcerated, cheating on his girlfriend and looking for a job. Not the ideal man by anyone's standards. But then it dawned on me. The urban street life is no different than growing up in a barrio or a trailer park (Eminem in 8-Mile.) Our environment is something we can't control as children but as we grow older, we must be accountable for our actions and decisions.
As the young man tossed around the "n" word, I looked around the theatre and wondered if the White people in attendance were offended, in agreement or wondering why Paula Deen was in hot water. I'll be honest. I had a hard time liking Oscar Grant.
Through a series of cinematic events, we learn that despite his jaded pasts and colorful language, he was a devoted boyfriend, father and son who desired to do better. In fact, the first step in doing something better with your life begins with ONE day. The day you decide to improve yourself and become the person you always wanted to be.
We first observe Grant's devotion to his daughter when he sneaks her a second pack of fruit snacks after her mom said no. When he picks her up from school, they engage in play that few children actually get to enjoy with their father. He befriends a stray pit bull while pumping gas and the dog is friendly and wagging his tail. This scene is important to the film because like the pit bull, Black men are stereotyped and often feared. When the dog is hit by a speeding hit-and-run driver, Grant runs and picks him up and holds the dog in his dying moments. He cries over a dog he just met which demonstrates he has feelings and compassion for other living creatures.
In the store where he was recently laid off, he tries to impress a pretty young White shopper by assisting her with her seafood purchase. Initially, she is very stand offish so he gets his grandmother on the phone and encourages her to help the young woman make Southern styled fish. By going above and beyond, we can only imagine what type of employee he would have been had the manager given him a second chance and his job back. Grant even goes as far as to offer to work for 40 hours with 20 hour pay but still does not get hired.
When faced with the calendar marking in red RENT DUE, he struggles with selling a bag of pot that is stashed in his closet. This struggle is further aggravated when his sister calls and asks if he can help her pay bills as well. After calling a buyer, Grant reflects on a painful jailhouse memory involving his mother's visit and pours the weed out. When the buyer arrives, he informs him that he already "sold" it and offers him a free joint as a consolation prize. Once again, we get a glimpse of his desire to be better and his compassion.
While celebrating New Year's Eve, his girlfriend and her friend have to use the restroom badly. He begs with a shop owner and even offers $10 to the man for allowing the women to use the restroom. The man declines and another couple soon walk up. The woman is visibly pregnant and Grant once again asks the shop owner to allow the woman to use the restroom. Yet again, his compassion and kindness is demonstrated. Ironically, he asks the well dressed White man how long they have been married and tells the man that money is holding him back from proposing to his girlfriend. Grant is shocked when the man reveals that he was broke when they first married and he stole the ring he proposed with. Here are two men, side by side, who have both been in the same shoes yet to the outsider, one looks harmless and one looks harmful based on appearance.
Just when I was ready to cheer Grant on for his fresh start, he is shot and killed. Unarmed on a subway platform when he was just celebrating with loved ones moments earlier.
There are countless young men who are murdered every day. While we may not know their stories, that doesn't mean that their stories and lives weren't important or that they didn't matter. Regardless of one's less than ideal word choice, choice of clothing or lack of formal education, no one is deserving of being murdered simply because they aren't packaged the way society deems acceptable.
Fruitvale Station gives us a glimpse of the day in the life of a young man with promise. The promise of tomorrow never afforded as the result of one bullet. Troubled young men who may have become tomorrow's great leader.


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