As a young, non-Black Kuwaiti woman, I haven’t really experienced the kind of discrimination or ill-treatment that the Black community faces, especially in America. Yet, as an individual who takes a keen interest in history and would love to educate herself further on the struggles of a community who has been on the receiving end of racism for decades, movies like Fruitvale Station does a wonderful job of portraying the tragic loss of a life as a result of racial profiling.
Fruitvale Station is a crime/drama film based on the series of events leading up to the death of 22 year-old Oscar Grant III. Written and directed by Ryan Coogler, it stars Michael B. Jordan as Oscar Grant, Octavia Spencer as Wanda Johnson (Oscar’s mother) and Melonie Diaz as Oscar’s girlfriend and mother of his child, Sophina Mesa.
The film starts off showing actual footage of Oscar Grant and his friends being detained by the BART police at the Fruitvale station in Oakland, California on New Year’s day, 2009. Coogler then introduces us to Oscar’s character who gets into an argument with his girlfriend because he had cheated on her. The movie then continues, showcasing Oscar’s relationships with others such as his daughter, mother and boss.
Throughout the movie, glimpses of Oscar’s past comes to light such as his brief time in prison for possession and selling of drugs and getting into a fight with his boss which ends up costing him his job. Despite that, Oscar was trying his best to become a better father, son and partner to those he cared deeply for.
Now, fast forward to the incident on BART station, Oscar, Sophina and their friends head back to the station after a night out to go back home to his daughter. An old friend of Oscar’s “Katie”, recognizes him and shouts his name. A man, who Oscar happened to have fought with in prison overhears them and starts a fight. Oscar’s friends jump in to help him, as the fight escalates, the train stops and BART police begin searching for the parties involved. Sophina and some of their friends make it out of the station but Oscar and three others are caught by the police and lined up against the wall of the platform.
As the situation escalates, the police officers attempt to handcuff the men lined up as the passengers on the train began to film the altercation. Oscar and the others try to get up but are shoved down further into the ground, an officer then shoots Oscar in the back as he attempts to handcuff him.
Oscar is then sent to the hospital where his mother, girlfriend and friends wait for him. After a successful surgery he remains unresponsive and on machines but in the morning of January 1st, the doctors inform his family that Oscar has died.
The events leading up to Oscar’s death in 2009 arouse public outrage and led to several protests demanding justice for Oscar Grant. Especially after the police officer who shot him was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to two years in state prison. Although, the officer was released after serving for only a little over 7 months.
Though some reviews of the movie claim that it was “loose” with facts or that Oscar’s story had been romanticised, I personally believe that Coogler did a beautiful job of depicting the spirit of Oscar Grant and his desire to become a better individual. Though Oscar has had his fair share of struggles, he did not deserve to die in cold blood. Frankly, if Oscar’s skin color was lighter, he might not have been subjected to racial profiling and would probably still be with his family today.