Humanities to host film viewing, discussion

Story by Sarah Baker, Editor

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The Department of History, Culture and Society is sponsoring a showing of the 2013 film Fruitvale Station about the fatal 2009 subway shooting of a young father, Oscar Grant, with a discussion of the film and its relevance to the recent shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, following the showing.

The film and discussion will take place tomorrow at 8:30 p.m. in the Owens AV room.

“The film is based on the true events of the Oscar Grant shooting, which were witnessed and filmed by dozens of people who were kept in a locked BART (Bay Area Rapid Transport) train while the arrest was occurring,” Carrie Coward Bucher, one of the professors leading the discussion, said. “I think it is an important work as it gives insight into the process by which these tragedies occur and a sense of how multiple lives are ruined when this kind of violence occurs.”

Bucher will bring an analytical point of view to the discussion from her knowledge of sociology.

“I would argue that what we are currently seeing portrayed as black masculinity is narrow minded, harmful, inaccurate, and not at all a new or recent phenomena,” Bucher said. “The stereotypes we see today of thugs and criminals are the same images we saw during our slave-holding days, when black men were portrayed as inherently violent and in need of being controlled.”

Also leading the film and discussion is Associate Professor of History Leonard Ortiz. Being Hispanic, Ortiz will bring a personal aspect toward the discussion, having witnessed stereotypes and misconceptions first-hand.

“I feel close to these events,” Ortiz said. “I’ve been pulled over, racially profiled in my own neighborhood. I’ve been second-guessed, I’ve been asked about my motives for things when others haven’t been in public areas, because I’m Hispanic. So it hits close to home.”

Ortiz believes these kinds of forums are a great resource for Baker and its students.

“Baker needs more forums like this,” Ortiz said. “Because at times we’re isolated to the outside world and at least having discussions [like this] helps battle awareness and educate to break-down the barriers that make us suspicious of others.”

Both Bucher and Ortiz hope students will think about these events and determine, for themselves, how police should interact with citizens.

“Dr. Ortiz and I are like-minded in our insistence that the ‘American Dream’ can be realized only via individual action on behalf of equality,” Bucher said. “We hope that students will consider the causes and consequences of the developments in police practices and choose to involve themselves in a broader discussion about how they want the law to interact with the citizenry.”

Students from Baker have seen events like this one before. Last year, many Baker students attended a Kansas State forum in which Trayvon Martin’s mother came and talked to students about her son’s murder. Ortiz and Bucher hope that this forum will have the same reception by students.

Sophomore Kristina Heinrich likes the idea of informational forums hosted by the university, saying it’s a different and more hands-on way of learning.

“It seem really interesting,” Heinrich said. “It’s a good idea to have events like this, to show students that this does happen.”