Oscar Baits 2017
Some Ramblings - Detroit by Srinivas Kanchibhotla
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1992 - Rodney King's, a taxi driver, verdict had been delivered and all the police officers caught in the ghastly act of beating to pulp the inebriated and belligerent motorist resisting arrest for DUI, and all caught on camera in the act, had all been acquitted. The verdict, pronounced by an all white jury, ignited the tinder box of simmering racial tenions in Los Angeles, and what followed the next few days, again all caught on live television, shook the country up into the hard realization that, despite all their economic progress and development, everything was still black and white. Neighborhoods exploded, literally, into mushroom clouds of fire and smoke, stores looted and destroyed beyond recognition, people were dragged out of their vehcles and bloodied up beyond recognition, and at the end of it all, the property damage was estimated to be about a billion dollars, not to mention, the deep fissures it has created between different races (black, white, asian) in an already fractured society.

2015 - It almost became an epidemic, (white) cops mowing down black people stopped for suspicion. Though in a couple of cases, the use of deadly force appeared warranted, in many others, it proved outright unjustifiable. In one particular instance, a family with a small child traveling in a car stopped for a broken tail light experienced the ultimate nightmare DWB (Driving Whilte Black) scenario. The dad in the front seat calmly explains to the police officer that he has a gun, a licensed one, in the back seat, and he wants to show it to the officer, while the mom holds up the cellphone camera recording all the proceedings. The mere mention of the gun immediately escalates the situation as the officer draws his weapon out and starts shouting at the dad to desist from any movement. As the dad goes on maintaining his calm demeanor while turning to the back seat, the officer shoots the dad repeatedly in the chest, much to the shock of the mom and the crying child in the back. And then there's another brazen incident of (white) police officers letting the black suspect run for a little distance and then shoot him the back, taunting him to run further so that they could have another chance, unmindful of the fact that there's someone recording all this from a distance hidden from plain view. These events, and many such, all within a span of an year snowballed into the birth of a movement "Black Lives Matter", the reverberations of which are felt across different spheres of public life, from sports to arts to politics and media. Reconciliation might be still be some ways away, but the day of reckoning has certainly beckoned upon the society.

The real issue with moving past racism is the inability of both sides on agreeing upon a proper starting point, a point that clearly delineated the acceptable behavior and the abhorrent practice. While the minority community insists upon the day when the first slave ship landed at the shores of the United States as the beginning of racism, the current white community finds it hard to accept the prevalent practices of the then society (sins of their forefathers) being used against them in retrospect. The close to 200 year head start that the majority community has over the blacks in terms of opportunities for upward mobility has definitely created a deep economic schism between the two sides, where a below average black person lives in a much miserable condition than his white counterpart. And the wretched conditions of this lower strata creates a law and order situation opening the Pandora box of prejudice and mistreatment, kicking the can further down the road of no return. Every statistic in law enforecement (incarceration rate and harsh judgments) pointing to the lopsided treatment of the minority community, this feedback mechanism of the community suspecting the police and the police prejudging the community that has been perpetuating since the ages seems to have no end in sight. If, even in this day and age, with the minorities slowly climbing up their way on the social ladder, and the majority of the majority community embracing the ever changing multi-racial and multi-cultural aspect of the society, movements like "Black Lives Matter", and slogans like "Don't shoot me" still reverborate in the streets of US of A, all the programs initiated by the law enforecement - like minority outreach, stocking up the ranks of the police department with people of color, commissioning various studies to recognize all the open and festering scars in the legal system - might all still be mere window dressing on a broken storefront.

'Detroit' is yet another look of this problem that is all too known and all well documented (probably, right from the 1930's 'The Birth of a Nation'), this time through the historic lens of the 1960's race riots in Detroit, an incident from which the booming and bustling city in the 60s never quite recovered even to this day. Society finds itself in strife usually when the economy isn't doing well and all the pent up factors start coming out of the woodwork looking for scapegoat to blame the poor situation on. What's different however with this situation in Detroit in the 60s was the auto industry was booming, churning out autos and jobs by the thousands every year attracting talent (physical and intellectual) from all over the country, everyone was flush with cash and there were enough distractions in the growing town to spend it all on. And it was in this context that the worse riots to ever hit the city needs to be looked at. It wasn't the economy, it wasn't the frustration, there wasn't any rage, all it was was pure racism in its finest blend, where even a war veteran (of Vietnam) of color wasn't spared the police brutality, where the mingling of the youth of the races was scorned and frowned upon by the old guard, where the scales of the judiciary were heavily tilted on one side against one color.

The crux of the movie lies in an extended sequence transpiring at a local motel from where shots from a dummy gun were fired by a misguided youth at a police squad, and the police use this as the reason to round up ALL the black youth put up in there (along with a couple of white girls) and start the "interrogation" with the aim of extracting a confession. It is this segment that holds the mirror to the current society, down to the intimidation, the coercion and illegal extractions, all recreated from the testimonies of the witnesses later in the court. Police brutuality over minorities, in movies at least, is usually a springboard sequence to whatever bigger or better that follows after and never itself the focus point. However, by making an entire movie (almost) on the couple of hours of hell the hapless patrons of the motel went through, unending, unreleting and unimaginable in its tension and pure horror, a movie for the first time depicts what it truly feels being a black person caught in the crosshairs of an institution's injustice, prejudice, and just, plain inhumanity.

While the two sides continue to argue about the starting point of all this animosity, they conveniently forget the more dangerous and glaring aspect of it that each of these incidents, however minor, push back all the progress in race relations that has painstakingly been made through all these decades, years at a time. In that way, 'Detroit' is both history and commentary, serving as a reminder of the quote about ones who forget their histories.

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