Since August, we’ve all reviewed statistics regarding police brutality and discrepancies within the justice system. Recently, I watched a classic film entitled “A Time To Kill” starring Samuel L. Jackson and Matthew McConaughey. Throughout my life, I’ve seen this film numerous times, but due to my experience in Ferguson, I viewed with a new context. It’s amazing that with every scene, I could predict what the public response would be in real life. So I decided to conjure up a list of reasons I believe this film is relevant to the recent cases of police brutality in America. Now before you get started… SPOILER ALERT!!!! SPOILERS! I’M TALKING APPLE WITH THE SOFT SPOTS, SPOILED
- Small synopsis: Two racist white men raped and attempted to kill a 10 year black girl. Due to the failure of the justice system Carl Lee (played by Jackson), the girl’s father, murdered the rapists in court. The rest of the film is centered on Carl Lee’s trial. Jurors had to decide if Carl Lee was innocent due to insanity or if he was guilty of murder. I’ll leave it to you to watch the film to see what happened.
- The reality of the open season on black bodies is portrayed in the film. The two rapists, Billy Ray Cobb and James Louis ‘Pete’ Willard, without hesitation went after little Tonya. Now this circumstance is different from what we refer to in “real life” as the “open season on black and brown bodies”. In real life context, we are referring to the stop n frisk, the unjustified murders, etc. but Tonya was a black female, which means murder is not the only open season for her, but rape is too.
- The micro aggressions of black people not being considered human. On the first day of the trial, when the judge read the charges off and named Carl Lee’s victims, he proceeded to remind the court that Cobb and Willard were “human”. Carl Lee was not introduced with the same regard.
- The response of the Ku Klux Klan. Naturally, when black on white or white on black violence occurs, Amerikkka’s favorite mascot can’t help but arise. The same response happened in Ferguson. There’s this odd belief both in the film and in real life that “the Klan ain’t been around in years, no one has seen them”, yet they arise like nobody’s business in these circumstances. The KKK stated not too long ago that the events in Ferguson increased the membership intake. They said that Ferguson protestors are “great [KKK] recruiters”. Yes, because nothing attracts people to this historically violent group like the audacity of black people being upset about injustice.
- The KKK being apart of the police force. The Klan interrupted a march outside the courtroom in a scene. The citizens clashed, things got violent. At some point, you see a black woman punching a KKK member (I almost broke my TV screen trying to high five her btw). My initial reaction was “omg that might be a cop, she might go to jail for life”. In that moment, it hit me (an epiphany, not her punch). I know exactly why a black woman punching a member of one of the oldest terrorists group provoked concern for her “freedom” (I’m using this term loosely). If you haven’t been following social media, I advise you to take time out to search “KKK hoods off”, there were quite a few members exposed as police officers.
- The benefit of the doubt given to white criminals. During the movie, a conversation occurred about the rapists. The words utilized to describe them were “they were good boys”. Now if you watch the film from beginning to end, you realize this is a load of crap but I digress. My point here is white people have the privilege to make mistakes, even deadly ones, and are always defended with “they were good”, or “oh they’re just misunderstood”. In addition, there’s also an illusion of youth added to further this agenda of making them innocent. Cobb and Willard being referred to as “good BOYs” reminded me of pumpkin rioters being referred to as “misunderstood KIDs” even though these people were at least old enough to be in college.
- Also, while watching I couldn’t help but think about every racist and rapist apologist excuse for the crimes of Cobb and Willard. When Tonya was seen walking home with groceries, I knew this would be a “well clearly her parents didn’t care about her” or a “well Tonya didn’t run so she must have liked it”.
- Carl Lee supporters being violently attacked. Now I don’t want to completely ruin the movie for you so I won’t get specific, but trust there’s a smorgasbord of attacks in the film that could be listed here. In Ferguson, if you took a stance against the injustices and police brutality, there was a guarantee of you being attacked, whether tear gassed, followed, robbed, guns aimed at you, hit with rubber bullets, flash bombed, having your job called in an effort to get you fired, your character assassinated in the media, the list goes on. But you get my point, when you choose the side of justice, which I sometimes like to call “common sense”, there’s a chance of you paying the “consequences” for being empathetic and whatnot.
- White people centering the conversation on themselves while disregarding the pain of black victims. Carla Brigance, played by Ashley Judd, has this scene where she’s nearly in tears because someone called her child a “nigger-lover”. In my opinion, the 2014 version of “nigger lover” might be “race traitor”. In this an extremely teary moment, all I could think was “now just imagine the pain of the children who are actually called the “nigger”. If being accused of “loving” those considered “inhuman” aka “nigger” hurts, just imagine how it feels to be the one actually called inhuman. Too many times, we’ve had our spaces interrupted by so called “allies” that wanted to let us know that our “hands up, don’t shoot” chants hurt their feelings because their **insert family member here** is a cop. I’m not saying as human beings no one is allowed to be offended, but I am saying there are certain offenses that take priority over another. Being called a nigger is more problematic than being accused of loving one.
- and of course my favorite parallel is a large predominantly black organization, designed to help with the plight of black people, and a pastor stepping in using the names of victims to earn profits while ignoring the needs of the family. Now I won’t name names but if you’ve been paying attention you know who I’m talking about. This is the section where I will simply sip my tea. This scene was the perfect example of “all yo’ skin folk, ain’t yo’ kinfolk” and everyone seemingly involved in a movement don’t want change, unless it lines their pockets.
- The hopelessness of Carl Lee. Once again, I’m not here to ruin the entire movie because I want you to take time to watch it. Carl Lee took justice in his own hands because recent events showed him that the rapists would not be held accountable for their crimes committed against his daughter. This same level of hopelessness in the justice system is felt throughout America amongst minority communities. while depressing, while exhausting, one thing we must all keep in mind is a lack of faith can be deadly. After all what happens to justice deferred? It becomes vengeance.
With all of that being said, go watch “A Time To Kill”. See what observations you make about the film in comparison to recent events.
Written and edited by Angel Carter, December 23rd. All rights reserved. No reproduction of this work permitted without authorization. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. © 2015 Angel Carter
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