Lately, there have been a large amount of movies in theaters preaching to the people to stand up for social justice. Movies that depict a historic a pivotal moment in social change that still rings true today, like Selma and Stonewall; movies that pioneer diversity in lead roles, like Home; and movies that open eyes to an issue that affects everyone in someway, Inside Out. These are some of the good ones from 2015 so far. One of the most influential films of the year was Straight Outta Compton, the biopic of the N.W.A rap group from Los Angeles. Even though this film is set in 1990’s Southern California, it challenged social norms, and exposed injustice and inequality that we, as Americans, are facing either first hand or in the media. The most important issue that Straight Outta Compton spoke out about was institutional racism and police brutality in underdeveloped neighborhoods.
There is a scene where Eeazy-E, Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, MC Ren and DJ Yella took a break from recording their debut album outside of the studio when cop cars roar up, sirens blaring and lights flashing. The officers exited their cars and immediately ordered the group to the ground, smacking their drinks out of their hands. The young men followed orders like they’ve gone through it all before.
Laying face down, fingers laced at the smalls of their backs, their manager came, Jerry Heller out of the studio and demands that the police officers release the group. “Sir, can you stay right there please? We’re trying to check these bangers to make sure they’re clean,” the Black cop said. Jerry retorted, saying the men were artists and not “gang bangers.”
“These clients of yours, these rappers?” the cop said, “they look like gang bangers.” And then Jerry says the most important line in the whole picture. “You can’t come down here and arrest people just because of what they look like. What are you crazy? That’s police harassment”. Watch it here.
This isn’t new. Black Americans for at least the past century have been subject to police and institutional racism. Police harassment and brutality is the epidemic that is killing Black Americans everywhere. Between 1968 and 2011, Black people were two to eight times more likely to be killed by white law enforcement. Just think: so far this year, cops were the cause of death of 161 unarmed citizens 161 unarmed citizens. Michael Brown, Sandra Bland, Sam DuBose, Freddy Gray, Ralkina Jones and Eric Garner are just some of the deaths that were publicized this year. The list of names is far more extensive for the deaths that weren’t.
Releasing Straight Outta Compton at the height of this issue made the movie’s message even stronger and far more relevant. Now more than ever, people need to stand up against police brutality and institutional racism. Race is not and should not be regarded as a way to determine social treatment. Like Jerry said, these men aren’t ‘bangers’ or ‘thugs’; they are people who should not be treated any differently based on the color of their skin.