A Peacock Original film (NBC’s streaming service) having previously screened at the Toronto Black Film Festival and now at the Montreal International Film Festival. Directed by a woman. And a white woman – Sonia Lowman – this is a film which looks at a subject which is timely and vital. How the inherent systemic racism in the United States (and really many countries) has resulted in black boys lacking any sort of opportunities.
Racism. For a mere six letters it is a big word. A big word with plenty of baggage. Its meaning is huge.
Interestingly the executive producer of the film is activist and two time Super Bowl champ, Malcolm Jenkins. I say that because a large part of the documentary investigates sports and black males. Showing that from a young age black boys see that the only “successful” black men are either athletes or musicians. Some believe that if they don’t become an athlete then the only other options are death or jail.
Throughout the four centuries in which blacks have been in the United States the black body has been an obsession, an obsession which has been used to entertain white people. The black body is seen as a commodity, a multi-billion dollar enterprise. From a young age, black boys are conditioned to think all they have to offer is their bodies.
As such no effort is put into their education. The schools they attend do not receive the same sort of funding as whites attend. They end up believing it is unrealistic to dream of becoming a lawyer or doctor. All this equals an opportunity gap for young black males. It is the bigotry of low expectation. This inequality is born out in the unemployment statistics. Digging deeper it is also another form of control – who gets educated and who doesn’t.
Pretty much from birth they are bombarded with messages telling them they do not matter. That they are to be feared. They see it in the eyes of white women every time they meet them in the streets or in an elevator. They feel this fear. It is something they deal with every day. Becomes part of them.
Unwarranted fear is part of the explanation as to why one in three black males goes through the prison system. Combined with the unequal education they receive and high unemployment. The writing is on the wall.
Bottom line is that the ruling whites do not see black males as their equal in any way. As such it is easier to oppress them. They are lesser. Fear, control and believing they are lesser are the elements which make up the relationship which black males have with policemen. The result is that black men are three times more likely to die at the hands of police than white males.
Slavery was eliminated long ago but the views which enabled its establisment have continued. The problems this segment of the American population faces are deeply entrenched and numerous. Forwarded is that the way out is education, mentorship and a chance. A chance to become their potential.
The film challenges us to do what it takes to give black boys and men the same opportunities open to everyone else. Think about what that could bring them and the entire population if they felt part of the collective.