Movie Review: American Son

American Son is directed by Kenny Leon and written by Christopher Demos-Brown. It was first a play on Broadway since September 12, 2019, then moved to Netflix on November 1, 2019. It stars Kerry Washington, Jeremy Jordan, Eugene Lee, and Steven Pasquale. The setting takes place at a Florida police station. And it’s about a mother, Kendra, and father, Scott, whose son, Jamal, has been supposedly apprehended by police. The majority of dialogue takes place while Jamal’s parents await the AM Detective to figure out what has happened to their son.

Christopher Demos-Brown made a smart move by keeping the cast minimal. By keeping the number of characters low, it allowed the viewers to make a deeper connection with the primary characters. Demos-Brown used this chance to make the viewer pay more attention to the dialogue, position, and nature of each character. When you have more characters in a film, it either forces a movie to be full of exposition and back story or not have enough exposition and back story on the essential roles. The same way that the lack of characters contributed to the focus on details, the lack of various scenes did the same thing. American Son takes place in a police station in Florida, and the scenes switch from a few different locations throughout the police station. I have certainly seen feedback that criticized the movie, saying it stays in the same place, which makes it dull. However, I beg to differ because it allowed the film to really showcase the dialogue. I genuinely think it was a clever move to emphasize the different themes throughout the movie. 

There were several different themes throughout this movie. Not only did it portray a broad range of social issues that African Americans encounter, but it also exemplified how many women are treated in today’s society. 

These were the many instances that intrigued me the most.

At the beginning of the film, the police officer asks the mother about her son, supposedly to “see if he shows up in the system.” The detective asks the questions, “Is he in a gang, or does he have any gold teeth?” And, “Does he have any AKAs? Or any street names?” One can argue about how these are merely protocol. However, I don’t know about you, but I find it hard to believe that he would ask the same questions if the mother was white, and the son didn’t have a name, usually attributed to black people, like Jamal. This is only one of several examples of reoccurring microaggressions throughout the movie. The cop then takes this information and returns over and over again, telling Kendra nothing more important than the last time.

Soon, Jamal’s father, Scott, arrives, and as soon as he walks in, the cop begins spilling out all kinds of information that Kendra had been asking for the whole time she’d been there. The officer then goes on to say, “Bitch is totally outta control. I mean… I got kids too, but she went from zero to ghetto in like… nothing flat, you know?” I hope you can see how wrong this comment is. But I’ll explain if you don’t see it. He says, “Zero to ghetto,” which is a blatant reference to her race. Because like I said previously, I have my doubts that the cop would say the same thing about a white woman. It also exhibits the way men routinely label women, black women in particular, as too emotional or aggressive. And I understand why some people will argue she was being out of control. However, I guarantee you whoever claims this is most definitely a man who doesn’t understand the connection between a mother and her child. Nor do they understand the level of fear police invoke within the black community. It is a level that many other races do not share. 

Can Black People Be Racist? Yes, But No

You have probably heard the term “reverse racism.” Usually used by a white person who feels that a minority has just committed a racist act onto them. Thus, they’ve coined the action “reverse racism.” This term, however, holds no meaning because of the way that racism is defined by sociologists, it is not possible for Black people to be racist. I’ll define some terms to better explain what I mean. 

Racism is the systemically instituted oppression and discrimination of a particular group. 

Discrimination itself is the action of an individual based on a prejudiced view.

Prejudice is the preconceived opinion based on societal influences, not on actual observation.  

Everyone, no matter the race, inevitably has prejudice because everyone’s opinion is influenced based on those who surround them and the rest of society.

This systemic definition of racism makes it impossible for those who are oppressed to be racist. A Black person cannot keep a white community from voting. Just like how a Latinx person can’t block White immigrants from entering the United States. Discrimination, though, is different. Since discrimination is the actions that one takes based on their prejudices, and since everyone has prejudices, it means that everyone discriminates. So, what this all means is that yes, Black people can have prejudice, and yes, they can discriminate against White people, but no, they can’t be racist. Only those who gain advantage from the oppression of a certain group can be racist.

Basically, only White people can be “racist” in these terms of the definition. 

This concept does get more complicated, to an end, which I cannot decipher. Here’s what I mean. I previously defined racism as systemically enforced oppression by an institution. Most people, myself included, depict the government as this “institution.” And it is an institution. However, someone pointed this out to me. “What if you had a company that was run by black people and enforced rules that were advantageous towards the other Black people, but at the same time hindered the White people employed at the business. Then could Black people be racist?” I had to think about it for a bit, but I couldn’t come up with a definite answer. Because if you think about the government, if it were made up of majority Black people and enforced rules that were disadvantageous towards White people, then yes Black people could be racist. But I guess where I have trouble figuring out is whether the size of the racist institution matters. Because while a company can drastically affect your life, it can’t enforce or allow police brutality. Nor can it mass incarcerate a minority race. However, as I have said, a business can drastically affect one’s life, it can prevent people of a certain race from progressing up the company and other acts alike.

I still think and try to figure out what the answer is to this question I was asked, if I figure it out I’ll be sure to post it. If any of you have any answers agreeing or not, please feel free to comment or email me.

What’s the Opposite of a Racist? It’s Not What you Think.

You’ve probably been taught that a racist is someone who blatantly discriminates someone based on their skin color. This image of an overt racist is, in fact, much outdated. The days of racists being outright racist are somewhat behind us. Racism has moved away from the public hangings and enslavement, and towards the contemporary version of racism, New Racism. If you didn’t know that, it’s okay. But I’m going to assume you don’t know what the opposite of a racist is either.

I’ve had so many personal experiences of people talking to me saying something like, “I’m not racist but…” and then continuing to say something explicitly racist. Or, saying, “I’m not racist, I’m friends with Black people.” These statements, at the moment, make whoever is saying it thinks that they’re not racist. But really, saying, “I’m not racist,” is an acknowledgment that they know being overt racist is not socially acceptable and so they start out saying that. It has no meaningful purpose, though. Because as Ibram X. Kendi states in his book, How to Be an Antiracist, he says that the opposite of a racist is not “not a racist,” in fact it is an antiracist. 

To understand what the difference between an antiracist is and a “not racist” person is, you have to look at what being a racist means. So, when we talk about racism in sociology, you look at it along with discrimination. Racism is generally considered systemically enforced, a racist is someone who supports the systemically instituted racism, and discrimination is the actions of these individuals based on their racist beliefs. And so, a racist is someone who discriminates (takes action) based on their race. If a racist is someone who discriminates based on their beliefs, the opposite of a racist is someone who takes action to tear down systemic racism and promotes equity. 

I highly suggest you read Kendi’s book, How to Be an Antiracist, it is a very enlightening, and educational book with his life experiences and sociological definitions.

Which Side of History Will You Be On? Hopefully It’s the Right Side

The United States is in a weird position right now. You’ve definitely (I hope) read about the impeachment of Donald J. Trump and impending senate trials, the encaging of Hispanic immigrants, etc. I could go on with a list for days about the wrongdoings of this nation. And I know you’ve definitely learned about history’s wrongdoings, from the Holocaust and Stalin to the slavery of African Americans and the segregation through Jim Crow. While each of these events differs drastically between one another, they each have a fortunate resemblance, they all came to an end. They all left plenty of issues in their wakes, but they each essentially came to an end. So, when I hear “Trump did this,” or, “said that,” or “supports them,” I look at it as another one of these tragic events. Trump’s impact on the United States is not comparable to the likes of Hitler or Stalin, or the enslavement and segregation of African Americans. Still, it is essential to look at the conceptual side of it all. When we do stop and conceptualize the evils throughout history and how they always seem to be righted, you will come to the conclusion that pure evil does not persist. There are undoubtedly arguable cases where darkness still lingers from historical events, but these are mostly after-affects. And so, I believe that it is not an “if,” but a “when” Trump’s “reign” will come to an end, just like all other evils throughout history.

The end of Trump’s reign, however, brings up another issue. After he is brought to justice for the wrongs he’s committed, opinions will be formed, and his associates will be judged. We can take a look at the previous examples from above, the Holocaust and Slavery. If you ask around about Anti-Semitism, most people will say that they definitely do not support it. Of course, there are outliers, such as Neo-Nazis and those who are merely violently discriminatory. But the majority of people have taken a stance against what Hitler and his millions of followers once believed. We can also look at slavery, a closer example to home. Millions of people from the South (and a few from the North) supported and promoted the enslavement of Blacks. Now, however, when you read the small paragraph in your textbook from high school, you see that it is definitely not supported by the majority of people. However, your occasional, not-so-uncommon racist persists within the nation. With both examples taking place around a hundred, or so, years ago, you can look at the present and see that people have taken a side. One of those sides is forever engraved in history as the wrong side and the other, the right side. And so, all I can think after comprehending this is, “What side of history will you be on?”

It’s all in your hands, nobody but you can decide what side of history you will be on. I urge you to look for more examples, even for some cases that counteract my belief. Whatever it takes to get you thinking about this situation because an enlightened mind is an open mind. And an open mind will drive you to the right side of history.

Choose the right side.

What’s Happening in Bosnia? Here’s What The News Won’t Tell You

Our country has some of the most progressive laws for freedom of speech. We can go outside and say what we want, journalists can praise or criticize the government without worry. But where we get our facts from is a different story. The freedom of speech allows the news sources to publish almost anything they want. And it’s easy to forget that these sources are businesses as well. So, while yes, there are definitely news sources with most honorable intentions, most have to publish what will engage the most activity with their audience. This means that some things will almost always be left out of the spotlight or left without mention at all. 

One of those left-out cases is the Immigration Crisis in Bosnia. For a while, immigrants who’ve left their homes in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia, fleeing poverty and war-torn countries, have traveled all the way to Bosnia. They are now attempting to enter Croatia, not because they want to live in Croatia, but because once they’re in, they’ve entered what’s known as the Schengen Area. The Schengen Area is a result of the Schengen Agreement, which was an agreement passed in 1985 that removed all the borders within the European Union. The lack of borders will allow im

migrants to seek the best available jobs and opportunities without the hassle of visas needed for traveling between countries. 

The immigrants are being denied from entering the EU by Croatia. And the denial of the thousands of people, with no other place to go, is creating a buildup at the border. The stories of the immigrants trying to enter Croatia are endless. From being detained for days at a time, to being beaten senseless by border control, the immigrants are facing awful treatment for for seeking a better life. The Immigrants had been staying in Vučjak Camp since the Fall, and they were just recently transferred to former military barracks. The Vučjak Camp was reported as resembling a muddy, watery, garbage dump. They lacked running water, food, and were living in tents in the wilderness. They were lucky that the Bosnian government finally chose to address the issue and transport the immigrants because the cold winter was finally beginning to settle in, and the temperatures were reaching well below zero degrees. I urge you to do research on the issues, like this one, that are not at the top of the headlines.