Monday, August 7, 2017

New Yorker -- “Detroit” and “Whose Streets?” (Official Trailer Preview)

A review by Anthony Lane
(photo: National Guardsman in Detroit)

A little over 53 years ago the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was signed into law. Some claimed it to be the most important legislation in American history. With it brought the promise of legal equality for blacks as well as whites and all Americans.

"It's really the law that created modern America," said Todd S. Purdum, author of "An Idea Whose Time Has Come."

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibited discrimination in employment and businesses of public accommodation on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. It meant that blacks and whites could eat in the same restaurant and stay in the same hotel. It meant that both black and white could use the same rest room in public facilities. Despite the Supreme Courts 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision that desegregation was unconstitutional, it however only encouraged desegregation of public schools. That’s because the Brown decision meant that white and African American children could not be forced to attend separate public schools.

Despite years of legal efforts to eliminate inequality at the federal level some states continue to resist.

That resistance is evident on the streets of Baltimore, Detroit, Ferguson, and many other cities in the form of unjustifiable brutality and use of lethal force against blacks by police.

It doesn’t matter to what extent you change the law, it cannot change hearts and minds. And so discriminatory policies and actions by certain states and their police officers will only continue.

Dan Rather says,

When I was covering the civil rights movement back in the 1960s, the vast majority of the American public was largely unaware of what was taking place. As reporters, it was our job to open their eyes.

Today, we still live in the shadows of that time, and the questions of race and the role of the state - especially as embodied by the police - are contentious societal flashpoints. A major turning point came in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014 when an 18-year-old African-American man, Michael Brown, was fatally shot by a white police officer. What followed made headlines around the world, but now years later what do we make of that legacy, especially according to those who lived through it?

Whose Streets" is a documentary distributed by my friends at Magnolia Pictures that focuses on this issue. It is told by members of the community who have mobilized into activism. As such it is an intimate and engaging look at one side of this issue. But no matter what your own beliefs are about race, law enforcement, and civic protests, these are voices that deserve to be heard.
Here’s the official trailer of “Whose Streets?” which opens August 11: