With Spike Lee and Nate Parker’s newest joint AMERICAN SKIN dropping this Martin Luther King weekend, we are reminded that MLK’s “I Have A Dream” speech still hangs in the balance.
As far as we have come as a people, it only takes one instance of a noose hanging in front of the Capitol Building to remind us that the notion of White power and White supremacy is still thriving. It’s mind-blowing that scenes photographed from the mid-1900s of protests/marches, Black people being brutally beaten & killed, discrimination, segregation, efforts to keep Black people from voting, access to capital and all of the things that happened during the “WHITE’S ONLY” era are still headline news in January of 2021.
Although fictional, AMERICAN SKIN represents a scenario all too familiar in the Black and Brown community. Regardless of the size of your bank account, how many points you score in an NBA game, how many people you employ as a corporate CEO or leader of this nation, the one thing police see is brown skin. And one slight move during a traffic stop can be seen as ‘a threat’ and can end your existence on earth.
Omari Hardwick who stars in the film as Derwood, best friend/brother of star/director/writer Nate Parker, is extremely recognizable from his time playing James St. Patrick on the hit TV show POWER yet is no stranger to systemic racism and racial profiling himself.
Hardwick has had numerous encounters with law enforcement, with his most recent incident happening as he was filming Season 4 of the STARZ hit show. Hardwick was approached by two officers; one White and one Black “The cop had issues,” he says about the White cop. “The Black cop never spoke up. I of course said to the Black cop…you know exactly who I am and he could barely look up at me. It’s so not about who I am, but you could absolutely tell this gentleman that not only am I someone who he probably could come and have a conversation with, but he might actually benefit from me having a conversation with him because I’m only speaking for those that don’t have a stature called Omari Hardwick.”
With the new administration taking office in less than a week, and our first Black female Vice President, there is a glimpse of hope on the horizon. At the very least, the type of rhetoric and behavior that has been encouraged by Trump over the last four years will be denounced and punished accordingly.
Sweeping reforms in law enforcement are a MUST and officers who break the law must be held accountable. We cannot move forward as a nation until this fractured system is fixed. Hopefully with films like AMERICAN SKIN, showing that an unfiltered open dialogue can move the needle, understanding, empathy, and love can help move this nation to a more peaceful and tolerant place. This film is definitely worth a watch and a conversation.