“Detroit” Should Have Never Been Made

By:  Asher Primus

I will admit, I defended this film prior to its release in theaters.  I ignored the black feminists who called it out as a whitewashed narrative that erases black women from activism.

Granted, the film is based on a true story, but the director does and did take into account to alter and add fictional details.  So, my review is on the film itself and not the historical accuracy.

As expected from the lens of a white person, the director depicted black rioting as senseless pillaging as black people took advantage of unprotected stores.  It was the same metaphoric lens used to describe the Baltimore riots in 2015.  It is hard to tell if the black people rioting in the film even had a purpose.  One minute it is retaliation against the Detroit police, then the next minute the focus loses its traction.

John Boyega’s character, Melvin Dismukes, is a working-class man with two jobs.  During the night of the riot (that led to the deaths of 3 black men in the Algiers Motels) he worked security prior, but leaves his post to volunteer in the investigation of an alleged sniper.  Yet according to the film, the sniper was just a black man named Carl who was playing with a toy gun and was foolishly aiming at the police officers.  He was the first die once the location of the fire was marked.  Black deaths are seen as senseless, avoidable and the faults of their own.

While watching, I envisioned the typical Blue Lives Matter crony saying the following:

  • If Carl was not playing with a toy gun, he would have been alive.
  • Carl should not have run from the police.
  • If Fred (Larry’s best friend) did not act like a hero and smart-mouthed the officer, then he would have been alive, just like how Greene (Anthony Mackie’s character) and Larry swore to never testify against him.
  • All of these deaths could have been avoided if the black rioters did not attack the bus that Fred and was on.
  • Larry should have not talked to the white women.

It was just sickening that I was manipulated into thinking about respectability politics that I ended up being confused on who was to blame for this happening in the first place.  Detroit tries to add sympathy with white allies, non-racist cops, officials and national guardsmen who indirectly fought for black people; yet, it was a powerless gesture as each white ally failed to win me over.  The silence of white allies spoke volumes as the 3 officers involved in the Algiers Motel incident were found not guilty.

Two white women were also interrogated during the incident but their testimony was thrown away as white men could not believe that they had consensual sex with a black man.  Detroit failed to depict that white supremacy is systemic.  Racists were seen as the dumb hillbilly archetypes who were trigger-happy and sexually frustrated that again, the black man was able to attract white women.  It reflects a bad white feminist narrative that white women were also oppressed, but we as black people all know that white women will never let go of the luxuries and privileges that white men offer.  Hence why 1st and 2nd wave white feminists did not denounce the KKK in mass.  Despite how black people were demonized in the original Birth of a Nation, white women rested assured that their men would protect them to the extreme that not even a black man could look at them, even if it was not intentional.

While the white women cried about how their humanity was not being recognized and being slut-shamed, I had to remember seeing an earlier scene of a black girl being blown away by a tank.  The hunt for the alleged gun that Carl fired became a racist parody of the 3 Stooges.  An officer comes up with the most unethical idea that falsely murdering Carl’s friends would scare the group into a confession.  Unfortunately, one officer did get the hint and actually shot and killed his suspect.  The film’s dialogue referenced the tactic as a game.

The ending was unnecessary and could have been left out.  Larry was so traumatized by the death of Fred that he abandoned his dream of obtaining a record deal with his friends “The Dramatics” to be a local church choir director.  Larry’s distrust for white people felt like it could have led to a black nationalist uprising, but no, it was a calling to Jesus (a fictional white man to heal the distrust black people have with real white people).

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