The U.S. police force has been widely criticized for high-profile instances of brutality. These events have become a relatively common topic in the media, with headline after headline examining the unjust treatment of citizens by the police, particularly the black community. These events play a huge role in our society, shaping the way parents raise their children and sparking protests across the country. 

Just as with any other major social topic, depictions of police brutality and racial profiling have found their way to Hollywood as directors seek to connect with audiences and use their art to portray some of the hardships faced today by those affected. These are heavy topics, but representing them carefully and thoughtfully can help bring awareness and perspective to these pressing and life-endangering issues.

Racial Profiling and Police Brutality in the U.S.

Apart from the several high-profile cases over the last few years that have caused football players to kneel, mass student protests and city-wide riots, racial profiling by the police force has been a recurring issue for many years. There are hundreds of cases of innocent, and often unarmed, black men being unjustly treated — sometimes with fatal consequences. To add salt to the wound, the officers who are involved in these incidents are often let off the hook with minimal charges.

There are several infamous cases of police brutality against black men, including:

  • Rodney King: After leading the LAPD on a high-speed chase in 1991, King was violently beaten, resulting in several injuries and fractures. The attack was captured on tape, but the officers involved were still not charged, sparking massive protests. 

  • Malice Wayne Green: Wayne was beaten to the point of death in 1992 by two officers who used heavy flashlights as weapons. At the time, Wayne was unarmed, standing outside of what was suspected to be a drug den. 

  • Freddie Gray: In 2015, Gray was arrested for possession of what police believed to be an illegal knife. Taken by force into a police van, Gray fell into a coma and was taken to a trauma center. He died several days later, causing large public protests. 

  • Philando Castile: 32-year-old Philando Castile was killed during a traffic stop in 2016 after reaching for his ID. His girlfriend and four-year-old daughter were present, and the former live-streamed the aftermath of the incident. 

Most of the incidents that result in the murder of black men are nonviolent incidents. Whether or not racial profiling is intentional, the violence that occurs by police officers has historically been tolerated. In recent years, attitudes towards the police have seen a shift, with people demanding greater accountability.

Nonviolent crimes, such as the possession of marijuana in states where the plant remains illegal, results in arrests that occur in higher numbers among the black community. As stated by Core CBD, “The federal government, particularly the DEA, has classified cannabis/marijuana as a Schedule I substance, although its legality at the state-level differs across the US." Even as the public becomes more accepting of marijuana and CBD, thousands of black people remain incarcerated, facing long sentences for possession of marijuana. 

Police Brutality in Hollywood

Police brutality has become a major Hollywood topic, with many films featuring racial profiling and police violence as a part of their storylines. These films are tragic, depicting the trauma involved for victims and their families. Below are a few films that show the cruelty of these events. 

Detroit (2017)

Detroit is a film about a police raid that occurred in 1967 and the police corruption involved — a serious problem in the real world. A group of policemen in the film use their position of power to storm and terrorize a home filled with black men and women. The officers shoot their weapons and openly wave their guns throughout the household at the people who are complying with their every request. 

The Hate U Give (2018)

This film stars a girl named Starr, who lives in a black neighborhood but attends a private school with a largely white community. After seeing her close friend get shot by a police officer during a traffic stop, the young girl is torn between the communities she belongs to. However, she is determined to use her voice to bring awareness to the discrimination and unjust nature of the local police. 

This is perhaps one of the most common themes today, as students join forces with their peers to stand up and protest against societal injustices. Just this year, students at John Hopkins University stood in protest of plans for an armed police force at their school. They chained the doors of the administration building shut, holding signs in protest of the proposed plans. The Hate U Give mirrors real-world protests like this.

This is an area where higher education administrators could do a lot to help mitigate these high-tension social issues. Due to the prevalence of racial profiling, they have a duty to make students feel safe while at school, as this is an important part of equal education. 

Blindspotting (2018)

Blindspotting is a film about a black man named Colin and his white best friend named Miles who frequently exhibits volatile behavior. The film takes place in a largely black community, and in one scene, Collin, who is on probation, sees a black man gets shot while running away from the police. He fears for his safety and the safety of those around him around police — and especially around his friend, who doesn’t seem to understand the dangers of being black.

These films highlight the fact that police brutality is no easy topic to address or witness. The directing and acting of these films make the fear and trauma that these characters experience very clear. However, until these issues are rectified, it’s important to keep showing the problems of racial profiling in law enforcement. Hopefully, as more people become aware and moved by these types of films, we’ll see further action to decrease instances of police brutality and improve accountability in law enforcement.

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