African Americans are a group of people that have been subjected to judicial discrimination for quite a long time even in the current society. One movie that clearly highlights this issue is American Violet. The movie was directed by Tim Disney. The budget of the movie was small, however, it ended up doing fairly well on the opening weekend. It grossed a total of $243,162 on its opening weekend and the figure steadily rose for the following two months after. American Violet is a movie about the life of a young African-American woman by the name Dee Roberts (Nicole Beharie). Dee Roberts is a 24-year-old Black American woman who is a mother of four young children. In the frenzy of the 2000 general elections, the Texas Governor and potential presidential aspirant, George Bush, initiates an all-out attack against drug use. In-between this frenzy, Roberts alongside 30 other members of the African society who also live in the housing projects are arrested. The reason that I have chosen this film is that it shows the relationship that still exists between race and injustice. This is important because it has crucial implications for unfairness in today’s justice system, especially in consideration of race.
The African fight for equality is one that started a long time ago when slaves were being shipped from Africa. It then continued through the period when Africans labored on farms in America till the late 19th Century when the Confederate South was defeated. The latest and most significant highlight of Africans struggling for equality came in the form of the abolition of the Jim Crow Laws. Africans were now seen as equal members of the state as the Whites. The law stated that everyone was equal. However, even after this was implemented, racist tendencies still tend to creep up in our society that show that African American people are still not quite equal to their Caucasian counterparts. This particular point is brought out through the trial of an African American woman in a bid to draw the audience’s sympathy (Sut n.d., 387).
The film is basically going to highlight how deeply racism is still rooted within the American society. Roberts is a young black woman who works in a restaurant as a waitress and heavily relies on government subsidies to make ends meet for her family. However, based on an informant’s word, the disrespectful and racist district attorney, Calvin Beckett, leads a military like swoop on the neighborhood and ends up arresting Dee. She is handcuffed and then escorted away. Despite the fact that she has no criminal record or any record with the state regarding drug use, she is accused of selling drugs to young school children.
Investigations show that she is clean but despite this, the prosecutor gives her an unthinkable choice. She can plead guilty and go home or fight the charges leveled against her while in custody. Her phony lawyer, who is assigned to her, is working with the prosecution and advises her to take the guilty plea. Taking the guilty plea might mean losing government benefits and her right to vote might even be revoked.
The justice system, in this case, is the tool that propagates racism. The racist activities are well documented and are hard to deny. The state prosecutor is largely racist. This is seen in the way that he handles Roberts’ case. Despite the fact that it is clear that she is innocent, he still wants her to pay for something she has not done. She is basically being punished for a sin that she has not committed. Furthermore, the lawyer that has also been assigned to Ms. Roberts does not give her proper advice. He advices her to take the plea bargain knowing full well that it might compromise her ability to exercise some of her most important duties as an American citizen. This just shows to what degree the judicial system may be biased in its quest for justice that is not necessarily free and fair for all.
The production of the film was actually influenced by an event of exactly the same nature that took place in Hearne, in the State of Texas (Wong, 2009). The film is based on a lawsuit that took place here when Regina Kelly was unlawfully detained and harassed by the powerful district attorney. Regina was arrested in 2000 in a drug sweep that took place around the area in which they were living. The sweep was conducted based on the tip of a police informant who was well known to have issues of mental instability.
The office of the prosecutor had received a huge government grant to help in the fight against drug use. They, therefore, needed to generate arrests to legitimize where the cash was going to at the end of the day. In the end, the informant was coaxed into revealing names of people who were alleged to be selling drugs to school going children in the neighborhood with the promise of getting to have his own case sorted out. He therefore randomly pointed out 28 houses in the area and Regina was implicated in the process.
It was even later discovered that the informant had used baking soda and water to make the cocaine that he had used to fabricate his lies. One of the victims that the informant even claimed to have sold drugs to was in bed during the period he was being accused. The media shows just how much the Black community is still harshly dealt with in this day and era even in the aftermath of the Jim Crow Laws. Despite the fact that the case has glaring weaknesses and loopholes, the prosecutor insists that it ought to proceed (Reilly, 2012). This goes on to show the judicial injustice that African Americans still face to this very day. Initially, it was believed that the assumption that the justice department is against Blacks was nothing more than a harmless stereotype. On the contrary, it shows that African Americans will always be targeted by the justice mechanism that is in place. Despite the great equality strides that have been taken, it is clear that African Americans are still treated as second rate citizens in some areas. This is even further seen by the fact that Ms. Roberts was being forced to take a plea bargain even when the prosecutor knows she is innocent and it might mean that the court might revoke her voting rights.
Nicole Beharie, the girl chosen to play the role of the protagonist in the film is a talented actor who inspires many people not to settle for less, and to fight for what they believe in (Mkserialblog, 2013). She manages to internalize the role and delivers a realistic and thrilling performance. Using someone who is talented to play the role of Dee Roberts was a huge plus for the media piece. She manages to capture all the emotions in the different situations that she is in which helps to make the story more believable and enjoyable (Hall n.d.,165). For the same kind of crime, a rich white woman is likely to suffer less compared to a poor black woman. This racial and gender bias is unfair because it propels inequality and the different factions in society are treated either well or bad based merely on skin color. The color of the skin should not be used as a factor to determine how one will be judged in society. To have a free and fair America, we need to ensure that we get rid of any racial prejudice that exists in our society.
Hall, Stuart. Media and Cultural Studies.
Mkserialblog. “Who is Nicole Beharie.” M & K Serial Bloggers. 2013.
Reilly, Bruce. “Brennan Center for Justice”. Regina Kelly’s Story. 2012.
Sut, Jhally. Race, Class and Gender: A Critical Reader.
Wong, Peter. “”A Violet” Follow-Up: Interview with Regina Kelly.” Beyond Chron. 2009