I hadn’t been born yet when the Detroit riots actually took place back in July of 1967. Yet watching Kathryn Bigelow’s latest film “Detroit” chronicle this tragic event of that summer ultimately made me feel as if I really had experienced it first-hand.
As the movie begins, the viewer is immediately entrenched into the growing heated tensions between blacks and whites during that hot summer of 1967 in the city of Detroit, when the local police raided an unlicensed, after-hours bar hosting a welcome home party for a black soldier. During the raid, each of the guests at the bar get hauled away into one paddy wagon after another while nearby locals begin to shout obscenities towards the police. Soon, the tensions rise to a level that eventually escalates into a full-blown riot which ends up lasting five entire days. The film itself mostly focuses on one specific event that took place during that period where three young African American men were murdered at the Algiers Motel while being interrogated by several white police officers.
Overall, I found “Detroit” to be a truly disturbing movie, not only because Bigelow directed it in such a way that felt as if the events were unfolding all over again in the present day, but also because I still see the same racial tensions going on all around our country and even in the world as well. There have been a number of “accidental” and “questionable” murders of minorities by police and others in recent years where no justice was ever achieved. The movement towards equality seems to be going in the opposite direction now with groups using religious rights to segregate all over again. And violent crimes by radical individuals that target minorities also seem to be on the rise too, like with the Pulse nightclub massacre last June where 49 innocent people were killed.
When I left the theater after watching “Detroit”, I can definitely say I felt a great level of sadness. Fifty years later, after these events unfolded, life still seems to be in a volatile state in our nation. I feel the racial tensions in the air a lot of the time these days, often hearing white people use offensive racist terms towards minorities and vice versa, the same from minorities towards whites. And living in a city where there is a high level of poverty, I tend to wonder if the events of Detroit in July of 1967 could happen all over again right here in my own backyard.
With the world at unease because of the looming threats of war and the feeling that a civil war could actually break out in my own country, my heart deeply grieves. I can’t imagine this is what God ever intended for us, yet I know it’s up to each of us to make a difference and reverse this trend. I know I’m only one person and I truly do my best to make a difference, by practicing love and compassion towards everyone, no matter what their race, religion, sexuality, etc. I just wish more would do the same because deep down within every one of us is a piece of God. Unfortunately, that piece often gets blocked by deep levels of hatred, fear, and resentment that only unconditional love and forgiveness can erase.
So, while “Detroit” may have triggered a nerve within me and brought out some definitive sadness for the state of our nation and our world as well, it truly was a masterpiece of a movie directed by a female who knows how to make the viewer feel a part of what’s taking place on the screen. “Detroit” is not for the light of heart, but it ultimately is an artistic masterpiece that hopefully will receive its due recognition come Oscar awards season.
Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson