A number of you have emailed me asking if S&A plans to address the shooting of Michael Brown, the unarmed teenager who was shot to death by a police officer in St. Louis, Missouri, on Saturday, while walking to visit his grandmother – an incident that, as I’m sure you’re all aware, has led to nationwide disgust and vehement protest, both on and offline; an occurrence that certainly isn’t isolated.
Other than insisting that you continue to stay informed and enraged, while keep others engaged, is there much more that one can add to what’s already been said repeatedly, year after year, after year, after year… with each occurrence? I’m frankly exhausted from simply paying lip service to these deaths when they happen, without there being some real follow-through, in terms of action, that goes beyond words on a page, or on a screen. And in my conversations with others on the matter, those feelings are shared, albeit in varying degrees.
For example, in a Facebook Messenger chat with an older acquaintance of mine yesterday (a chat he allowed me to share here verbatim), he said, in frustration: "Man, if they’re going to treat us like animals, then we should act like animals!"
I asked for clarification, and he added, arguing that we’re at war, stating, "Fuck being civil. Fuck the protesting. Fuck the marching. Fuck the Facebook and Twitter ranting. We’re in the wild brotha. It’s a jungle, and we’re being hunted. What do animals in the wild do when they’re hunted? They fight back. And some times they win. They bite, scratch, and claw, like their lives depended on it, because, you know what, their lives do depend on it. They don’t hold hands and sing ‘we shall overcome.’ They’re not sitting behind computers pounding on keyboards. That shit’s easy. Somebody’s got to make the hard choices but nobody wants to make the hard choices. How many of these n*ggas are willing to get out onto the street and go to war with these muthafuckas? I mean war, because that’s what it’s going to take. You remember when you’re bullied in high school, and it’s not until you fight back that the bullies stop? If you just sit there and take it, that emboldens them. If you hit back, they’ll start to respect you. This is the same damn thing. These muthafuckas have no respect for us whatsoever. I mean, a lot of us don’t have respect for ourselves, so let me get that out as well. N*ggas have been killing n*ggas for more than a minute now, so much that the shit’s so routine. We don’t even talk about that anymore. We’re numb to it. But that’s another conversation. That’s shit we’ve got to deal with as family, and until we come together, this other thing with the police won’t change. To get respect, we’ve got to be like that kid bullied in high school, and look at them like bullies, and hit back…"
He wrote a bit more, but you get the picture.
I did ask him what specifically we should do to "hit back" and, in short, he’s calling for an organized and even armed revolution, somewhat reminiscent of the Black Power movement of the 1960’s and 1970’s, but acknowledging that it would require a unified fearless front – something that he doesn’t believe is possible today, because, as he stated, "we’re too busy fighting each other to come together. We got our own issues to deal with first before we can even think about coming together on something like this."
And to be clear, when he calls for an "armed revolution" he emphasized that he was not necessarily referring to firearms, or any other "arms" that would cause physical harm; although, for him, that wasn’t out of the question.
I did tell him about the ongoing efforts by hacktivist group Anonymous, who’ve warned that they will launch an online attack on the local Ferguson police department’s computer systems, over the killing of Michael Brown – an attack that they said would expose members of the department, especially the name of the police officer who pulled the trigger that ended Brown’s life. They’ve already acted on some of their promises.
He approved, recognizing what Anonymous is doing, and continues to do, as an example of what a 21st century revolution could look like, where it could stem from. "At my age, I know nothing about how to hack nothing, but I understand it. The level field is kinda even when you consider the tools available, and the way the world is all set up and wired together now. They probably didn’t see that coming when they had the bright idea to dump everything onto computers. So you can hit them where it hurts. Tell them [anonymous] to go ahead and shut down the police department’s systems. Shut the entire damn network down. Get all their names out there and let the chips fall where they may. It’s a jungle out there right? All that free market capitalism shit. Survival of the fittest, right? Well place them in the middle of the jungle, even playing field, and let’s see how they survive."
As I said (and I’m sure many of you do as well) I share his frustration for what feels like a lack of any real action that brings about measurable change, given how frequent these fatal incidents, and other brutalities, occur, often without any retribution. What happens next, is what I’m most interested in. What do we do now? I just don’t know what exactly that is. I think people want leadership; guidance. They feel utterly helpless, and thus, expressing one’s indignation in words (whether on social networking sites, or in essays), is all that many feel they can do.
Although if you’re doing something else entirely, sharing what that is, may be beneficial to others.
But given that this website’s focus is cinema, I’d strongly encourage writers, directors, producers, etc to consider tackling these issues directly, taking them head-on, in the work that you create – holding up a mirror to the society in which we live. Doing so may not necessarily bring about immediate change, but I believe in art as an edifying tool. It has the power to instruct, inspire or improve (someone or some people) morally and/or intellectually. This becomes especially important for the younger generation, whose minds, we could say, haven’t been entirely stained by years of living amid all this muck and grime.
Your pen or camera can be your weapon… at least to start. In the process, ask yourself this: what would you like to see happen when the next life is taken? What does your brand of revolution look like?