Review: “Who We Are” provides a burning view of racism in the United States

“If you’ve ever owned a slave, raise your hand,” Jeffrey Robinson said at the beginning of “Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America,” a scorching documentary based on the lectures he spent 10 years in. Ask the live audience. perfect.

Obviously, no one in the auditorium raises his hand. This is New York City in 2018! But the few seconds that follow the question are probably the only chance these audiences need to keep some distance between themselves and the disappointing record of racial oppression in the country. No, Robinson explains, slavery may not be our fault. But it is “our shared history”.

And Robinson, a longtime criminal defense counsel and former Deputy General Counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, embarks on his tragic journey through centuries of institutionalized racism. In the process, he’s known (Plantation, Lynch, Tulsa Race Massacre in 1921) and lesser-known (The Star-Spangled Banner’s Troublesome Section 3, or propaganda by future President Andrew Jackson. Point out both of the offers made). Add $ 10 for 100 eyelashes given his escaped slave). Even if you think you already know, you need to learn something new from “Who We Are” directed by Emily and Sarah Kunstler. And at some point, I’m stunned.

How did this lecture come about? Robinson explains that his sister died in 2011 and became a father when his son, who was 13 at the time, moved in. Suddenly Robinson needed to teach a black teen about racism. In educating himself, he was surprised that he was lucky enough to receive a stellar education, including a Bachelor of Laws Harvard, and did not know himself.

He began to share findings as much as possible in community centers, churches, conference rooms, etc. After listening to him, the director suggested a movie. The resulting film was fixed by a 2018 lecture at New York’s historic City Hall, archived footage, photographs, and 107-year-old Lessy, one of the last survivors of the Tulsa slaughter. Filled with today’s interviews with Benningfield Randall and others, and Eric Garner’s suffocating mother, Gwen Carr, became the cry of the Black Lives Matter rally. Robinson also briefly argues with the man who raised the Civil War flag, claiming that the Civil War had nothing to do with slavery.

At the Slavery Museum in Charleston, South Carolina, Robinson examines two pairs of bondage. One is adult size and the other is infant size. You can also see the “hanging trees” of oak. Later, a picture of a white-American standing next to a lynched black body, according to Robinson, is a scene that was once “ordinary and accepted” in the United States.

However, despite many references to painful times in American history, it has also been wisely placed in Robinson’s own life experience, helping to personalize the minutes and give the film an emotional barrier. It is watering.

Many of these moments occur not only in Memphis, where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, but also in the place where Robinson grew up. He returned to his hometown, where his parents tried to buy a house in a white neighborhood, but turned his back until a white friend went and bought it for them. Later, when the family moved in, a neighbor appeared with a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie for the “woman at home,” but when Robinson’s black mother came to the door, she gave it a cookie. I held it in my hand and turned it around.

In another scene, a white high school friend confessed that he had never told Robinson that he had been denied participation in a basketball game because of Robinson’s race. The pastor intervened without Robinson’s knowledge. Both men weep at the story.

Robinson concludes with a tentative note of hope. Black Lives Matter protests the united people of all races on the streets of the United States, stating that “the potential for fundamental change is in the air.” But he also warns: “What they say about Black Lives Matter today is exactly what they said about Martin Luther King in the 1960s.”

When the format of the lecture is inherently limited, the director does a great job of interweaving fascinating visual and emotional experiences. They and Robinson can only be expected to reach a wide audience suitable for the film (documentary is part of the wider educational initiative, Who We Are Project).

Robinson’s final point is that we are at another turning point, as we did in the late 1960s. Will we fall back again, he asks.

“Or will this generation decide to do something different?”

The Sony Pictures Classics release “Who We Are” is rated PG-13 by the American Film Association for “theme content, offensive images, violence, and strong language with racism.” Execution time: 117 minutes. 3.5 out of 4 stars.

Published by Sony Pictures Classics, this image shows Jeffrey Robinson and Josephine Boring McCall in the “Who We Are” scene.

Review: “Who We Are” provides a burning view of racism in the United States

Source link Review: “Who We Are” provides a burning view of racism in the United States

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