wow! what a movie. gripping. intense. offensive. mind blowing. disturbing. numbing. tortuous. harrowing. horrific.
this movie is evocative. it opened up an old wound for me. one, which I unfortunately was right in the middle of in the late 1960’s — the urban race riots in America. I was in Newark and New Brunswick New Jersey during the riots in summer of 1967.
50 years ago Detroit was the 5th largest city in the United States. today it is the 18th. if you have not been to Detroit lately it continues to have blocks and blocks of nothing. no houses, no apartment buildings, no businesses, no parks. more than one third of its 140 square miles are vacant or derelict. much of this the result of the fires, looting and economic devastation that took place during the riots in Detroit in 1967.
Detroit at that time was 71% white and 29% black. today it is 11% white and 83% black. today nearly half of its population is functionally illiterate. 40% of the population lives below the poverty line. the Brookings Institution says that Detroit has the highest concentration of poverty among the largest 25 metro areas in the country. four years ago Detroit became the largest municipal bankruptcy in US history.
but the movie is not about Detroit today, but it is about Detroit 50 years ago.
this movie is long. 2 hours and 22 minutes long. and you squirm in your seat. you want to leave your seat several times, because the scenes are so gruesome and so wrenching.
the movie gives you a front seat to the racial injustice that occurred back then. the movie has a heavy focus on the brutal police response/interaction with the black community. it leaves open the question of where we are today. one has to wonder if we have come very far in the last 50 years.
by placing so much emphasis on police/black community interaction, the underlying issues of race and poverty did not get the attention they deserved.
as bad as the situation in Detroit was 50 years ago, and as bad as the situation in Detroit is today, there is reason for hope for the people of Detroit. I had the opportunity to visit some schools in Detroit several months ago, and there are pockets of progress that are inspiring.