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OpEdNews Op Eds    H1'ed 6/26/20

Police Protect Black Americans?

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Message Dr. Lenore Daniels

A cop is a cop. He may be a very nice man. I don't have time to figure that out. All I know is that he has a uniform and a gun.

James Baldwin, James Baldwin and Nikki Giovanni, Soul!: A Conversation , 1971

It's 1983 in Beaufort, South Carolina, and the film, The Big Chill is released. It played to mainly a white audience of my generation of late 1960s and early 1970s college students, activists, supposedly conscious citizens opposed to the Vietnam War and racial injustice. It was a nostalgic look back on the past, what used to be. For some Americans. It's a nostalgic look back today, too, for some Americans. Things aren't the way they used to be, for sure. But, then, it all depends on the demographics. Which boxes do you check off on inquiring applications. Old categories from the era of slavery in the US still matter. No need to look back to the past. In that sense, for all of America's technological advancement, very little has been transformed it's mindset when it comes to race and the continue violence of injustice and police brutality.

In the film, used-to-be "protesters," graduates from the University of Michigan's campus at Ann Arbor come together again to attend the funeral of an old college friend who committed suicide in the home of Harold and Sarah Cooper. The Coopers, played by Kevin Kline and Glenn Close, have a winter home. The one the film's viewers are privy to see isn't it!

It's obvious by the largess of the house that the Coopers have done well for themselves, at least according to the standards of the bourgeois playbook in the 1980s. Harold is a business man who can retire early and Sarah is a medical doctor. There's a Tom Selleck-type Magnum, P.I. television star, Sam Weber, played by Tom Berenger and real estate lawyer, Meg Jones, played by Mary Kay Place, who used to work in the "slums" when she thought she would be working on behalf of Huey and Bobby. JoBeth Williams plays Karen Bowens, a mother and housewife to a man who makes enough to provide her children, as she always wished. Chloe, played by Meg Tilly, shared a little cabin off from the house with the dead boyfriend, and Jeff Goldblum, Michael Gold, a journalist with People magazine, is looking for investors to help him open a nightclub like "Elaine's" only better.

William Hurt's character, a damaged Vietnam vet, Nick Carlton, on the other hand, is another matter. He dropped out from a career as a psychologist with a radio talk show.

While most of the gang is inside preparing to watch the Wolverines on television in the Cooper's den, they hear a commotion outside, and, of course, it's Nick coming back to the house, escorting by a police car. After an exchange of words, and a sad bit where the officer, willing "to forget the whole thing," challenges Sam, a "hunk" of a man, to jump into Nick's open Porsche 911 convertible, just like J. T. Lancer, Sam's television character.

It doesn't go very well.

But finally all is well, and Harold thanks the police. The policeman drives off and the friends return to the house.

Harold is just ahead of Nick.

"Since when did you get so friendly with the police?"

Nick repeats his question, and Harold turns to face him. He's angry.

"...[T]hat cop has twice kept this house from being ripped off. Happens to be a hell of a guy."

I live here! I live here! I'm dug in!

He doesn't need someone like Nick, with his adversary relationship with the police. And life in general.

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Activist, writer, American Modern Literature, Cultural Theory, PhD.

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