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If Beale Street Could Talk was a really enticing, yet painful film to watch. It tells the tale of two young people Tish and Fonny, who’s love story is drastically disrupted when Fonny is falsely accused of a crime he did not commit. This film told a story that is uncommon to hear about in movies, but is not uncommon to happen in reality. Young black men are wrongfully incarcerated far too often, but particularly in the set time period of this film. Tish’s family showed intense and relentless support of her and Fonny every step of the way even when she announced that she was pregnant. Fonny’s father was very supportive as well, while his mother, a proclaimed Christian woman was quite the opposite. Although she wanted, her son to be free she did not approve of Tish especially after she told everyone about the baby.
There is a long history of black men being accused of crimes they did not commit in order to justify wrongful imprisonment. In this case Fonny is targeted for initially eluding a wrongful arrest by a corrupt cop. In present day there are still an unknown number of Black men imprisoned, serving time for a crime they didn’t commit. The most troublesome part of it all is seeing the extent to which Tish and her family go to prove his innocence only to end up being unsuccessful. Paying copious amounts of money for a lawyer, investigative fees and even flying to Puerto Rico to personally track down and confront the key witness who fled after he was detained. Most average people would not have the resources to be able to do go to those lengths to prove the innocence of the person they loved. The odds are decreased even more so when Fonny’s key alibi is mysteriously detained and silenced so that he can not back his story.
Time and time again through out the film Tish and her family attempt to do things by the book to free Fonny and clear his name and each time they are faced with another ridiculous obstacle. They are fighting a battle in an arena designed for their demise. There is no actual way out because the laws put in place to serve justice and protect people where not created for People of Color. They were created as a force to be used against them. This is why at every turn the so-called justice system blocks the attempts to clear Fonny’s name. Unfortunately, in the end, all their efforts are futile against the white justice system and Fonny is forced to take a plea deal just to avoid spending the rest of his life in prison. Even when there was no evidence putting him at the scene of the crime, he had a solid alibi that could be vouched by two people, and he had decent representation he still couldn’t escape the clutches of this false claim. So that just goes to say that the odds of a young boy from a bad neighborhood, living in poverty with little to no familial support, would be an even easier target and often is.
Although most of the family is giving all they have in support of Fonny and Tish, his mother’s response to the news about the baby is a clear and disgusting sign of where she stands on the matter. It is so deeply unsettling to see a woman who is supposedly so intensely religious, use her own God to cast such negative and awful wishes onto Tish. I was raised in a black Baptist household and although I know the hateful history of religion, I still could not manage to see the reasoning behind her words. To me it’s painful to say, but her outburst revealed the truly historically hateful nature of Christianity, and how the Black community grasped onto as a means of survival and mental health and comfort. This refuge also holds so much hatred and anger, why is unclear, but it stems from the dominant culture whom have been historically angry. God didn’t begin with the white people who taught it to slaves, but when they adopted it, I believe they twisted it into something ugly to justify their own wrong doings. Perhaps that is why although religion is a staple in many black communities it can also serve as a burden upon those communities.
Overall the film was insightful and emotionally jarring, I enjoyed the salon discussion and seeing the different points of view from my peers, because often times they see things in a way I don’t or I am simply unable to. As a half black person I can never know the true extent or the true experience of being black, especially since I am someone that is considered “passing”, but films like this and classes like this can open my eyes and the eyes of others to what our lighter complexions can sometimes shield us from without our knowledge. Every lesson like this is important to me because my fiancé is a Black man, and our future children will Black men and women and I need to see the full extent of not only the threats of the outside world, but also those that may stem from my own light privilege so that I can protect those I care I about.
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