Features TV/Movies

What I learned about #Blacklivesmatter from watching OITNB (contains spoilers)

I’ve given you as much time as I can to digest the latest season of OITNB. It was definitely one of the best seasons yet with a story line that felt pointed and strategic. The entire thing was building up to the most tragic tv moment I’ve seen in a while, the death of Poussey. I cried real tears.

And while many are legitimately hurt and angry over her death, they fail to connect this anguish to the suffering that has birthed the black lives matter movement. Just a little over a week ago, the cop driving the van on the ‘rough ride’ that ended Freddie Gray’s life was acquitted.

Using my best googling efforts, here’s what I could find out about Freddie Gray:

  • He had some previous criminal charges
  • He had a pocketknife on him at the time of his arrest

Meanwhile in Mobile, AL, a young black kid named Michael Moore was killed by a cop and the story told by the police changed 3 different times in as many days. Since then I’ve learned more details about him:

  • The car he was riding in was stolen, as well as the gun he may or may not have been carrying
  • He was 18 (or 19; sources vary for some reason. And the only reason I know is because I double checked to see if legally he was old enough to warrant the headlines of ‘Man killed’)
  • An iPhone charger and pack of gum are listed as other stolen items found in the car

As a contrast, here’s what I know about that white guy that raped a passed out girl behind a dumpster:

  • He was a swimmer
  • He had an athletic scholarship
  • He also had a great GPA
  • He had a hard time adjusting to a college so far from his home
  • He likes steak

I could go on and on but hopefully you’re starting to get the point. There’s a stark contrast to how people of color are portrayed when it comes to the law. We are painted in a light that always shadows us in guilt and wrong doing. We are stripped from what makes us relatable and beautiful and flawed. We are denied the right to be victims. So what I love about this season of OITNB and how it crafted this story line is that depicts what we keep saying over and over again.

When we say black lives matter, it’s not only in mourning these deaths that are unjust and illegal. It is to mourn a very real human being who, like Poussey, was intelligent and thoughtful and funny. Who had goals and dreams. Who had a unique perspective. Who was loved and who loved. Who maybe made a few wrong decisions, but who proves that the choices you’ve made don’t necessarily define who you are as a person or who you’ll grow to be.

When we say black lives matter, it is because before the media branded the Freddie Grays and Michael Moores and the hundreds of others as thugs, their mothers branded them as sons.

The world likes to pretend we’re past all this, but our kids and our men and our wives and daughters are still out there getting killed every day and no one is ever held accountable. I don’t have the answers for any of this. I’m not sure anyone does. But I commend a show that’s trying their best to contribute to the conversation.



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