Ben Carson Blames Hollywood, Not Police, For Troubles In Black Urban Communities
Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson is not a supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement. He has called the group silly and divisive, saying “of course all lives matter” and that focusing on police violence against African Americans is missing the real problems with our inner cities.
In an op-ed in USA Today the only African American presidential candidate outlined the “real sources of hopelessness” he believes the movement should address. He said the group is misdirecting our anger “at politically convenient targets, not real culprits” — including the recent film Straight Outta Compton.
“Let’s confront the entertainment industry that lines its pockets by glamorizing a life where black men are thugs and our women are trash,” Carson says in the op-ed. “Let’s tell them we plan to start talking with our wallets.”
He continues, saying that “glorifying violence and equating prison time with authenticity” is not art and shouldn’t be profitable. “Straight Outta Compton, #1 in movie theaters, is just the latest example,” he said. “You only have to watch the trailers.”
Instead of looking to solutions to reform the criminal justice system to eliminate racial disparities in policing — as the Black Lives Matter movement has done — Carson says activists should turn their attention to Hollywood, calling it one of the “real sources of our hopelessness.”
Carson is correct that “unjust treatment from police did not fill our inner cities with people who face growing hopelessness,” and he’s not the only one to suggest that the movie would cause violence. But targeting movies like Straight Outta Compton, which portrays the formation of the rap group N.W.A., is misplacing the problem.
Indeed, it seems Carson has only seen the trailer, because the film itself focuses far more on unprovoked police brutality than on “glorifying” the violent acts of N.W.A members.
In an early scene, a young Ice Cube leaves Dr. Dre’s house to walk across the street to his own home, only to be stopped, searched, and violently slammed on the hood of a police car by an officer. His parents protest from their yard across the street — and are also threatened by the police. All that Ice Cube was carrying was a notebook full of lyrics.
In another scene, the members of N.W.A. are in another part of town at a studio with their white manager, Jerry Heller. When they step outside, a police car rolls up and the officers demand that the five black men lay face down on the ground with their arms behind their heads. Ice Cube’s head slams on the concrete. Heller is appalled, protesting that the police’s actions are illegal. For the five black men, it’s clear that it’s a frequent occurrence.
While violence was definitely part of life in Compton in the late 1980s, and Straight Outta Compton does depict violence on the part of the main characters — in one scene, Eazy-E is violently beaten by another character to force him to release Dr. Dre from his contract — the majority of violence depicted in the movie was by the police.
When the video of the Rodney King beating surfaces, the N.W.A. members are happy that someone finally caught it on tape — because it means people may finally believe them.
Throughout the film, the members of N.W.A. insist that they are like journalists, reflecting reality with their art. Straight Outta Compton shows the reality of racially motivated police brutality, and exactly why the Black Lives Matter movement is necessary. By classifying the movie (which he originally called Straight Out of Compton until USA Today corrected the text) as a source of hopelessness, Carson is proving how little he really understands about the movement.