Last Saturday I woke up and watched Two Distant Strangers. Written and co-directed by Travon Free this Oscar nominated short film on Netflix tackles with a great deal of sensitivity the ongoing issues surrounding racism and police brutality towards black communities. At 32 minutes running time, this film paints the picture of what it is like to be a black man in America today.
I found it traumatising but important watching.
The main character Carter, a likable young graphic designer, played by American Rapper Joey Bada$$ wakes up in a groundhog day from hell that ends each time being killed by a white police officer. Desperate to break the loop and return home to his beloved dog, Carter tries different approaches to stay alive.
No matter what approach Carter takes, no matter how he lives his day the outcome is still the same. The film shows that the onus of Carter’s survival lies with racist Police Officer Merk. The deterioration of Carter’s mental health as he fears for his life with every wakeup forms the nexus of the narrative and it cleverly mirrors the effects of every black murder by the hands of police on the black community.
The following day, Sunday, April 10th while the murder of George Floyd is fresh on everyone’s lips as his murderer faces trial, I heard the news that Daunte Wright was shot by white female Police officer Kim Potter during a traffic stop in Brooklyn Centre, a city just 11 miles north of Minneapolis where George Floyd was killed. Potter has since resigned and been charged with second-degree Manslaughter, her claims that she thought she was shooting him with her taser are backed up by the body-cam video footage that has been released. It is extremely concerning that a 26 year veteran of the Police Department can make such a fatal mistake in drawing her metal handgun rather than her plastic taser after extensive training and so many years on the force.
Daunte Wright was 20 years old and dies leaving his almost 2-year-old son without a father.
Just like Carter, black folks watching this repeated cycle of violence move through the emotions of fear, helplessness, anger, rage, sadness, and determination to stay alive and make change.
I’m sad, frustrated and angry. Daunte’s son will grow up with this as part of his reality. Black families have to face “the talk” with their children when the time feels right. While white families are nervous about how to approach the “birds and the bees” conversation, black families are preparing for the “police don’t care about you” conversation and “here’s how not to get killed by them” conversation.
The film may be traumatising for black people who certainly don’t need a movie to understand this reality but the movie is important watching for those who walk in white skin, especially those still trying to understand the Black Lives Matter Movement or the black community’s anger at the American Police system.
Understand our reality. And understand how each murder like this makes every black person mourn and feel unsafe. Reach out to your black friends and family this week and if you think it’s unnecessary, then you’ve got some learning to do. The movie is available to watch on Netflix and its release to our New Zealand screens coincides with the trial of Derek Chauvin, charged with the murder of George Floyd this time last year. The heavily publicised case, of a death that sparked global protests in 2020, has sadly coincided with another black life being cut short by American Police.
RIP Daunte Wright.