American Crime offers a return to humanity

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If you have found yourself listening in on the debate regarding the allegations of racial bias in America’s judicial system, this is the show for you. American Crime sets a neat table on which America’s most polarising topics of our time can be debunked: Gun-control laws; unlawful arrests of and the miscarriage of justice for suspects of colour; police brutality; and racism.

Set in Oakland, California a city infamous for its historically high crime rates the first season of the anthology crime drama follows six families on different sides of a murder case. Matt Skokie (Grant Merritt), has been killed, and his wife Gwen (Kira Pozehl), brutally assaulted. In pursuit of justice for their son and daughter-in-law, Matt’s parents, Barb (Felicity Huffman) and her estranged ex-husband Russ (Timothy Hutton), tread a path that forces them to reckon with their family issues and racial biases amidst their grief. As the murder investigation progresses, the lives of Matt and Gwen are uncovered. This changes the politics of the case and brings into question the degree of their innocence. Tensions rise between Matt and Gwen’s parents, Tom (W. Earl Brown) and Eve (Penelope Ann Miller) as they must each come to terms with the reality of their children’s lifestyles while they nurse Gwen back to health.

It is at the intersection of the victims and suspects family’s lives that the politics of the show are ignited, and art successfully mirrors reality. The arrests of a black man, Carter Nix, (Elvis Nolascos) and two young Mexican men as accessories to the crime weave a nuanced web of stories. As our sympathies fluctuate between victims and narrative arcs, we as viewers are forced to confront our own biases. Luis, (Benito Martinez) and Tony Salazar’s (Johnny Ortiz) relationship illustrates the dangers of prescribing respectability politics to any group of people. Aaliyah (Regina Hall) and Carter, demonstrate the complex intersection of race, class, gender and religion on which many African American Muslims live. The lengths to which Aaliyah goes to get justice for her brother; the violence to which she must risk exposing others as she rallies support; and the personal sacrifices she must make, are all a nod to many like her who have found themselves having to protect their constitutional rights because of their race. A placard that reads, “We haven’t forgotten Trayvon”, in a march scene is testimony to this.

At the very core of the story, however, American Crime is about forgiveness. On an interpersonal level, every character must learn what it means to forgive. And each of them must decide to whom they will allow redemption. John Ridley’s directorial genius for which he boasts an Academy Award for his work on 12 Twelve Years A Slave shines through yet again in this illuminating television drama. It is stories like these that keep us humane. DM

Photo: Supplied


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