A Film for Our Time

It happened in 2012. The facts were known at the time, but they got lost in the crowd of all the other killings, the hundreds that happened that year. Even so, it signified what was wrong. Now, ten years later, the film gives us focus. Lest we forget, lest we cease to understand the rules of the game, and what we have to change, it reaches across the sea of time, reminding us, “don’t buy the hype.”

What hype? “We’re just doing our job.” What job? Terrorizing an old man because he lives in a NY tenement, and says no? They imagine lurid crimes occurring behind all the cheap slum doors with their many locks and sheet-steel façade reinforcements. It took the cops 40 minutes to break in, to finally invade the apartment of a low income retired black former Marine whose only need for attention was a heart condition. And shoot him to death.

The name of the film is “The Killing of Kenneth Chamberlain” [Directed by David Midell, Produced by Morgan Freeman and Lori McCreary]. It is about an incident, correctly represented in the film’s title, which occurred in White Plains, NY, on November 19, 2011. You can watch it on YouTube. It has won many film festival awards.

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Steve Martinot is Instructor Emeritus at the Center for Interdisciplinary Programs at San Francisco State University. He is the author of The Rule of Racialization: Class, Identity, Governance, Forms in the Abyss: a Philosophical Bridge between Sartre and Derrida (both Temple) and The Machinery of Whiteness. He is also the editor of two previous books, and translator of Racism by Albert Memmi. He has written extensively on the structures of racism and white supremacy in the United States, as well as on corporate culture and economics, and leads seminars on these subjects in the Bay Area.

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