The Chi still photo
Parrish Lewis/SHOWTIME

'The Chi' Recap: Ep. 7 Humanizes Police Brutality For Clarity, Not Empathy

“With the black community, things are on edge when it relates to police brutality. You push too hard, go too far, and you got another Ferguson,” Sgt. Clemmons in The Chi’s “A Blind Eye“ episode.

In the first 144 days of 2019, 363 people were shot and killed by police officers. This is after 992 people were fatally shot by police officers in 2018, putting 2019 on pace to top it. News of a police shootings are so common in America that a fictional character like Sgt. Clemmons (J. Nicole Brooks) can conjure up thoughts of violent protests against police brutality by simply saying “another Ferguson.” The nation at large remembers those 2014 protests in Ferguson, Missouri over the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson.

This week’s episode of The Chi humanizes officers involved in police brutality. Not for sympathy, but for clarity. From the very beginning, we flashback to Kansas City, Missouri in 2013 when Chicago PD officer Cruz was an officer for the Kansas City police department. In those opening 15 seconds, before a single word is uttered, we see a black man behind the wheel of a car, lifeless, with blood leaking out of his head while Cruz rummages through the vehicle. Police brutality is so ingrained in the national consciousness that before we find out Cruz’s partner Robert Moreno (Elliot Villar) murdered the man, or anyone says a single word, the image of a police officer looking through a car instead of tending to the man shot is an almost instinctive signal that the dead man was a victim of police brutality.

The most revelatory scene comes eight minutes into the episode when Sgt. Clemmons reprimands detective Toussaint for her excessive use of force during the police search of one of the 63rd Street mob trap houses from episode five of this season. The pair verbally joust about the immutability of the rules that govern police and how adherence to those rules distinguishes them from gangs. Toussaint justifies police brutality by mentioning the 66 shootings that occurred in one weekend and the 52 shootings from the following weekend, supposedly referencing the bloody Chicago weekends in August 2018. It’s when the Clemmons advises Toussaint to handle her issues with gangs with a shrink and leave it out of her police work that the duality inherent in all police officers, and its disturbing consequences, are highlighted.

With or without the badge, Toussaint has biases that have manifested in her treatment of young black gang members. With or without the badge, Moreno still has a family he’d be willing to lie for to protect, even if it means covering up the murder of a black man. With or without the badge, Portland Police Department’s former Sergeant Gregg Lewis still thought instructing his officers to just shoot overly intoxicated black people was a joke, even though it was three days after 17-year-old Quanice Hayes had been murdered by the same police department while surrendering with his hands in the air. With or without the badge, police officers are still humans who can make mistakes, but also be directed by subconscious proclivities that can lead to someone’s death.

The truly heartbreaking aspect of The Chi’s humanizing of police involved in shooting civilians is how the officer involved corrupts their moral worldview in order to reconcile with the horrible decision they made with the fact they’re supposed to protect and serve. Using flashbacks, we see the parallels between Cruz’s former partner Moreno and current partner Toussaint. The latter forms this false image of Brandon being a knowing member of the 63rd Street mob, groomed by them since he was young to be a pillar of the community so no one can suspect his criminal activity, based solely on his tangential association with the gang and a few photographs. Earlier in the episode, Moreno justifies murdering the black man he did by insinuating that young black men will kill a police officer if the officer doesn’t act first, to which Cruz responds, “Don’t go there, man. This isn’t you.” Toussaint is the unflinching pragmatist in the face of taking a human life that police officers become after being involved in shooting of civilians. Moreno is our look into that same transformation from its inception.

It’s through this police brutality, and the KCPD’s reactions to it, that highlight the thin line of difference between police departments and gangs. Gangs can, at times, be police with less bureaucracy impeding action. If the 65th Street mob needs to make money to pay a debt, there is no form filled out; they simply put on ski masks and rob a rival gang. The same can be said for how gangs can act as civilian police forces, assisting the community in matters police do not. The vitriolic perception of the Black Panther Party in the 1960s and 1970s by law enforcement groups like the FBI painted them in a similarly negative light as gangs today. That same Black Panther Party was providing social programs such as free breakfast, medical clinics, ambulance services and legal aid to impoverished black communities across the nation.

In an obvious callback to the opening scene of the episode, Cruz finds a white woman dead in the driver seat of a car with a gunshot wound in her head. We later find out it’s a woman from the same FamilyC Realty group that tried to convince Ms. Ethel to leave her home, before her she was ambushed in a home invasion in the season premiere. While we don’t know who killed her, the fact no one in the neighborhood heard or saw anything could be a salient example of the community fighting back where the cops won’t.

From the Web

More on Vibe

Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images for Sundance Film Festival

‘Boyz N The Hood’ And ‘You Got Served’ Actress Esther Scott Dies At Age 66

Esther Scott, the actress who appeared in Boyz n the Hood, Beverly Hills 90210, Full House, You Got Served and more, has passed away at age 66.

Scott died last Friday (Feb. 14), days after suffering an apparent heart attack. Her death was first reported on Tuesday (Feb. 18) by TMZ.

According to the site, Scott was found unconscious in her Santa Monica, Calif. home last Tuesday (Feb. 11) and remained hospitalized for several days before passing away on Valentine's Day surrounded by friends and family.

"She loved what she did. She would get stopped on the street often and people would recognize her -- but they didn't know her name," Scott's sister told the website. "Hopefully now people will remember her name, her work and the contributions she gave to the entertainment industry."

The Queens native began her career as a voice actress in the ‘80s series StarWars: Ewoks. Scott’s first credited feature film role was as grandmother to the character Tisha (played by Leonette Scott) in Boyz n the Hood.

Scott worked steadily throughout the ‘90s and ‘00s, following up her appearance in Boyz n the Hood with roles in Encino Man, Don Juan DeMarco, Illegal Blue, Species, The Craft, and Out to Sea.

Scott found success in both TV and film appearing as a judge in Austin Powers in Goldmember, a grandmother in You Got Served, as well as roles in Dreamgirls, Transformers, Gangster Squad, and The Birth of a Nation, The Steve Harvey Show, Party of Five, Ellen, Hart of Dixie, and Sister, Sister.

Continue Reading
Getty Images

Malcolm X’s Assassination To Be Reinvestigated After Docuseries Raises Questions

A documentary on Malcolm X’s assassination has prompted authorities to reexamine the case. In Who Killed Malcolm X? historian Abdur-Rahman Muhammad explores the many questions surrounding the death of one of history’s most pivotal figures. The six-part series originally aired on Fusion but has been gaining popularity since appearing on Netflix.

This February will mark the 55-year anniversary of Malcolm’s murder. The former Nation of Islam leader, who left the organization and changed his name to El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, was gunned down inside Harlem’s Audubon Ballroom on February 21, 1965. Three members of the NOI, Mujahid Abdul Halim, Muhammad Abdul Aziz and Khalil Islam, were convicted for the murder and sentenced to life in prison.

As noted by the Innocence Project, Aziz and Islam always maintained their innocence, while Halim confessed to partaking in the fatal shooting. In 1966, Halim testified that Aziz and Islam had “nothing to do” with the murder. In 1978, Halim identified four other men as co-conspirators. His confession was supported by FBI documents obtained by civil rights lawyer William Kunstler. Prosecutors in the original trial claimed to have been unaware of the documents and New York State Supreme Court Judge Harold Rothwax ultimately rejected a motion to vacate Aziz and Islam’s convictions. Rothwax died in 1997.

Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance has since met with representatives from the Innocence Project “and associated counsel regarding the matter,” a spokesperson for the DA’s office said in an emailed statement, per NPR.

Although Islam died in 2009, Aziz, now 81, continues to fight to clear his name. He was freed on parole in 1985. The Innocence Project joined forces with civil rights attorney David Shanies to re-investigate Azis’s conviction. “We are grateful that District Attorney Vance quickly agreed to conduct a review of the conviction of Muhammad Aziz. Given the historical importance of this case and the fact that our client is 81 years old, we are especially encouraged that Mr. Vance has assigned two highly respected prosecutors, Peter Casolaro and Charles King, to work on this re-investigation,” the Innocence Project and Shanies said in a joint statement. “We look forward to working cooperatively with them to see that justice is done.”

Casolaro worked on the case of the Exonerated Five and King is a member of the Conviction Integrity Program of the New York County District Attorney’s Office.

As noted by the Innocence Project, there was no physical evidence linking Aziz or Islam to Malcolm’s murder. In fact, Aziz wasn’t even at the venue. The day of the murder, Aziz had returned home after being treated for a leg injury. He heard about Malcolm's assassination while listening to the radio that day, and has doctors and witnesses, to corroborate his story.

Watch the trailer for Who Killed Malcolm X? below.

 

Continue Reading
Getty Images

Ava DuVernay Named Director Of Nipsey Hussle Documentary For Netflix

Ava DuVernay's next cinematic feat will center on a hometown legend. According to Deadline, the acclaimed director will lead a documentary on Nipsey Hussle for streaming giant Netflix.

The announcement was made on Monday (Feb. 10), two weeks since DuVernay presented a musical tribute to the late rapper at the 52nd annual Grammy Awards. Hussle won two gramophones that evening: Best Rap Performance and Best Rap/Sung Performance.

In tribute to his birthday on August 15, the Emmy-award winning director shared a message on Twitter that expressed her gratitude for the interactions they had. "Grateful that he existed. Grateful we walked this vast earth at the same time," she wrote. "In the same city. Grateful that our paths crossed. Grateful for the work and wisdom he gave us."

For Nipsey. Ermias. Son. Brother. Partner. Friend. Artist. Champion. Grateful that he existed. Grateful we walked this vast earth at the same time. In the same city. Grateful that our paths crossed. Grateful for the work and wisdom he gave us. We miss you. Happy Birthday, Nip. xo pic.twitter.com/cNEZHUhiao

— Ava DuVernay (@ava) August 15, 2019

On March 31, 2019, Hussle, born Ermias Asghedom, was fatally shot outside of his Marathon Clothing store in Los Angeles. His death rattled various communities and prompted supporters and new fans to take a look back at this trajectory within music and entrepreneurship.

According to Billboard, other streaming services in the mix included Apple and Amazon. Alongside Hussle's family, the entrepreneur's Marathon Films will also helm production duties.

Continue Reading

Top Stories