Some those who should be there to

Some say that learning history is necessary or we will be doomed to repeat the tragic events that have defined an era. In the case of the civil rights movement the events and experiences of the 1960’s are still prevalent in today’s society. In the 2014 film Selma, Director Ava Duvernay tells the story of Martin Luther King Jr. in his quest to bring unobstructed voting power to African Americans in Alabama. In his attempt, he and his supporters are regularly attacked by police for simply exercising the rights provide to them in the constitution. The unjust attacks on African Americans at the hands of those who should be there to help them, sounds somewhat familiar to the attacks that were occuring around the inception of this film. In this paper, I will look at several scenes from the film, and explain how they are to some extent a social commentary for the events that were occuring in the United States prior to 2014. Selma, follows the life of Martin Luther King Jr. and his 1965 efforts to bring the power of voter registration to the people. The film, in its efforts depicts numerous historical events that were pivotal points for the civil rights movement. In the beginning of the picture, we witness the Birmingham Church Bombing which maliciously took the lives of four innocent black children. The film in detail also shows the vicious attacks by the police at the voting registration office in Selma, and the attacks on marchers who are attempting to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge on Bloody Sunday. The film, in addition to showing the tumultuous scenes surrounding the protests and marches,  also looks at the issues surrounding MLK Jr, and his family, but more specifically his wife Coretta. At the conclusion of the film, Martin Luther King Jr. is successful in reaching his goal, but it doesn’t come without consequences and extensive circumstances. The opening scene of the film, is one of the most crucial, as it manages to depict the severe situations plaguing Alabama during the civil rights movement. The film opens with 4 girls walking through a church, after a couple of moments, there is an explosion. The bombing of the church shows how tense the United States was in the 1950s and 1960’s. It is a striking view to see the 4 bodies laying in the rubble, there is no way to really justify or to even comprehend what happened, but it does leave one wondering what the cause of the hatred could have been, and did those maliciouses ideologies ever really disappear from the public sphere. Early in the film, the first signs of police brutality are witnessed, when during their first attempt at gaining the right to register to vote, MLK jr. and the marchers try to enter the voting registration office, but were turned away by Sheriff Clark. The protesters are seen as peacefully protesting, and even kneel, in an attempt to show them standing their ground. In the mess of the situation, Sheriff Clark attempts to clear the group, but instead shoves an aging man to the ground. To retaliate for the vicious attack, characters including Annie Lee Cooper (Played by Oprah Winfrey), attempt to ward off the Sheriff by punching him in the face. This intense scene highlights the racism and bigotry that was perpetuated toward African Americans by police officers during the civil rights movement. The climactic march to Montgomery in the 2nd half of the film, is an image that pushed the situation to its breaking point. The seen depicts the African American protesters preparing to march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, against a line of armed officers who are intent on stopping them. The march, which had remained peaceful turns into an all out brawl leaving numerous African Americans badly injured. This event historically is known as bloody sunday, according to an article by Paul Murray, he provides a basic narration for the events that occurred historically in 1965. “In early 1965 Selma, Alabama’s streets became the central battleground in the struggle for African American voting rights. The main elements of the Selma story–the “Bloody Sunday” attack on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, the influx of thousands of out-of state demonstrators, their triumphal march to the state capitol in Montgomery, and passage of the Voting Rights Act–have been chronicled in numerous accounts” (Murray 31).The events surrounding bloody sunday are remarkable due to the extensive injuries that were present following the attack. One has to wonder, why would this many people be attacked for simply attempting to gain an opportunity that is already promised to them by the law. Around the creation of this film in 2014, the rights and liberties of African Americans, were still being put to the test. This time, outward racism and extensive police brutality harken back to the days of the civil rights movement. In the years leading up to 2014, we witnessed numerous murders of unarmed african americans, at the hands of the police. In an article by Bernard Beck, he discusses that the general public has had little reaction to these attacks due to the frequency that they occur. “There are frequent reports of unarmed young Black men being killed by officers of the law, and the reaction of the general public has been ambivalent”(Beck, 221). Many times these people were stereotyped as  a threat, when in actuality the cops were the ones using extensive force in an unnecessary manor. These deadly attacks have lead to protests and riots, somewhat similar to the ones depicted in Selma, except instead of the right to vote, they are fighting to be treated with respect by police, and they want justice for the people who have been taken from them without proper cause. In July of 2014, Eric Garner, an African American man in NYC was unnecessarily choked by police officers. The situation, which was caused by a simple infraction, ultimately ended with Garner’s untimely death. The problems surrounding his death echo some of the scenarios featured in the film. This scene is eerily similar to the treatment Sheriff Clark had towards the older man at the voter registration office. Although Eric Garner’s death most likely occurred following the creation of the film, it can depict some of the raw emotion that was being felt in the months and years prior. The murder of Tamir Rice in another example of an unjustified murder of an African American. He died after being shot by a police officer who thought he was carrying a gun, but Tamir was only carrying a toy gun. The murdering of Tamir, was both unjustified and inexcusable. The unintended consequence of his murder was that it struck up tons of protests across the country. According to author Rembert, protests were a regular occurence following these attacks. “Recent police shooting incidents of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Ohio, in addition to the brutal murder by police of Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York, have sparked riots, looting, protests, “die-ins,” and national conversations”(Rembert et al 237). These protests at times were violent but they helped to keep the cause at the front of the public consciousness. The situation itself mirrors the incidences featured in Selma, the characters are marching in an effort to fight social injustice. On the outside both intended on being peaceful, and they were very strategic in their efforts, in order to make the point they needed to in favor of their cause. Although others may disagree, racism was still as prevalent in 2014, as it was back in the 1960’s. The outward look of racism may have changed, but the overall actions by racists and bigots in the United States, still manage to rear their ugly heads. In the film, racism is experienced through interactions, slurs, and the treatment directed toward African Americans. In 2014,the events depicted in the film are in the past, however we still see correlations between police brutality, and African Americans are still protesting for rights that have already been guaranteed to them from this country.  It is confusing to comprehend why racism is still prevalent, but the events of the film Selma show us that just because we no longer see the intense outward hate, it does not mean that racism is no longer an ongoing issue in this country.The 2014 film Selma, is both a reflection of the events in the past, and a commentary of the situations occurring leading up to 2014. Although it could be seen as a historical piece, it is just as relevant today as it would have been back in the 1960’s. The brutal force used by police during the bloody sunday scene, echos the pressures police put on unarmed black men and women in the years leading up to 2014. Marches for rights and respect, continue, although not for voting rights, but for the chance to live without the fear of prosecution or attack. Although racism is thought to be a thing only seen in the past, it was definitely still an issue in 2014. Ava Duvernay, has managed to present the film Selma as a picture that understands the entire actions of both the civil rights movement and the racial tensions in 2014. Hopefully through future film works, the continued attacks on African Americans in this country will wake up viewers who want to believe that racism and hatred is still just a thing of the past.