LOS GATOS: The TV series “Dear White People,” “When They See Us” and “Orange Is the New Black” have all tackled issues of racism and police violence, which are rarely explored on the small screen.
In particular, three individual episodes from these series might be worth watching again in the aftermath of the death of American George Floyd.
Not only are they moving, but these heart-stopping episodes also offer a glimmer of hope, and at least some encouragement for the belief that change is possible.
1. Dear White People: Episode five of season one
In this violent but sadly familiar scene for black citizens from the fifth episode of the series, an argument breaks out at a party between a black student, Reggie, and a white student, Addison.
During the ensuing altercation, campus police officers arrive and order only Reggie to show his ID.
When he refuses, supported by his classmates who confirm his identity, one of the officers pulls out his gun. Time stands still. Reggie trembles with fear, as does the audience.
The distress in his face brings tears to the eyes of his friends. Everyone is stunned to realise just how vulnerable the life of a black man can be. Unharmed but traumatised, Reggie leaves the party and finds himself leaning against his bedroom door, crying.
The injustice of what has happened is just too much. It is a terrible reality accurately captured here by Oscar-winning director Barry Jenkins.
2. When They See US: Part one of season one
The trailer alone is a gut-wrenching reminder of this appalling story. In the mini-series based on the Central Park jogger case, director Ava DuVernay retells the story of five ethnic-minority teenagers wrongly accused of raping a white woman in 1989.
The four African-Americans and one Hispanic American were convicted following one of the most high-profile trials in US history.
In the first episode, fear is already taking hold among the falsely accused teenagers and their families who are frightened by an obviously racist police force.
The moment of their arrest marks the beginning of a long struggle to expose the truth and an intolerable injustice simply based on prejudice. All the more chilling is the fact that the series is based on a true story.
3. Orange Is the New Black: Episode 12 of season four
In the Netflix series, which broke new ground in denouncing prison violence, racism is always close at hand. However, in the fourth season the issue brutally comes to the fore, when one of the inmates, Poussey Washington, is killed by a prison guard.
Episode 12 begins with the inmates of Litchfield standing on tables to protest against the abusive Captain Piscatella and refusing to move until he has resigned.
When the area is cleared by reinforcements, Poussey is pinned down by Officer Bayley, who suffocates her by keeping his knee on her back. This scene was first broadcast in June 2016, almost four years before George Floyd’s murder.