Friday, September 18, 2009
Reflection Paper 2 for my African American Literature Class
On Monday, August 24, 2009 a little after midnight on TNT A Time to Kill came on the television. I had seen previews for it, being that TNT’s slogan is “we know drama,” but I never really purposefully tried to catch it, to sit down, and watch it. I had just gotten back to campus driving from my parents’ house because I left my car there before my father and I embarked on our trip the previous weekend. I had missed a little bit of the beginning but I started watching the movie in time to see a great chunk of it. A Time to Kill was directed by Joel Schumacher and released on July 24, 1996. The costars are Matthew McConaughey, Samuel L. Jackson, and Sandra Bullock. To summarize, the story takes place in Canton, Mississippi and centers around Carl Lee Hailey (Samuel L. Jackson), an African American man, taking the law into his own hands by killing Pete and Billy Ray, the two white men who brutally beat and raped his 10-year-old daughter Tonya. Hailey remembered that two years prior in the nearby town of Delta, four white men got acquitted for raping an African American girl. The NAACP wanted Hailey to take one of their high class lawyers, but instead he chose his friend, Jake Tyler Brigance (Matthew McConaughey), to represent him. Ellen Roark (Sandra Bullock), a law student who had experience with death penalty cases assists Brigance in making his case. Billy Ray’s brother elicits the help of the KKK in order to seek his revenge against Hailey, so throughout the movie, as different parts of the trial go on, the KKK terrorizes both blacks in the town of Canton as well as whites helping on the defense side of the case. I found myself identifying and responding emotionally to this movie on three different levels: as an African American, as a victim, and as a woman.
I initially related to A Time to Kill as an African American just because of the prevalence of the KKK throughout the movie. I believe it was a matter of coping with the fact that certain human beings hate me just because of the color of my skin. Although today the KKK cannot carry out its own agenda and get away with it from the law, but the racist mindset still exists within individuals. By showing the characters Pete and Billy Ray brag about what they did to Hailey’s daughter in the beginning of the movie established that during that time period in that part of Mississippi, white men were getting away with raping black girls and women. This immediately made me begin to think of how in the beginning of the summer, the Free Republic website attacked Malia Obama with less of the obscene comments being “a typical street whore…wonder when she will get her first abortion.” Honestly when I think of the Republican Party, to me it contains the connotation of rich white males, and this resonated with me because it was another example of white men attacking an innocent black child and getting away with it. Had it been a group of black men bashing Bush’s oldest daughter while he was in office, it would have been a whole other story, which shows the power difference between white and black in this country.
Additionally, I felt that I identified with the movie on the level of victimization from the crime that the basis of the whole plot was about, the rape of Tonya Hailey. Having innocence ripped away at such a young age without a choice is a very heartwrenching experience. Furthermore, there was a specific scene in this movie involving Sandra Bullock that made me respond emotionally just from identifying as a woman in America. Bullock was pulled over by a cop who was a part of the KKK and they ended up kidnapping her. She was able to be kidnapped so successfully just because men are physiologically stronger than women. Had she been a man, a man would have had at least a fighting chance, but she was taken advantage of just by brute strength, kidnapped, beaten, and left tied nearly naked to a tree. I believe that it is instances like that in which a man would never, ever understand what it is like to be a woman, to be both helpless and hopeless just because you are naturally physically weaker and at the incredulity that human beings are capable of being so cruel as to take advantage of this fact.