Ben Witherington has a nice review of the film here.
A key paragraph from his review:
But perhaps more than anything else, this movie reveals clearly one of the real underlying causes of racism, and it is not just ignorance. If it were just ignorance people could be educated out of it, but in fact I’ve met any number of well-educated people who were straight up racists. As this movie makes crystal clear, it is all about fear which evolves into prejudice…. fear of the other.
Fear makes us do all kinds of irrational things. In the story of Walter McMillian (the main case taken up in the movie), when it becomes blatantly obvious the case was paper thin and the only “witness” had been coerced, the court, the D.A., and the sheriff would not budge. The judge had not heard the original case. The D.A. was not in office at the time of the first trial. Only the sheriff was still there. But somehow to admit the first court verdict was wrong was just too much for each of them.
Fear of the other is what drives our responses far too often. We find ourselves taking the easier road of not wanting to know.
I sat in a group working on better minority hiring in the school system where I live. One of the things brought up is it’s just easier to retreat to easy answers when it comes to hiring (like, “We can’t get into quotas!”) than it is to do the hard work. This group said to a person, “We’re here to do the hard work.”
It is hard to look past the comfortable. We retreat to the comfortable. We get our patterns of life and we just don’t want to break those patterns.
But it’s that comfort that results in the Walter McMillians of our country sitting on death row falsely accused and falsely convicted awaiting a death they did not deserve.
Fear leads us to the false conclusions like, “They look guilty,” or, as I heard yesterday in the group meeting, “Black boys just don’t want to try hard in the classroom.”
God, deliver us. Let us move past our fears. Let us move out of our comfort. Let us seek your justice. Let us walk in your mercy.