Week #4: The Family Unit

The lack of female presence in the film speaks largely to the larger trend of Black Nationalism which seemed to in part be centered on the re-appropriation of the Black male body and therefore Black masculinity. This topic makes me recall the image of Huey P. Newton which also serves to assert male masculinity for the Black Panthers and consequently works to negate or silence the Black woman. The film in a similar fashion rejects the female voice by focusing on that of the male. In retrospect this is very interesting as one can be led to believe that the uprising was merely a “fight between males”. Yet no one both in this situation or in something as the Black Panthers ever focuses on the fact the the Black woman facilitated the work the males within the Black Panthers did and that in many was they were active participants and supporters. Although these male centered power movements were problematic they were also distorted to reimagine Black masculinity as a threat and therefore a sort of behavior that needed to once again be oppressed. 

The film essentially codes the uprising as a behavioral problem amongst Black males and therefore the mention of women are few. The first is that of the mother who intervenes during her sons’ arrest, the second is that of the woman who is hit further inciting the “riot” (believed to be pregnant) and the sporadic images of the female who is partnerless and unable to support her family despite government funding. Essentially the family unit within Black communities is coded as the one responsible for what occurred in Watts. The lack of structure, the lack of a male role model is essentially referred to as the reason for why this happened. The youth of Watts who are described as coming from poor homes, fatherless, have been unable to learn the morals that it is incumbent upon the male figure in a household to teach. This narrative serves to remove racism and any other systematic forms of oppression from the forefront. In so one can redress the responsibility of the uprising to the community itself. The narrative of the “unstable Black family unit” within the film seems to also insinuate not only the behavioral failing of the Black man, but the Black woman as well as the implication is that she remained unable to uphold the family on her own. 

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