Dear Black parents,

If you are planning a movie run with the youngins to see Detroit—don’t. This is definitely not the film you want to use for a bonding or teaching moment.

Detroit hinges on terror to tell the little-known story of the murder of three teenagers and the brutalization of nine others at the hands of the police inside the Algiers Hotel, an horrific incident that occurred during the 1967 riots instigated by rogue Detroit law enforcement. Know this: the film is everything vile, disgusting, and bastardly that we already know about whiteness, filmed in High Definition (HD). It optimizes brutish police violence inflicted on young innocent Black bodies and magnifies their angst.

Detroit is everything vile that we already know about whiteness, filmed in High Definition (HD) Click To Tweet

Our children should not have to digest the pathology of racism ever, and certainly not before it is necessary. Brown babies have other spooky experiences to deal with in their young lives. Besides, you will only end up hatesplaining white American history. Older children should be shielded, too. The film projects an overdose of physical violence onto its Black teenaged characters. The effects of engrossing next level brutality may leave them afraid, broken, or disturbed about their own security and social standing. This is a film that will haunt the fuckoutta kids like no boogie man s or he has ever encountered. This is psychological warfare in the form of a horror flick.

Dear Black people,

Do not consider the film a history lesson. Don’t. It is not. I was as ignorant of Detroit’s Black past, Black life and Black resistance exiting the film as I was before I entered. What I did comprehend from the film is that Black children, in this case boys, are vulnerable in a society that hates them. Detroit conveys this horrible truth explicitly. The movie’s lens fetishizes them for a solid forty minutes. Each of those minutes is fraught with their fear, their emasculation, as pistols whip their necks, walls crack their face bones, as fist split their lips, knees pummel their stomachs, rifles smash their extremities, doors bloody their mouths. Each minute is laden with their labored breaths—their heaving chests, harrowed screams, fiery tears, desperate prayers, god-be-damns, bodies slammed, bodies dropped, bodies dead. For each of those forty minutes, whiteness held Blackness in the clutch. This shit is terroristic.

Hollywood masochists and blue and white America don't want us to unsee 'Detroit' traumas. Click To Tweet

Black folks are not strangers to this brand of savagery. We’ve seen it before. In bondage films like Twelve Years A Slave. In reality, through widely circulated footage that showed Alton Sterling overpowered and executed by a white cop. And in real time, as Philando Castile’s murder-by-cop scene aired via Facebook live. We’ve heard it, too. When recorded audio of Trayvon Martin’s dying screams became available for public consumption. Apparently, Hollywood masochists and blue and white America do not want us to unsee these traumas. They are hell bent on reminding us about white supremacy and dominion over Blackness—lest we forget.

We will never forget. Ever. And we most certainly don’t need movies like Detroit to make it fresh. We good.

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Ida Harris

Ida Harris is a journalist and cultural critic covering a range of topics that intersect with Blackness, including art, activism, pop culture, parenting and womanhood. Ida is especially known for her critical writing on sexual assault against Black women and girls. Her work is featured in ELLE , DAME , Blavity, Teen Vogue , and USA Today.


  1. Thanks sis for this, all the emotions you described were written all over my 20-something face as she told me over her movie experience. She spoke Joe she wanted to leave and run out the theatre. How it invoked feelings of hatred for those the continue to oppress. Well written.

    • Thanks Aisha, for tuning in. I’m sad your daughter had to experience such vileness as it is a terrible loss of innocence. Unfortunately, once we see trauma, we can’t unsee it. I hope she is able to reckon with the dystopia in which we live and move on healthily.

  2. Thank You…I knew something wasn’t right about this movie just by watching the trailer but I couldn’t express why. While I don’t think we should sugar coat history, there should be a point to (as well as a limit) to re-enacting violence against African Americans or other historically oppressed groups.

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