Victory Gardens Theater kicked off their 2015-16 season with Sucker Punch by Roy Williams. The story takes place in the 1980’s and uses boxing to discuss racial and interpersonal relations during an era of unrest.
The play alludes to the Brixton Race Riots of 1981 and has given me the opportunity to learn more about a world that existed before I was born.
Blackness Equated with Criminality
There were many factors that led to the riot: massive unemployment, prolonged racial profiling and overly aggressive police tactics due to rising crime, and miscommunication.
When a black man, Michael Bailey, was rumored to have been stabbed and killed by the police, the community took to the streets to violently protest.
In total, over 300 people were injured with damages at an estimated cost of £7.5m for two unexpected days of violence.
While reading about this event, I discovered The Battle of Brixton, a five-part documentary series on YouTube (each part is roughly ten minutes long). The documentary contains first-hand accounts of the riot from both perspectives.
One quote, from an officer, stood out: “I didn’t join the police as a racist. But once I joined the police, I became one.”
If you have the time, I highly recommend The Battle of Brixton. It’ll help shed light on a topic that history seems too eager to repeat.