Historically, racial biases and prejudices were and still are deep-rooted especially in Southern states of the US (Braude, 2002). The race construct affects consistently the identity of individuals and the assessment of their behavior by the public. At this point, it is possible to refer to Joel Schumacher’s movie A Time To Kill, which reveals the impact of racial biases and prejudices on the perception of individuals and their actions by the public. At the same time, the movie helps to understand how individuals belong to different races perceive themselves and their social environment. In fact, the movie reveals the problem of racism which persists in the US and affects the interracial relationships.
The race construct becomes an important factor that determines the perception of the crimes committed and described in the movie. In fact, the movie focuses on two main crimes that are committed in the course of the movie: first, the rape of a ten year old African American girl, the daughter of Carl Lee Hailey, and, second, the murder of two rapists by Carl Lee. The rape was committed by two white supremacists, while the murder was committed by an African America. The response of the public, the court and the media to the two crimes was absolutely different and revealed the impact of racial biases and prejudices on the perception of crimes and actions of individuals in the Mississippi area. Moreover, the film reveals the wide gap between the whites and African Americans since the whites, being a dominant racial group, tend to stand on the supremacist ground, while African Americans, being a minority, often turn out to be in a disadvantageous position being unable to protect their basic rights.
Carl Lee’s 10 year old daughter was raped by white supremacist but racial prejudices and biases in the Mississipi area could have influenced the outcome of the trial and rapists could flee unpunished. This is why Carl Lee commits his crime and shots two rapists dead right in the court room. In such a way, Carl Lee attempted to perform the function the court and justice system were supposed to perform. He just wanted to re-establish justice in racially-biased area, where white rapists could escape the punishment because their victim was a black girl.
The attitude of the court and community to Carl Lee is totally different compared to the public attitude to white rapists. Unlike rapists, who could have escaped the punishment, Carl Lee faces the threat of the capital punishment that is definitely the ultimate manifestation of racial prejudices and biases, which are deep-rooted in the public and individual consciousness. The publicly is apparently sympathetic to two rapists, while the severe injury of another white man, Deputy Looney, during the court room shooting, raised the public opinion against Carl Lee.
Luckily, Carl Lee escapes the death sentence because of the successful work of his attorney, Brigance. However, the conversation between Carl Lee and Brigance in Carl’s cell reveals the full extent to which both characters as well as the local community are racially-biased. Carl Lee views his attorney as the enemy and the only reason why he hired him is the better knowledge of the jury’s psychology and way of thinking. Carl Lee does not believe his children will have ever be friends with Brigance’s children that reveals the fact that racial biases and prejudices are deep-rooted and provoke the great segregation between African American and white community of the Mississippi area.
Ironically, the racial biases remain unshakable until the end of the film. Brigance has managed to win the case only, when he asked the jury to think of a ten year old white girl being raped and how they would respond to such a crime. In such a way, the movie reveals the biased attitude of the jury to Carl Lee as well as to the crime committed against his daughter (Goldenberg, 1999). In fact, the change of the attitude of the jury occurs, only when jurors start thinking within the framework of their race. When they view the case from the same race perspective, they take the absolutely different decision.
However, by the end of the film, the director suggests that racial biases and prejudices can fall as the Brigance family attends the Hailey’s home and Jake suggests his children can be friends with children of Carl Lee. In such a way, the director of the film is apparently optimistic about the future of interracial relations and probably he expects the elimination of racism and biased attitude of the majority to representative of minority races.
Thus, the movie A Time To Kill reveals the problem of deep-rooted racism and the impact of race construct on the public opinion and self-perception of individuals. The film shows that racial biases are deep-rooted and affect consistently the behavior of individuals and their decisions. In this regard, African Americans, as a minority, often turns out to be in a disadvantageous position compared to the white majority.