“The Throwaways” is a documentary film by Bhawin Suchak that tells the story of social activist Ira McKinley’s efforts to create positive changes to his community of Albany, New York. Ira describes his struggles of trying to rebuild his life after his release from prison and attempt to overcome the social stigma that surrounds his prior incarceration. After Ira left prison, he went to various homeless shelters while trying to find a job and establish a more stable lifestyle. From Ira’s description of his struggles, it became evident that society demonizes individuals who have served prison time, making it difficult for them to find jobs or even receive aid, such as food stamps that will help them recover. By limiting opportunities for them to succeed, the cycle of poverty and crime only continues. Ira went to a local community center where he was able to learn how to produce and edit film. He used his camera to document his activist work in Albany. The city of Albany is in a state of disinvestment, and the community and population are suffering from high poverty rates, violence, abandoned homes, high incarceration rates and homelessness .
The people who live in Albany feel like they are ignored by their local government and are victims of police brutality. In December 2011, the community was outraged over the death of Nahcream Moore, who was shot and killed by an Albany police officer. The members of the community feel that Moore was another victim of unbridled police brutality in the city of Albany. The novel The New Jim Crow which argues that the United States criminal justice system oppresses young black men by labeling them as felons in society to support the incarceration system, inspired Ira and helped him to lead the community in demanding responsibility from the Albany police force.
Police brutality is a serious issue that needs to addressed throughout the entire country. The purpose of the study, “Community Accountability, Minority Threat and Police Brutality: An Examination of Civil Rights Criminal Complaints,” was to “examine the effects of community accountability and minority threat variables on the incidence of police brutality civil rights criminal complaints” (Smith and Holmes, 2006, 1053). The study found that there is a minority disadvantage in the police force that increased police brutality because urban blacks are segregated and impoverished, resulting in crime and social disorder. These social conditions are the reason that the police perceive minorities as a threat and use excessive violence. The findings in the study suggest that the cause of police brutality is due to the race and class divisions in American society. Police brutality is not simply an issue that can be resolved between a community and their police force, but it is a problem that needs to be addressed within American society itself.
Police brutality and the marginalization of impoverished communities like Albany, are serious problems that require long term efforts of community activists like Ira to bring attention to them to create the necessary social changes. Discrimination remains a major part of American society, but acknowledgement through social activism is a major step towards identifying and hopefully solving this issue in communities and American society.
Holmes, Malcolm D.. “Community Accountability, Minority Threat, And Police Brutality: An Examination Of Civil Rights Criminal Complaints*.” Criminology 41 (): 1035-1064.