Shelby Steele’s new film takes a critical look at the prevailing narrative. It’s now under ‘content review.’
August was the sixth anniversary of the death of Michael Brown, the black teenager who was shot dead by a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo. The incident, and the nationwide coverage it attracted, marked the beginning of a period of mass protests against police, which culminated (let’s hope) after the tragic death of George Floyd in Minneapolis this May.
The fashionable explanation for what happened to Brown, Floyd and others—such as Freddie Gray in 2015 and Philando Castile in 2016—is so-called systemic racism. The activist left and the mainstream media insist that law enforcement targeted these men because they were black—and that if they weren’t black, they would still be alive. The truth is more complicated and less politically correct, and it’s the subject of an engrossing new documentary that is scheduled to premiere Oct. 16.
The film, titled “What Killed Michael Brown?,” is written and narrated by the noted race scholar Shelby Steele and directed by his son, Eli Steele. Readers of these pages probably know the elder Mr. Steele through his best-selling books and occasional Journal op-eds. But earlier in his career, Mr. Steele also won acclaim for his work in television. In 1990 he co-wrote and produced “Seven Days in Bensonhurst,” an Emmy-winning documentary about Yusef Hawkins, the black teenager from Brooklyn who was fatally shot in 1989 after he and some friends were attacked by a white mob.
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