A Haunting Resurrection of Injustice
Martin Scorsese’s adaptation of David Grann’s nonfiction book, “Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI,” takes the audience on a compelling journey back to the early 1920s in Osage County, Okla. During this time, the discovery of oil on Osage lands brought tremendous wealth and, tragically, a reign of terror. The film skillfully portrays these harrowing events and the deep-seated roots of racial injustice, serving as a poignant reminder of the enduring specter of racism in our society.
The Ongoing Struggle for Justice
This cinematic masterpiece is set in Osage County, a location deeply familiar to this reviewer, offering a candid and unfiltered view of the persistent societal disparities. “Killers of the Flower Moon” explores the stark contrast in the perception of wealth between rich white families, heirs to generational fortunes, and the Osage people, who have benefitted from the oil discovered on their lands. The film underscores the glaring disparities in how wealth and success are judged based on the racial and ethnic backgrounds of the beneficiaries.
One of the most compelling aspects of the movie is its exploration of the parallels between the Osage murders and the infamous 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. It sheds light on the fervor of impoverished white communities in boomtowns to climb the social ladder at any cost, revealing the envy that fueled their resentment towards those they perceived as inferior. Moreover, it exposes the corrosive impact of racial prejudice within families, where a child’s skin color becomes a measure of his/her worth.
The Relevance to Contemporary Society
“Killers of the Flower Moon” resonates powerfully with contemporary issues of racial discrimination. As part of a mixed-race couple attending the screening, I saw the parallels between historical events and the present day were strikingly evident. The film serves as a stark reminder that, despite the passage of a century, society has not shed its racist tendencies but has, instead, become more adept at concealing or denying them.
One poignant moment in the film occurs when Mollie Burkhart, portrayed brilliantly by Lily Gladstone, witnesses her sister’s home being bombed. Clutching her baby and passing the child from one person to another in sheer panic, she cries out, “It’s just like Tulsa.” This reference to the relentless bombings of the Tulsa Race Massacre, an event still fresh in our collective memory, serves as a haunting reminder of the racial violence that continues to afflict our nation. It evokes more recent tragedies, such as the case of Terence Crutcher and the death of George Floyd, which have perpetuated racial trauma among people of color.
A Call to Confrontation and Change
“Killers of the Flower Moon” is a gripping cinematic experience that compels us to confront the dark chapters of history and their resonance with our contemporary society. The film underscores the urgency of addressing racial injustice and inequality, sounding a call to action. It is a compelling work of art, both unsettling and indispensable for the vital conversations it sparks.
Tulsa Race Massacre: The Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921, also known as the Tulsa Race Riot, was a devastating event in which a white mob attacked the Greenwood District of Tulsa, Okla., a thriving Black community. The attack resulted in numerous deaths and the destruction of the district.
Parshina-Kottas, Y., Singhvi, A., Burch, A. D. S., Griggs, T., Gröndahl, M., Huang, L., Wallace, T., White, J., & Williams, J. (2021, May 24). What the Tulsa Race Massacre Destroyed. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2021/05/24/us/tulsa-race-massacre.html
Terence Crutcher: Terence Crutcher was an unarmed Black man fatally shot by a white police officer in Tulsa, Okla., in 2016. His death drew significant attention to issues of police brutality and racial bias.
NewsHour Productions LLC. (2023). Terence Crutcher. PBS NewsHour. Retrieved November 2, 2023, from https://www.pbs.org/newshour/tag/terence-crutcher
George Floyd: George Floyd, an African American man, died in 2020 after a Minneapolis, Minn., police officer knelt on his neck for over nine minutes. His death ignited widespread protests against police brutality and racial injustice in the United States.
Florido, A., Mehta, J., & Jarenwattananon, P. (2022, May 18). Many know how George Floyd died. A new biography reveals how he lived. NPR.org. https://www.npr.org/2022/05/18/1099585400/george-floyd-biography-book