Under the direction of Kenny Leon, American Son brings us a powerful story that leaves no stone unturned as it pertains to an upper-class interracial couple living in Coral Gables, Miami, as time passes and tension builds in a police station as they wait to hear news about the whereabouts of their missing teenage son.
Kendra (Kerry Washington) and Scott (Steven Pasquale), though married, have not seen each other for a while. This fateful night not only places a lens on implicit bias, white privilege, the dynamics of power, wealthy Blacks and the “illusion of safety,” and the experience of wealthy Black boys at predominantly white institutions, but it also depicts a smart, beautiful interracial couple who genuinely love one another and just can’t seem to take the pressure of the presumptions placed on them by society and racial constructs.
5. Being Wealthy and Privileged Does Not Make You Exempt from Being Black in America
In American Son, Kendra has a PhD in psychology and she teaches at a university. She prides herself on quipping that her son has a “prestigious internship” and that he is only one of three non-white kids at an exclusive, predominantly white private school. She has enough trappings and social etiquette to code-switch when needed and can pontificate with the best of the best. Yet, implicit racial bias rears its ugly head in the way that a young white rookie cop (Jeremy Jordan) patronizes her and withholds information from her. Lacking cultural and professional discretion, the young cop projects misguided perceptions onto Kendra about the traits of her son when questioning her about him. From Kendra’s perspective, the young cop’s questions are preposterous. It’s evident that in her adult years she has lived a life removed from the ’hood, yet the way in which the cop talks to her in comparison to her estranged white husband is noticeable.