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.
4. Young, White Cop and His Implicit Racial Bias
The young cop in the police station clearly operates out of tunnel vision, and he’s not even aware of it. He can not seem to wrap his head around the idea that a Black teenager may not, in fact, have any warrants or prior run-ins with the law. He’s slow to register that the woman with whom he is talking to is more intelligent than him and in a different class altogether. His lack of social etiquette and sensitivity when discussing cultural and historical information is evident. He asks questions like: “Does he have any gold teeth?” or a “street name?” Yet, his tune quickly changes when a distinguished white man walks into the room. When Kendra’s estranged husband arrives, the young cop says in reference to Kendra that he was trying to keep the “natives at bay”—only to find out that the white man he assumes is the boss is actually Kendra’s husband. It speaks to the notion of how there’s truly a need for genuine white allies in order to really affect social change.
Scott is handsome, dignified, and accomplished. He oozes generations of access and privilege. The young cop feels a comfort in the whiteness or “white construct” of his male counterpart and immediately speaks derogatorily of Kendra in her absence as she’s getting a drink of water. Though their sentiments about Kendra are not the same, the level of comfort that the cop has in bashing Kendra is to be noted. He patronizes her to her face, yet the moment another white male is in the room, he demonizes her character, calls her ghetto, and code-switches quickly.