Socialist Worker

Small Axe—Red, White and Blue shows truth of racist police

by Harjeevan Gill
Issue No. 2732

John Boyega plays a black police officer in a force full of racists, in Steve McQueens Small Axe: Red White and Blue on BBC1

John Boyega plays a black police officer in a force full of racists, in Steve McQueen's Small Axe: Red White and Blue on BBC1 (Pic: Picture: BBC/McQueen Limited)


The third film in Steve McQueen’s Small Axe series—Red White and Blue—takes on the institutional racism that exists in the police.

It shows Leroy Logan (John Boyega) and his pursuit to become a police officer, with the determination of changing the racist attitudes from the inside.

It has a lot of important messages. One is that police racism clearly cannot be overcome from within.

Leroy tries to break down these barriers.

In one scene, other police officers use racist language, all within earshot of Leroy and his colleague Asif (Assad Zaman) in the police cafeteria.

“Those Blacks came along, started causing trouble. Felt I was in that film Zulu. Bloody Wogs mate, all the same.”

The racism is too much for Asif. He eventually leaves the police.

This is a constant tone throughout the film.

Cops reflect racism from the top of society
Cops reflect racism from the top of society
  Read More

Through Leroy, we can feel a constant sense of struggle against the barriers in society.

Leroy is a normal person who wants to do good in the world. But he can’t get his head around the systemic nature of the struggles he is up against.

His dad Kenneth (Steve Toussaint) provides us with the viewpoint of someone who’s been betrayed by society.

He never gets justice for an unprovoked police attack on him.

Asif is important in connecting the dots between the racism faced by Black Caribbean and Asian people.

But their contrasting views of the police point to two different ways of approaching racism.

One is to have faith in the ability to change the system from the inside. The other is to leave the system and look for alternative actions.

Red, White and Blue is another Small Axe film worth watching.

It’s a no-holds barred view of the police—in a year when racist police brutality has been exposed in the spotlight of struggle.

Small Axe: Red, White and Blue On BBC1, 9pm, Sunday 29 November then on BBC iPlayer

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