To watch network television these days, a viewer would think that angry, violent white nationalists are lurking everywhere. It’s certainly a narrative that Hollywood pushes in Trump’s America. The latest fictional hate crime to take place in Chicago occurs in the February 20 episode of Chicago Med titled “We Hold These Truths.”
In the opening scene, a pick-up truck crashes into a crowded street festival being held in the South Side of Chicago, causing numerous fatalities. At first, the medical staff assumes the driver, who has cancer, had a seizure that caused him to crash his truck.
Alas, this is not how the story plays out. While breaking the news of the seven deaths the driver, Kenneth Baker caused, Dr. Daniel Charles (Oliver Platt), the hospital's Chief of Psychiatry, and Dr. Will Halstead (Nick Gehlfuss) hear the man’s shocking confession that he was aiming for many more fatalities. He deliberately drove into the crowd of people in hopes of killing at least twenty. He wants to kill as many black people as possible before his cancer kills him.
Kenneth: How many died?
Dr. Halstead: Seven. But many more are injured.
Kenneth: So, they may die also?
Dr. Charles: - There are likely to be more fatalities. I'm very sorry.
Kenneth: Don't be. They had it coming. They're trying to deny our heritage... all this mixing, they wanna eliminate us.
Dr. Charles: "Us"?
Kenneth: The white race. But before cancer takes me, I'm taking some of them. Was hoping for 20, but day's not over yet.
What, no, shouts of "This is MAGA Country," too?
It turns out the truck is also loaded with explosives for maximum impact, but the bomb squad is able to diffuse it by the end.
One way the episode dealt with racial division was to show the struggle a black mom had emotionally when she was asked to allow her daughter, brain dead due to her injuries from the crash, to be an organ donor. The mom wanted to know if her daughter’s organs could go to specific, non-racist people. That’s not possible, of course, and the mother was reasoned with and realized that she can make a difference by allowing her daughter’s memory to be one of grace, not bitterness.
The second way the issue of race was dealt with in this episode was in the case of Dr. Charles’ estrangement from his mother. He wasn’t able to handle her prejudice against Daniel’s now ex-wife, a black woman, and hadn’t visited with her for over thirty years. At the episode’s end, he did go to the nursing home where his mother now resides and showed her a picture of her grown granddaughter, a beautiful bi-racial doctor. The woman was very happy to learn of her granddaughter’s existence and to see Daniel.
Though these stories brought about a happy ending for the characters, the problem is that shows like Chicago Med now regularly run with stereotypical narratives and it feels like they are beating the viewer over the head. Wouldn’t it have been just as good of a story if the racial component had been eliminated from the truck crash and the driver was experiencing a seizure or other side effects of his cancer meds? Or maybe they could have been more realistic by having it be an Islamic terrorist attack since truck crashes have been their M.O. lately. And none of this would have chanced the storyline with Dr. Charles as his ex-wife was at the hospital for her own illness.
If this episode of Chicago Med had aired just one week ago, I imagine blue checkmarks on Twitter would call it "very timely" and point to the now-disproven Jussie Smollett hate crime story in Chicago as proof. One way or the other, Hollywood wants viewers to believe the worst in white males, that they're all racist and violent and primed to explode at any moment. It’s a lazy way to tell a story and it is so predictable now.