Educating yourself about important issues such as racism is the first step to make a change in the world. Movies, shows, and documentaries are a tool to learn more about the issue.
As protests against police brutality and racism spread across the US and the rest of the world after the killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, it is time to educate ourselves about racial injustice. One way to learn about racism and the Black Lives Matter protests is by watching movies, shows, and documentaries that tell real stories and reflect the reality of the injustices of modern society.
It is not too late to fight against discrimination and hate directed at someone because of their color, ethnicity, or origins. Educating ourselves is the first step: Racism is not just the act of abuse and harassment.
Not all racism is obvious. Implicit and unnoticed racism happens every day deep within institutions and societal systems and it is more than words and actions. What we need to understand is that no one is born racist, it is not an innate trait, it is learned and acquired in homes, society, and even schools. It is our job to unlearn it and educate others and the next generation about the dangers and impacts of racism.
These movies and shows are some of the helpful resources and a good first step to learning more about the inequality and systemic racism throughout American history.
‘When They See Us’
The four-part Netflix series is based on the true story of five teens from Harlem; four are black and one is Hispanic. The teens were falsely accused of a brutal attack in Central Park just for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The series starts as the five kids, Raymond Santana, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Antron McCray, and Korey Wise, hang out on an April night when a female jogger named Trisha Meili is beaten, raped, and left for dead.
Police are quick to accuse the five teens of the heinous crime. They face arrest, harassment, and coercion into admitting involvement or implicating each other in the crime. The court then sentences the kids to years of prison.
The series addresses the institutional racism that surrounded the case as well as how systemic racism within the US allows such miscarriages of justice to happen.
‘The Hate U Give’
“The Hate U Give” is a movie based on a bestselling, award-winning novel by Angie Thomas. It tells a story of a 16-year-old high school student Starr Carter, who witnessed the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a white police officer.
Starr has always tried to maintain a balance between her black community in Garden Heights and the prep school her parents send her and her siblings to in the white and wealthy Williamson neighborhood. After the accident, she starts to suffer from post-traumatic stress while being pressured by the local police and their allies not to testify.
Starr feels disconnected from her high school classmates as they do not understand what is happening in her neighborhood. Her white friends cannot connect with the root of the problem, while her white boyfriend tries his best to be an ally and to help.
The movie showcases the inequality and barriers facing black Americans, gun violence, and police brutality, as the young girl struggles to find her voice and stand up for what is right under pressure.
Starr’s outlook also mirrors the many youth protests marches against gun violence in school and the environmental protests, highlighting that the young generation is not ready to let injustices and wrong-doing continue without a fight.
The Netflix documentary “13th” is about the 13th amendment, ratified in 1865. The documentary analyzes how legislators kept loopholes within the law to maintain the practice of slave ownership. The clause converts slavery from a legal business model to an equally legal method of punishment for criminals.
The documentary begins with an alarming statistic: One out of four black males will serve prison time at one point or another in their lives.
It continues to spotlight the American prison system, specifically how the prison system affects people of color. The documentary exposes shocking, outrageous cases but the hopeful ending advocates for change.
“Fruitvale Station” is a movie based on the true story of 22-year-old Oscar Grant and his friends who police beat on a subway platform, leading to a tragic shooting. The movie takes place over the 24 hours leading up to the incident that took place on New Year’s Day in 2009.
The movie tells the story of the main character in the hours leading to his death, his feelings, the people he cared for, and those who cared for him, and how his death affected all of them.
One other thing “Fruitvale Station” shows clearly is the power of stereotypes and the discrimination facing young black men.
“Get Out” is a thriller movie that tells a story about a young black man, Chris Washington, and his white girlfriend, Rose Armitage, who invited him to meet her parents.
At first, the interactions with the parents are weird and awkward, but Chris just waves them off as a nervous attempt to deal with their daughter’s interracial relationship. As the weekend continues, he is led to disturbing discoveries about a truth he was not prepared for.
The movie will make you laugh, cry, and scream, with its satire comedy and a narrative that showcases what it is like to be black in America, and how some might value the culture but not the people.
’12 Years a Slave’
The movie is a 2013 adaptation of the 1853 memoir “Twelve Years a Slave” by Solomon Northup. Solomon, who was a free black man, took a traveling musician’s job, only to discover he has been sold into slavery in Washington, D.C.
Solomon continues to struggle to survive and maintain some of his dignity for 12 years under the cruelty of one of his owners. In his 12th year, he meets with an abolitionist from Canada who changes his life forever.
The film narrates the brutal experiences of slavery, the violence and abuse black slaves were forced into, and the dehumanizing long-term effects of human bondage.
‘Explained: Racial Wealth Gap’
“Explained” is a Netflix show that offers great insight and explanations of various complex, historical, and social topics in simple language.
In this 16-minute episode, the show sheds light on the “Racial Wealth Gap,” as an American politician and attorney Cory Booker and others discuss how slavery and inequality in society have led to housing discrimination, and how it still continues to impact black Americans and their economic success today.
The episode is also rich with truly shocking statistics, such as the median household wealth for a white family in America is $171,000. However, the median household wealth for black households in America is $17,600.
“Watchmen” is an American superhero drama and a continuation of the DC Comics series “Watchmen 1987.” The series continues after the graphic novel’s events from the Cold War and nuclear annihilation to focus explicitly on racial injustice and white supremacy.
The series tells the story of the racist violent events in Tulsa, Oklahoma when a white supremacist group called Seventh Kavalry takes up arms against the Tulsa Police Department, causing the police to hide their identities with masks to prevent the group from attacking them.
The sci-fi show focuses on the racist violence as Angela Abar, who is the main character, and a detective also known as “Sister Night” follows the investigation of the murder of her friend and police chief Judd Crawford, while discovering more secrets about vigilantism.
‘To Kill a Mockingbird’
“To Kill a Mockingbird” is a 1962 American drama film based on Harper Lee’s 1960 award-winning novel of the same name. The story is about lawyer Atticus Finch in small-town Alabama. Finch is defending Tom Robinson, a black man accused of raping a white woman. Meanwhile, Atticus’s two kids, Jem and Scout, are intrigued by their neighbors, the Radleys.
Through the kids, we find that racism is a learned attitude or feeling. We also see a delightful coming of age drama as the young children realize that there is no Boogeyman down the street, and their father is capable of doing a lot more than they think.
Atticus is a good man: He believes that all people deserve equal treatment. He sees this in his client Tom, and in a closing argument, Atticus asks the all-white male jury to cast aside their prejudices and focus on Tom’s obvious innocence.
The movie is a 2019 American drama film, based on a memoir written by the author and civil rights lawyer Bryan Stevenson.
The movie tells the story of Walter McMillian who was sentenced to death in 1987 for the murder of an 18-year-old girl, despite evidence proving his innocence. Bryan Stevenson, the defense attorney, makes it his mission to defend Walter in court as he faces racism as well as legal and political hurdles.
The movie is a straightforward and heartbreaking film that reflects the injustices black Americans have always faced, the pursuit of justice, and a call to fix the broken system.