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16 Anti-Racist Movies, TV Shows and Books Allies Can Use to Educate

The constant media coverage of the summer's string of high-profile instances of racist police brutality may have dwindled, but there's still a long way to go to dismantle the racism that is present in the United States (and beyond). One of the key actions to take is to educate yourself on the struggles that people of color face. Below is a list of resources that address issues of discrimination, the faults in the criminal justice system and prejudice against POC. This list includes movies and TV shows to watch and books to read, as well as where to find them.

13th (Ava DuVernay) - Stream on Netflix

According to the Netflix description, “In this thought-provoking documentary, scholars, activists and politicians analyze the criminalization of African Americans and the U.S. prison boom.” The film is titled for the Thirteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution, “which abolished slavery throughout the United States and ended involuntary servitude except as a punishment for conviction of a crime.”

Between The World and Me – Ta-Nehisi Coates

In this letter to his son, Coates attempts to describe the generations of hate towards black people in America and how he may attempt to navigate it. He addresses everything from years of slavery, to the criminal justice system, to economic profit off of black bodies. The book weaves together personal narrative with historical truth to provide a new understanding of race in America.

Blindspotting (Carlos López Estrada) - Stream on Prime Video with HBO 

Daveed Diggs stars in this drama where “an innocent night out with this best friend takes a violent turn for a young ex-con who is just days away from the end of his probation.” This film explores police brutality, how the criminal justice system offers unfair sentences on the basis of race, and the kind of caution black people have to live with that non-black people do not.

Dear White People - Movie (Justin Simien) - Rent on Prime Video

This movie explores the experience of Black college students at PWIs (predominantly white institutions) and leaves no stone unturned. Blackface, cultural appropriation, microaggressions, biracial identity and respectability politics are all addressed.

Dear White People - TV Series (Justin Simien) - Stream on Netflix

The TV series expands upon the points of the movie, bringing back the same characters and becoming increasingly intersectional with its content. The experience of black queer people, generational wealth and lack thereof, trauma following incidents of police brutality and interracial relationships are all on the table. 

Driving While Black: African American Travel and the Road to Civil Rights – Gretchen Sorin 

Gretchen Sorin’s book reviews how “the automobile had a revolutionary impact on the African-American experience. However, the road was not as open and carefree for post-war African Americans as white car owners.” For those who have heard the phrase “driving while black” but not understood its history or significance, this is the book to read.

How to Be an Antiracist – Ibram X. Kendi

Kendi’s book explains why it is not enough to simply say you are “not racist”. His words expose the reader to both “basic concepts” and “visionary possibilities” for the future of antiracism, and confronts how “racism is a powerful system that creates false hierarchies of human value” and “its warped logic extends beyond race.”

I Am Not Your Negro (Raoul Peck) - Rent on Prime Video 

This documentary, narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, is based on James Baldwin’s unfinished manuscript Remember This House. Through Baldwin’s reflections on America and his memories of famed civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, the film explores African-American history through the eyes of one of its most prominent writers.

If Beale Street Could Talk (Barry Jenkins) - Stream on Hulu

This movie, based on the novel by James Baldwin, is a “soulful drama about a young couple fighting for justice in the name of love and the promise of the American dream.” The film exists at the intersection of class issues, romance and a false accusation that threatens to make everything fall apart. 

Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor – Layla F. Saad

Layla Saad expands upon her original workbook to assist people in their awareness of white supremacy, complete with journal prompts. The book walks its readers through step-by-step, “examining your own white privilege; what allyship really means; anti-blackness, racial stereotypes, and cultural appropriation; changing the way that you view and respond to race; and how to continue the work to create social change.”

So You Want to Talk About Race – Ijeoma Oluo

In her book, Ijeoma Oluo provides answers to questions like “How do you tell your roommate her jokes are racist? Why did your sister-in-law take umbrage when you asked to touch her hair–and how do you make it right? How do you explain white privilege to your white, privileged friend?” Oluo wants to facilitate honest conversations about race for black and non-black people in America, and provides tools to do so.

The Hate U Give (George Tillman Jr.) - Stream on Hulu with Cinemax

Based on the book by Angie Thomas, this film tells the story of Starr Carter (Amandla Stenberg) after she “witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood friend by a trigger-happy cop and must decide whether to testify or not.” The movie may resonate especially with youth who are currently protesting against the recent unjust murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and countless others. Starr struggles with finding her voice to speak up for her deceased friend, especially as she grapples with the dual life she lives across a black neighborhood and white school. 

Their Eyes Were Watching God – Zora Neale Hurston 

This Harlem Renaissance classic from Zora Neale Hurston is one of the most highly regarded novels in African-American literature. It tells the story of Janie Crawford, an African-American woman who liberates herself from domestic violence, poverty, society’s racial expectations for her and gender norms.

This Book Is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons on How to Wake Up, Take Action, and Do The Work – Tiffany Jewell

This book offers tools on being anti-racist, including history lessons, stories of revolution, and language to interrupt microaggressions and racial slurs. Jewell uses gender-neutral language to target the book at any person who reads it and wants to teach all who live in the U.S.’s racialized society how to actively defy racism and xenophobia.

When They See Us (Ava DuVernay) - Stream on Netflix 

“Five teens from Harlem become trapped in a nightmare when they’re falsely accused of a brutal attack in Central Park.” This award-winning limited series is based on the true story of the Central Park Five, and highlights how controlling images of black men as criminals can stain the future of young black boys.

White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism – Robin DiAngelo

In order to confront the defensiveness that some white people feel when confronted by issues of racism, antiracist educator Robin DiAngelo, in her book, explains “White Fragility.” As she describes, “White Fragility is a state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves. These moves include the outward display of emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and behaviors such as argumentation, silence, and leaving the stress-inducing situation. These behaviors, in turn, function to reinstate white racial equilibrium.”

With what you learn from these resources, you’ll be able to apply greater consciousness to your interactions with POC and understand the subtle and obvious ways racism can occur in the nation.

Janae McKenzie is a junior at the University of Missouri, where she majors in Arts & Culture Magazine Journalism. She is a Her Campus Editorial Intern for Summer 2020. On the clock, Janae loves writing and editing content about where entertainment media and the real world meet. Off the clock, she loves watching cartoons, breaking out in song and drinking Diet Coke.
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