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20 Books and Movies to Educate Yourself About Racial Injustice

With everything going on in the world, discussing things like racial injustice can seem overwhelming. Protesting and donations are amazing, but it’s equally important to educate yourself and others on issues. In fact, a huge part of the Black Lives Matter movement involves calling on people of all races to educate themselves on Black history, and racism in general. In addition to being more knowledgeable on issues, you’ll also be supporting BIPOC authors, actors and directors. Here are 10 books and 10 movies to help you get started:

BOOKS:

1. “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?” By Beverly Daniel Tatum

Beverly Daniel Tatum, a renowned scholar on the psychology of racism, wrote this book back in 1997, yet is still relevant today. It discusses racial integration and how if we want to enable communication across races, we have to acknowledge that different people of different races have different experiences, instead of pretending that we all experience things in the same way.

2. “The New Jim Crow” By Michelle Alexander

Written by a civil rights lawyer, this book explains how polices and systems such as the justice system and the War on Drugs have disadvantaged Black individuals to a second-class status within the United States.

3. “How to Be an Antiracist” By Ibram X. Kendi

One quote that I keep seeing on Instagram is how it isn’t enough to just not be racist, but you must be antiracist. This book is a fantastic resource for those who are confused as to what that exactly entails. It teaches about all forms of racism, how to identify it and, most importantly, how to oppose and correct it in ourselves and the world.

4. “Brit(ish): On Race, Identity and Belonging” By Afua Hirsch

This book is about Afua Hirsch’s experiences being a biracial woman growing up in a predominantly white town. She discusses the very real impact being asked things like “where are you really from?” has on your identity and how you perceive yourself. 

5. “Between The World And Me” By Ta-Nehisi Coates

This eye-opening book is written as collection of letters by Coates to his son, attempting to answer the question of what it truly means to be Black in America. He does this by sharing his own experiences. Between the World and Me presents a heartbreaking understanding of how the past has defined our present and offers a vision for the future.

6. “When They Call You a Terrorist” By Patrisse Khan-Cullors and Asha Bandele

This memoir was written by the co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement. Growing up in an impoverished neighborhood in LA, she experienced prejudice and persecution firsthand. When Trayvon Martin’s killer went free, she realized enough was enough. Together with Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi, she started a hashtag that led to the movement that changed the world. A great read to learn about the origin of the Black Lives Matter movement. 

7. “America’s Original Sin” By Jim Wallis

The main argument in this book is that Racism is America’s original sin. Wallis makes the argument that racism and consequently race are an important part of an American history. We must acknowledge that if we want to move forward. 

8. “White Fragility” by Robin DiAngelo

This book illuminates the idea of ‘white fragility’, or the discomfort white people feel when confronted by racism and injustice. Understanding that racism isn’t a practice of bad people, and that everyone can be racist without even meaning to be, is an important step in being able to talk about racism in a productive manner. 

9. “So You Want to Talk About Race?” By Ijeoma Oluo

Ijeoma Oluo addresses individuals of all races in this powerful and empowering book. From discussing affirmative action to intersectionality, to the notion of “model minorities”, she creates honest dialogue about how racism affects everyday American life. 

10. “The Clapback: Your Guide to Calling Out Racist Stereotypes” By Elijah Lawal

This absolutely hilarious book is a great guide to help BIPOC indivudals tackle racist comments when they’re hurled at you. It examines the evolution of stereotypes. Definitely the most light-hearted book on this list, it’s a quick and entertaining read-all while still teaching us all a thing or two. 

Bonus: “The Hate U Give” By Angie Thomas

I had to add this book on here. Personally, I think that it should be a required reading for kids, just like To Kill A Mockingbird is. This realistic-fiction story shows the life of sixteen-year-old Starr Carter, who is stuck between two worlds: living in the low-income neighborhood, and the rich prep school she goes to. She survives it all by never mixing her two worlds, save her boyfriend. But when her unarmed childhood friend Khalil gets murdered by a police officer in front of her, she finds that her two worlds collide. She deals with seeing her friend’s name on the news, with people calling him a gangbanger and drug dealer, saying he deserves it; however, she also deals with protesters, demanding justice. On top of everything, she’s being pressured by the cops and others to keep her mouth shut. The book is a difficult read at times, but it shines an important light on the Black Lives Matter movement in a unique way. 

MOVIES:

1. “13th” By Ava DuVernay (Netflix)

I kid you not, I think I’ve seen this documentary twenty times since it was released in 2016. Whenever I’m discussing the justice system, this is the number one source I quote. It’s an eye-opening documentary that looks at the way the justice system is brutally unjust. 13th starts with looking at life for Black Americans since the Civil War, relating it to the present day. 

2. “I am Not Your Negro” By Raoul Peck (Netflix)

This 2016 documentary is based off of James Baldwin’s (A Black activist and author in the late 50s and 60s) unfinished manuscript, Remember This House. This movie looks at racism through the eyes of Baldwin, as he remembers MLK, Medgar Evers, and Malcom X and their fights against injustice, as well his own experiences.  Samuel L Jackson narrates it. I would also HIGHLY recommended reading any work authored by James Baldwin. 

3. “Malcolm X” By Spike Lee (Amazon: Purchase)

This film is a tribute to the civil rights activist’s life. From being arrested and serving time in the 1950s, to becoming a leader of the Nation of Islam, to his assassination, Spike Lee does a great job in portraying the life and work of this activist. 

4. “Moonlight” By Barry Jenkins (Netflix)

When this movie came out in 2016, everyone and their mother seemed to be talking about it, and for good reason. It showcases three different time periods (childhood, adolescence, and adulthood) of a Black American boy named Chiron and his journey living in an impoverished part of Miami with his mother, Paula. Transitioning into his teen years, he struggles with bullying and dealing with his sexuality. The final part shows him coming to terms with a lot of the issues in his past. A beautiful look at the struggles of a gay Black man, something that is not talked about in media nearly enough. 

5. “Selma” By Ava DuVernay (Hulu)

Many still believe that after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, everything in the South instantly became desegregated and everyone got along. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. Discrimination was still rampant, especially when it came to voting. The film takes place in Selma, Alabama, in 1965. If the name sounds familiar, it’s because this is where the famous march from Selma to Montgomery took place. This film shows Dr King and his followers as they plan the march and get people to join them, despite the violent opposition. 

6. “If Beale Street Could Talk” By Barry Jenkins (Hulu)

This film is also based off the novel of the same name by James Baldwin published in 1974. Taking place in early 70s Harlem, it focuses on Tish and her childhood friend/fiancé Alonzo “Fonny” Hunt. Their plans get derailed when Fonny is arrested for a crime he didn’t commit. 

7. “The Hate U Give” By George Tillman Jr. (Amazon: Purchase)

Warning: This movie will make you sob. Be sure to read the book, listed above, because it goes into much more detail. The movie was still powerful and empowering. The synopsis is pretty much the same as the book, and it’s really only the details (AKA spoilers) that are different. 

8. “Get Out” By Jordan Peele (Amazon: Purchase)

This is in all honestly one of the best horror/thriller films I’ve ever seen-and I LOVE horror. Chris, a Black man, and his girlfriend, Rose, a white woman, have reached the “meeting the parents” part of their relationship. She invites him to stay with her family for the weekend, and at first, it seems great! But as time goes on, Chris begins to notice some strange and disturbing things that are happening-and the ending is worse than anything you could’ve thought. 

9. “Just Mercy” By Destin Daniel Cretton (Amazon: Purchase)

This film is based off a true story and a book by Bryan Stevenson. He grew up in an impoverished black community in the South. He founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice dedicated to defending those who need them the most: the people whom the justice system has failed to protect and allow equal treatment. The film is about one of his first cases, where he represented Walter McMillian. McMillian was a young black man sentenced to die in 1987 for the murder of an 18-year-old girl. He insisted that he was innocent, and there was evidence proving this. Stevenson fights for McMillian’s life. This case is heartbreaking and angered me to the CORE at times, but it is 100% a must watch.

10. “Black Panther” By Ryan Coogler (Hulu and Disney+)

It wouldn’t feel right not adding this movie to the list. After the death of his father, T’Challa goes back home to Wakanda to take his place as king. When a new enemy appears, he must defend his right to be both king and the Black Panther, as well as saving Wakanda. While it might not educate you on racism in America, it is incredibly refreshing and entertaining to watch, and it changed the lives of so many young Black children, finally being able to see a superhero king that looks like them. This may be a Marvel Movie, but everyone, regardless if you’re a fan or not, should watch this.  Rest In Power, Chadwick Boseman. 

Bonus: “BlacKkKlansman” By Spike Lee (Amazon: Purchase)

Loosely based on true events, BlacKkKlansman tells the story of Ron Stallworth, the first Black detective to serve in the Colorado Springs Police Department. He bravely sets out to infiltrate and exposes the KKK. He teams up with Flip Zimmerman, one of his colleagues, to take down the extremist group.  

Aleema Haque

Marquette '23

International Affairs Major at Marquette
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