9 informative documentaries on racial injustice

Jennifer Savin
Photo credit: Alice Cowling

From Cosmopolitan

Did you post a black square to Instagram in support of Black Lives Matter – and now want to follow through with that promise of solidarity? A core pillar of the Black Lives Matter movement calls for people of all races to educate themselves on Black history and how racism manifests itself in society. Although the organisation started in the US, inequality is a global problem and exists right here in the UK too.

If you want to help the cause, become a better ally and better understand the experiences of Black people, but aren't sure how to go about it, diversifying your bookshelf and taking time to watch informative documentaries, films and TV shows is a great place to start. Here's a list of documentaries to get going with:

13th

This 2016 documentary by Ava DuVernay (When They See Us writer and producer) shows the corrupt history of America's jail system, explaining that once slavery became illegal and the Civil Rights Act was created in 1964, Black people were still denied their freedom in a myriad of other ways. It covers everything from the 'War on Drugs' disproportionately affecting Black communities to the deep-rooted inequalities present in the 'land of the free'. Shocking stats include that one in three Black men are likely to spend time in jail in the US, compared to one in 17 white men.

The Unwanted: The Secret Windrush Files

A BBC investigation into the politics of the Windrush scandal, which in 2014 left Black British citizens (who had lived in the UK since childhood) suddenly having to prove they were eligible to remain in the country. They faced deportation back to countries they could barely remember. Historian David Olusoga looks at racial prejudices in Great Britain, held by both the general public and those in positions of power.

TIME: The Kalief Browder Story

This six-part documentary series (available on Netflix), produced by Jay Z, examines the extreme severities of the judicial system in America through the case of Kalief Browder – a Black teenager from the Bronx in New York, who was falsely accused of stealing a backpack. Refusing to plead guilty to a crime he didn't commit (in the hopes of receiving a shorter sentence), Browder spent three years in jail – two of them in solitary confinement. Shortly after his release, Browder took his own life. A harrowing and necessary watch.

From Slavery to Windrush: My Family's Story

A short film from journalist Amanda Kirton in which she explores her British-Jamaican heritage and the story of her ancestors coming to the UK as part of the Windrush generation (along with the scandal that later followed, which saw migrants deported or denied entry into the country).

Black and Scottish

Three generations share their stories of growing up as a Black person in Scotland, commenting on how it shaped their identity and offering advice for young Black people today. Available to watch on BBC iPlayer.

LA 92

This documentary (available on Netflix) includes previously unseen footage and charts the events that sparked civil unrest and the Los Angeles riots back in 1992. Sadly, the film shows how little things have changed in America – the protests 27 years ago were in response to Rodney King, an African-American man, being violently beaten by police officers (who were acquitted of any wrongdoing despite video evidence).

The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson

A prominent Black gay rights activist and drag performer, Marsha P Johnson (referred to as "the Rosa Parks of the LGBT movement"), was one of the leading figures in the Stonewall uprising, which came about in response to constant police raids on LGBTQ+ spaces. This documentary looks at the history of queer, non-binary and trans folk through the re-telling of Marsha's own life and death, which many believe was not as clear cut as police suggested at the time. While not focussed on race, it shows the power in protesting for equal rights.

Becoming

An intimate look at the life of Michelle Obama, highlighting the power of community when it comes to bridging divides and the importance of listening to the stories of others (and sharing our own), in order for the world to become a fairer place for all. An uplifting watch that will encourage you to broaden your circles and the media you consume.

Explained: The Racial Wealth Gap

One episode of the informative Netflix series, Explained, in which Cory Booker (a US politician and attorney) and other experts break down the impact that housing, slavery and hundreds of years of inequality has had on Black people's finances. An eye-opening and concise overview.

For other ways that you can help support Black Lives Matter, including where to donate, see here.


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