The 3 movies everyone can watch to better understand the fight for racial justice

MADISON, Wis.– As protests continue in our state and nationwide, more Americans are finding out how much they still don’t know about race.

Shawn Edwards is the co-founder of the African American Film Critics Association. He compiled a list of films that show what it’s like to be black, for people who want to better understand the history of racial injustice.

For teens and adults:

Do the Right Thing. The film is dedicated to six victims of police brutality and racial violence in 1989. It takes place on the hottest day of the year in a Brooklyn neighborhood, where confrontations between black people and police officers have been simmering for a long time. On this day in particular, there’s lots of violence and someone dies. Edwards says this movie does a good job of showing what happens when tensions reach their breaking point, like they are today.

Selma. This film is just six years old, but place in the 1965 South, the year after Congress passed the Civil Rights Act. Discrimination still made it difficult for blacks to register to vote. Edwards picked this film because he says it shows the civil rights movement wasn’t a primarily black movement. There were blacks involved. There were whites involved. There were Jewish people involved. And it took everyone, working together, to create change.

I Am Not Your Negro. Edwards calls the film “the ultimate crash course on Racism 101.” The documentary was inspired by a collection of notes written by James Baldwin in the mid-1970s about the lives of his close friends and civil rights leaders Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., and Medgar Evers. It’s narrated by Samuel L Jackson.

For kids:

The Hate U Give. The lead character, Star, is dealing with what a lot of African Americans face every single day: a double life. She’s one person at her private prep school, and she’s another when she has to go home and deal with gang violence and drug abuse. Things become even more complicated when Star witnesses a police officer shoot her friend. The movie is based on a book by Angie Thomas.

Black-ish & Mixed-ish. These TV series showcase diversity and the everyday struggles black Americans face. One episode of “Black-ish” in particular, called “Hope” has some striking parallels to what’s happening now. It follows a fictional news story about an unarmed black teenager selling DVDs who is tazed dozens of times by a police officer. The episode is based on something that actually happened to one of the show’s writers during the Ferguson riots. The episode is available to stream on Hulu or Prime Video.

Click here for more recommendations of movies that tackle racial injustice.

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