If you’ve had the privilege of never experiencing discrimination or if you are a POC who doesn’t fully grasp the history and weight of racism, now is not the time to burden your black friends with the task of educating you, even if you have the best of intentions.

Now is not the time to be asking for free emotional labor from the black community, many of whom are already under emotional duress from the events of the past weeks. Racism has been long established as a tool of oppression on a global scale that it’s contributed to generational trauma. In fact, it’s been more than established, racism is a learned behavior that has been protected and enforced to this day. So while you’re donating and signing petitions, here are some works that break down systematic oppression.

1. Who Killed Malcolm X? (2020)

Malcolm X
[Image description: Malcolm X standing at a podium, arm raised over microphones] Via Who Killed Malcom X?
This Netflix mini docu-series is on the assassination of Malcolm X, a prominent black American Muslim Civil Rights Era activist. The series outlines some alarming evidence regarding his assassination in 1965 and explores the conspiracy that he was killed by white supremacists with the help of the government. After the docu-series was released earlier this year, the murder investigation of Malcolm X was put under review. 

2. When They See Us (2019)

When They See Us
[Image description: A detective points a finger at one of the Central Park Five in an interrogation room] Via When They See Us 
A true-crime mini-series, this is the story of the Central Park Five, five teenagers falsely accused of the assault and rape of a white woman jogging through Central Park. The show follows their trial and wrongful convictions. 

3. 13th (2016)

[Image description: Angela Davis, prison abolitionist, speaking in an old court room] Via 13th
Named for the 13th Amendment which abolished slavery in America, this documentary film traces the connections between the rise of mass incarceration in the United States and the justice system. It proves how slavery is alive and well in modern times through the prison-industrial complex and the disproportionate convictions of minorities. Netflix even uploaded the film in full to YouTube, so it would be accessible to everyone. You can watch it right here

4. American Son (2019)

American Son
[Image description: Kerry Washington looking at a cell phone in horror with an FBI agent and a police officer] Via American Son 
Starring Kerry Washington, this film follows a mother anxiously waiting for news on her disappeared son in a police department. Racial tensions are discussed through conversations with her ex-husband, a white FBI agent. He is just as concerned for their missing son but doesn’t understand his ex-wife’s fear of police.

5. If Beale Street Could Talk (2018)

Beale Street

This film tells the story of Tish and Fonny, sweethearts since childhood, and of the racial discrimination they face. From being denied rent by New York landlords in the 70s to Fonny’s wrongful arrest after being falsely accused of rape. The film discusses abuse of power by the police as well as the flaws in the justice system.

6. Imperial Dreams (2018)

Imperial Son
[Image description: John Boyega sitting with friends, looking at something out of view] Via Imperial Son
Starring John Boyega, this film is about a reformed gangster, returning home after serving time in prison. Imperial Dreams discusses mass incarceration, racial profiling as well as the rehabilitation prisoners need after being granted their freedom.

7. Dear White People (2014)

Dear White People
[Image description: Tessa Thompson and cast staring directly into the camera] Via Dear White People
Later also adapted into an amazing Netflix show, this comedy film details the many microaggressions Black students experience at a fictitious Ivy League. The lead Samantha White, played by Tessa Thompson, is a frustrated student who begins a radio show to call out white people for their racist behavior.

8. The Great Debaters (2007)

The Great Debaters
[Image description: Denzel Washington and cast sit attentively, one holding a vintage camera] Via Great Debaters
Denzel Washington plays a debate coach at a HBCU during the 1930s in the Jim Crow South. He is determined to elevate his team of students to the same stature as their white opponents. This film discusses the racism and segregation found in academia as well as the violence experienced by black students in the American South.

9. Seven Seconds (2018)

Seven Seconds
[Image description: A detective stands a snowy, blood spattered hill with the Statue of Liberty in the background] Via Seven Seconds
This show is about the hit and run of a young black boy by a police officer and how members of the Jersey City Police Department scramble to cover it up to “protect their own”. This limited series is crucial in understanding the way a police force operates like an elite gang, abusing their power and carrying out injustices.

10. The Last Black Man in San Francisco (2019)

The Last Black Man in San Francisco
[Image description: A young man stares up at a Victorian style house] Via The Last Black Man in San Francisco 
Jimmie Fails and his best friend Mont Allen spend their days roaming San Francisco, musing over the city’s changes due to gentrification and how it’s affecting the community. Jimmie dreams about reclaiming the Victorian house he grew up in and sees his opportunity when the current owners have a dispute over the estate.

11. Selma (2014)

[Image description: Crowds of marchers cross a bridge to advocate for black voting rights] Via Selma
A historical drama, Selma follows the voting rights marches lead by the revolutionary Martin Luther King Jr. in 1965. Directed by 13th’s Pea-body award-winning Ava DuVernay, this film centers on the political tensions and various threats King faced while organizing a march to register black voters in the state of Alabama.

12. BlacKkKlansmen (2018)

[Image description: Split screen of the conversation the Colorado Spring Police Force’s first black officer] Via BlacKkKlansman
Directed by Spike Lee, this film tells the story of Ron Stallworth, the first black officer in the Colorado Springs Police Department. It details the racial discrimination Stallworth faces from his coworkers and the undercover operation he begins to infiltrate a local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan.

13. Do the Right Thing (1989)

Do the Right Thing
[Image description: A white man confronts a younger black man in Brooklyn] Via Do the Right Thing
Another directorial piece from Spike Lee, this classic dramedy outlines the rising racial tension in a Brooklyn neighborhood. The film focuses on the ethnically diverse neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant and the violence that erupts as summer temperatures rise.

14. The Hate U Give (2018)

The Hate U Give (2018)
[Image description: Amandla Stenberg, playing Starr, hands raised in surrender] Via The Hate U Give
In this masterpiece film adaptation of the novel of the same name, after witnessing her childhood friend being murdered by a police officer, sixteen-year-old Starr, played by Amandla Stenberg is swept up in the national news coverage of the killing. Starr must decide if pursuing justice is worth destroying her carefully crafted image at her mostly-white prep school and having a police target on her back.

15. Whose Streets? (2017)

Whose Streets? (2017)
[Image description: Ferguson protestors standing with arms raised and megaphones] Via Whose Streets? 
This documentary follows the murder of Michael Brown and the Ferguson uprising. After Brown was killed by a police officer, Ferguson. Missouri was engulfed in protests and riots demanding justice. Documenting the protests this way, on camera, was intended to show what was really going on as print journalism was lacking in their coverage as the events in Ferguson unfolded.

16. I Am Not Your Negro (2016)

I Am Not Your Negro (2016)
[Image description: A black man stares skeptically into the camera, surrounded by white men] Via I Am Not Your Negro
Inspired by James Baldwin’s unfinished manuscript, this film breaks down the history of racism in the United States by examining civil rights leaders like Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. Narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, the documentary voices Baldwin’s personal thoughts on the American civil rights movement.

17. Freedom Writers (2007)

Freedom Writers (2007)
[Image description: A white teacher stands directing a classroom full of multiracial students] Via Freedom Writers
This drama film focuses on the lives of a highly diverse student body at the once prestigious Woodrow Wilson High School. Set two years after the Los Angeles riots, racial tensions are at an all-time high among rival gang members who attend the school. Freedom Writers outlines the racism and prejudice found among various ethnic minority groups.

18. Hidden Figures (2016)

Hidden Figures (2016)
[Image description: Taraji P. Henson, playing a black female NASA mathematician, stands in an office full of white men] Via Hidden Figures
Detailing the work life of the black women who worked at NASA during the Space Race, this film exposes the racial and gender segregation that dominated the space agency. Starring Taraji P. Henson, Janelle Monàe and Octavia Spencer, the Academy Award-nominated Hidden Figures describes the life and important work of three black female mathematicians who rose above their white male peers’ perceptions of them.

19. Just Mercy (2019)

Just Mercy (2019)
[Image description: Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx tensely sit in a courtroom] Via Just Mercy
Starring Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx, this film follows the pro bono work of Bryan Stevenson, freshly graduated from Harvard law and determined to free Johnny D. McMillian, a death row inmate who was coerced by police into confessing to the murder of a white woman. The film outlines discrepancies in the legal system and how it upholds racial bias in murder cases.

20. Get Out (2017)

Get Out
[Image description: A conversation between two of the film’s characters in a forest] Via Get Out
Written and directed by Jordan Peele, this psychological thriller follows what happens when Chris Washington, played by Daniel Kaluuya, learns a horrifying secret about his white girlfriend and her family.

21. Zootopia (2016)

[Image description: Judy Hopp, a rookie police officer confronts fox Nick Wilde] Via Zootopia
Lastly, this animated film educates audiences on discrimination and racial profiling. Following a rookie cop on her dreams of serving and protecting, Zootopia shows how perpetuated prejudice feeds into a flawed justice system. A perfect movie to use when educating the little ones on racial inequality.

Do you have other suggestions? Let us know!

  • Fatima Khan

    Fatima Khan is a first-generation American with a BA from Rutgers University in English Literature and Journalism. Her passions are reading, photography and education. She is currently pursuing a Master's degree in English Literature and likes to raise awareness on the Kashmir conflict!