How we can learn about systemic racism in films and TV

As you would have seen in the news, the Black Lives Matter movement is encouraging a change that needs to be made to the law enforcement in America – after the tragic death of George Floyd.

For some of us, we will never experience this sort of brutality some people around the world have experienced or will experience. However, this doesn’t stop us from learning about the racism that is still unfortunately present in some of our systems. There are many films and TV shows that offer this education to us so we can acquire some sort of understanding of this unfortunate societal aspect.

Just Mercy

This film tells the true story of Walter “Johnny D” McMillian (Jamie Foxx) who is wrongfully convicted of the murder of Ronda Morrison in 1986 – a crime he was given the death sentence for. On the case to get this innocent man freed is Harvard Law graduate Bryan Stevenson (Michael B. Jordan). He arrives in Alabama three years later and opens the Equal Justice Initiative – alongside his work partner Eva Ansley (Brie Larson). They both set out to help death row inmates who cannot afford their legal costs.

Bryan discovers – after looking at the facts – that the conviction is only based on a single testimony by convicted criminal Ralph Myers (Tim Blake Nelson). He made this testimony to miss the death sentence and receive a lesser charge. Stevenson makes it his mission to get Johnny D off death row, and even goes as far to the Supreme Court of Alabama.

This is an intense masterpiece that not only uncovers the corrupt law system that laid within Alabama, but it leaves you speechless and emotional at the acting on screen by these fine actors, their portrayal of the characters and the pain they went through. This film is perfect for you to educate yourselves on the movement as it shows both sides of the racism. It shows the corrupt side (the law) and the personal experience of those who are the victims of systemic racism, and the terror they experience.

Dear White People

Available on Netflix, this series exposes the racial injustice that some black students experience and receive after attending Winchester University – an educational establishment that is not only an Ivy League college but is predominantly white students. The series is based on the 2014 film of the same name.

This series educates audiences on the segregation that there was, and still is in some cases in the educational system, meaning black people are not getting the same opportunities in terms of education compared to white people.

Dear White People has been described as creating a “self-contained, detailed, faintly dreamlike world”, that allows us as audiences to discover even though this is a fictional world, it still highlights our reality. This makes it a perfect educational series, not only to put us in the shoes of the characters experiencing racial injustice but leaves us questioning if this fiction is a reality.

Selma (2014)

Selma is the 2014 historical drama based on the 1965 Selma to Montgomery voting rights marches led by Martin Luther King Jr. after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ended the racial segregation in the South, it was still apparent there was discrimination in certain areas of the United States.

However, in 1965 Alabama became a battleground for black people fighting for their rights. Despite the violence, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr (David Oyelowo) led his followers in the march and as a result, their efforts meant the President at the time – Lyndon Johnson – finally signed the Voting Rights act in 1965.

This is the perfect time to watch Selma as to some people, it may mirror the current situation through the Black Lives Movement as protestors are wanting a change in the law enforcement system not only in America but around the world so an unfortunate incident – like the death of George Floyd doesn’t happen again – at the hands of police brutality.

It is a film that shows us as audiences the immense efforts people will put into a campaign, they believe in to initiate a change that needs to occur. And eventually, with all the effort put in, they will emerge as winners.

When they see us 

When they see us shows us five innocent boys in 1989 who is wrongly convicted of rape. The four-part series focuses on the “Central Park Five” and the aftermath of how these boys were wrongly accused of a crime they didn’t commit and how it took the justice system to reach a deal with them in New York – over 25 years.

The deceit with the American Law enforcement is exposed within this series, simply based on racial hatred. This is something that needs to be highlighted to people as it shows us we do not know everything that goes on behind closed doors. As well as this, we gain an insight into the hate some people receive simply because of the colours of their skin.

This is an important lesson we can learn from a series like this because similar to the other suggestions on this list, it makes us question if this is fiction or if this is the reality we live in and we are not doing anything about it. In the case of this series, this is the reality as it is based on a true story.

If you are a keen follower of the Black Lives Matter movement but need a bit more knowledge to know about the depths of the systemic racism then these are a perfect starting point for you. Through TV and film, we can use something we utilise every day and further equip ourselves with education.

Then, through this education, we can encourage this change and finally remove racism and racial hatred from society.

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