Five films to watch to educate yourself on racial injustice in America

This Black History Month, take a break from the mind-numbing junk you’ve been watching and educate yourself on something important

Abigail Rodriguez, Arts & Culture Editor

Following a year in which racial injustice was constantly on display, there are tough conversations that need to be had and educating to take place. The easiest way for many to consume media is by watching, whether it’s YouTube videos, documentaries or movies. That being said, here is a list of five movies, documentaries and docuseries you can watch to educate yourself on racial injustice in the U.S.

“When They See Us”Director Ava DuVernay powerfully recounts the story of the Central Park 5, a group of Black and Hispanic men who were falsely convicted for the rape of a woman in Central Park in 1989 and later exonerated. The group, which now goes by the Exonerated 5, consisted of Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana, Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray and Korey Wise. These men were falsely accused and convicted solely because, as Black and brown men, they were an easy scapegoat for the prosecution to target. The four-part series goes into extremely raw detail when recounting the arrest, coerced confessions, arrests, prison and post-prison life of the five men.

“The 13th” Once again we have filmmaker Ava DuVernay, but this time with a documentary about the 13th Amendment and its effects on the Black community. The 13th amendment essentially states that slavery of any kind is illegal in the U.S. except as a punishment for a crime. The documentary includes the commentary of multiple scholars on how the prison system disproportionately affects the Black community and is an example of institutional racism in America. 

“The Hate U Give” Amanda Stenberg plays Starr Carter in this 2018 film that centers on Starr witnessing the police shoot and kill her childhood friend Khalil. The film follows Starr as she navigates her home life in her inner-city neighborhood called Garden Heights, and the preppy, largely-white school she and her siblings attend. After Khalil is shot, Starr struggles to decide whether she can bear to speak up about the injustice, but after witnessing not only the public’s reaction, but her own friends’ reaction to his death, she realizes she must speak up. This is a movie adaptation of the novel written by Angie Thomas and is a modern-day exemplification of the many hardships Black Americans deal with daily. 

“Hidden Figures” Actresses Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae play a group of three Black women who worked for NASA during the Civil Rights era. Based on the true story of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughn and Mary Johnson, who played key roles in the launch of astronaut John Glenn in 1962, this adaptation demonstrates the continued racism in 1950s/60s America due to Jim Crow laws that led to the segregation of these women in their own workplace. This film has an uplifting ending while still displaying the way these women persevered and had to prove themselves in a time where they were seen to be lesser.

“12 Years a Slave” – This Academy Award-winning historical drama follows a Black man named Solomon Northup, a free-man in the North who was kidnapped and forced to be a slave in the South. This film is a raw and honest depiction of the atrocities that African-Americans and Black people endured during hundreds of years of slavery. There are long-drawn-out scenes of cruelty against people who were kept as slaves to ensure the viewer gets the most realistic depiction of what occurred. The film can be hard to watch at times, but is necessary to understand the full gravity of what slavery was. 

Whether you consider yourself an informed student of racial relations in America, or someone who wants to educate him/herself about the realities of racial injustices, spending some time this month learning about the past can only improve the future.