What to watch to learn more about systemic racism after George Floyd protests

Following the death of George Floyd in Minnesota in the United States, racism and race issues are at the forefront.

Protests were sparked across the US, and in London, last week after Floyd, a black man, died after a white police officer knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes.

Celebrities have been adding their voices and speaking out, whether it’s through encouraging people to donate to the Black Lives Matter movement, on social media or attending the demonstrations.

Understandably those who aren’t personally affected (although we all should be) might want to know more about the engrained, systemic racism that many feel had a hand in Floyd’s death.

Here are some TV programmes and films to watch that explain the issue perfectly.

13th

Director Ava DuVernay’s powerful film explores how the Thirteenth Amendment led to mass incarceration of black and brown people in the United States. It also explores the relationship between slavery and mass incarceration and argues that the latter is a continuation of the former.

The amendment reads:’Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States.’

As DuVernay explained in an interview with The Atlantic, the film talks about ‘the very way that we deal with each other in the everyday. It’s about our relationship to each other as it deals with race.’

Where to watch: Netflix

Flint Town

Filmed across two years, Flint Town follows the police force in Flint, Michigan as they work to serve the men and women of a largely poor town buckling under a water crisis (which has been going since 2014 and is far from over), poverty and severe cuts.

Where to watch: Netflix

When They See Us

When They See Us, directed by Ava DuVernay, became Netflix’s most-watched series when it dropped in 2019.

It’s based on the true story of about a wrongful conviction in 1989, which saw five boys of colour imprisoned for a rape they didn’t commit. They became known as the Central Park Five.

The hard-hitting series focuses on the aftermath of the wrongful convictions, spanning the 25 years it took the men to reach a deal with the city of New York.

Where to watch: Netflix

Dear White People

Whether it’s the 2014 film starring Tessa Thompson, or the TV series which began in 2017, Dear White People is a must-watch.

Set in the prestigious Winchester University, it expertly addresses not only every day microagressions faced by black people, but also how we can all try and be more understanding of each other – including within the black community. All with a liberal sprinkling of razor sharp, millennial humour.

Where to watch: Netflix (TV series), Amazon Prime Video (film)

Time: The Kalief Browder Story

The docu-series retells the story of black high school student Kalief Browder, who was imprisoned at Rikers Island in 2010 after he was accused of stealing a backpack – which he denied.

Despite not being convicted of a crime, his family were unable to afford his bail and he remained in prison for three years.

A powerful dismantling of the stop and search policy in New York at the time, it has been described by the New York Times as ‘a dismaying case study of the overwhelming shortcomings of the law enforcement, criminal justice and penal systems’.

Where to watch: Netflix

Strong Island

This documentary may hit a little close to home at the moment, as it follows the death of a black man, William Ford, who was shot dead at a local garage.

His brother Yance, who directed the film, revisits that devastating night and looks into the arguably lacklustre investigation and the treatment of the family by police that followed.

Featuring to-camera interviews with Yance and their mother, it makes for painful, powerful viewing.

Where to watch: Netflix

Detroit

Set during one of the largest race riots in US history, Detroit tells the true story of a racially charged incident of police brutality at the Algiers Motel in 1967, in which three black men were killed.

Directed by Kathryn Bigelow, it stars British actors John Boyega (currently one of the strongest celebrity voices after the death of Floyd) and Will Poulter.

Boyega puts in a beautifully understated performance as Dismukes, who is falsely accused of killing the three men on that horrific night. A scene in a police station interview room as he slowly realises he’s being stitched up will haunt you.

Where to watch: Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.

Bamboozled

Damon Wayans plays black TV network executive Pierre Delacroix in this unflinching satire, whose plan to protest TV stereotypes backfires when his intentionally racist minstrel show turns out to be a hit.

Speaking on race in a way only director Spike Lee can, it might not be his most critically acclaimed movie, but aspects – like the white boss who thinks it’s cool to mimic AAVE – may ring true for many.

Where to watch: The DVD is available to buy on Amazon and Criterion

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