CULTURE: RECOMMENDED READING ON RACE - PART 2
In a time like this where the topic of racism is at the forefront of everyone’s minds, there is seemingly no excuse not to be educated on issues regarding race and race relations. However, while most of the ‘anti-racism’ reading lists being circulated on social media have been targeted towards white people who should (rightfully) be kept informed, I do think that Black people should also be educating themselves. Talking about your blackness and race can be difficult, but in the past few months, I’ve found that by arming myself with information and necessary vocabulary, I have been able to feel much more at ease talking about race and issues dealing with race and racism as a Black person. I can now articulate my personal experiences in a way which incorporates and is backed up by some of the theory I have read and the statistics I have discovered.
These films, documentaries and Instagram accounts are all excellent resources which have made it a little easier for me to tackle such contentious, uncomfortable issues
Having already discussed which books I have found useful in Recommended Reading on Race Part I, here are some great documentaries and films which can also help:
This Oscar-winning documentary directed by the phenomenal Ava DuVernay, derives its name from the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, in which slavery and involuntary servitude were “abolished”, except for as punishment for a crime. With this as a backdrop, 13th outlines and analyses the criminalisation of African Americans throughout American history and the US prison boom. Lots of the topics explored in 13th were things that I was at least vaguely aware of but, having all of the facts outlined in such a clear and stark way was so impactful and really helped me see the big picture of the history of racialised mass-incarceration in the US.
This true-crime docu-series follows the story of Kalief Browder, a Black teenager wrongfully charged with theft and jailed at Rikers Island prison for over 1000 days, despite not being convicted of a crime. Browder spent two years of his time in prison in solitary confinement This revealing documentary highlights the tragic impact of the US justice and prison systems. It seems impossible to watch this harrowing series and not immediately feel compelled to take some sort of action against the injustices of racism.
Narrated by Samuel L Jackson, this 2016 documentary is based on James Baldwin’s manuscript Remember This House, his unfinished memoir of personal recollections of famous civil rights leaders; MLK, Malcolm X and Medgar Evers as well as his own astute observations of American history. Baldwin once claimed that to be a ‘relatively conscious’ Black person in America is to be in a constant state of rage, one which is palpable in this film. His commentary on American race relations demonstrates just how far we still have to go.
Stephen Maing’s documentary shines a damning light on systemic corruption, specifically within the NYPD. Crime + Punishment revolves around the ‘NYPD12’, current and former police officers, most of whom were minorities themselves, who attempted to reform the culture of law enforcement when they came forward to expose their superiors as pushing for a set number of arrests even after quotas had been outlawed. This meant that instead of being positive forces in their communities, cops were merely looking for people to arrest, which statistically ended up being a high proportion of Black and brown people. The film is a vivid illustration of how racism is perpetuated through the structure of nominally egalitarian institutions.
Moving away from America, this documentary is presented by historian David Olusoga and highlights the UK’s own historical bigotry. I’m ashamed to say that even as a Black person in the UK, I had not heard of the Windrush Generation until about four years ago, which goes to show how woefully lacking Black British history in education is. Olusoga reveals a story of racial prejudice from the highest levels of government, dating from the moment the Empire Windrush docked in Essex, showing how the 2018 Windrush Scandal was actually seventy years in the making.
Not only is Instagram a really great way to engage with interesting and thought-provoking accounts but you can also share and repost what sticks out to you, to raise awareness and get the word out there.
Another tool I’ve found that is really helpful is Instagram. Following some of these accounts has meant that even when just passively scrolling on my phone I can be learning and staying informed. Not only is Instagram a really great way to engage with interesting and thought-provoking accounts but you can also share and repost what sticks out to you, to raise awareness and get the word out there.
Munroe Bergdorf is a model, writer, broadcaster and activist who is passionate and outspoken about issues concerning race and the LGBT+ community. I personally have learnt a lot from the images and videos she shares on her Instagram account as well as the online community platform @goddessplatform which she founded to spread information and resources among women and non-binary people.
The Black Curriculum is a social enterprise which aims to re-imagine the future of education through Black British History. Addressing the lack of Black British history in the UK curriculum, they provide arts-focused Black History programmes to young people aged 8-16 but the excellent eye-opening resources posted on the Instagram account, of course, have no age limit!
Black Feminist Bookshop is a collaborative project to open a Black feminist bookshop in London that can be a radical space of resistance, sisterhood and community. Their Instagram account provides book recommendations, resource guides and there is also a weekly newsletter you can sign up to and receive updates about the project.
The Free Black University is a platform focused on Black spirituality, Black Feminism and Black revolution through reproducing and redistributing knowledge and readings. Founder Melz Owusu started the Free Black Uni campaign after experiencing the way in which universities have been failing Black students - citing the Black attainment gap and inadequate mental health services for Black students. The mission of Free Black Uni is to deliver education to Black communities that is freeing and liberating.
The Racial Justice Network is a network of individuals, communities and organisations collaborating to address legacies of colonialism and to end racial injustice. They post some fantastic graphics and videos on Instagram to raise awareness about racial inequality and build solidarity.
All in all, these films, documentaries and Instagram accounts together with the books I have read on the topic of race, are all excellent resources which have made it a little easier for me to tackle such contentious, uncomfortable issues. Even just watching an hour-long documentary or following a couple of these Instagram accounts can be empowering and help you feel more confident when discussing race.