Political Issues

12 Books, Movies, and Podcasts You Should Consume to Become a Better Ally to the Black Community

Kara Jillian Brown

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The past few weeks have been tumultuous—to say the least—for the Black community. If you feel lost and find yourself wanting to have a better understanding of race relations in America in order to become a better ally, there’s no shortage of podcasts, books, TV series, and movies on the subject. The media you consume has the power either to reinforce prejudices or to educate on the ways in which the world can be different. To become a better ally, you have to understand what you’re fighting against.

“Allies are individuals who see the systemic implications of the ways in which communities of color, Black people, are being affected, and they are standing side by side with them and taking the lead to both call the system out and hold the system accountable,” says Rashid Shabazz, chief marketing and storytelling office at Color of Change. “They champion the ways in which this system needs to change and understand at the core, the history of racial injustice in this country and the need to challenge the persistent narratives, the persistent policies, the practices that are in place that continue to reinforce the privilege that they may have.”

These systemic issues play out in everything from the effects of the pandemic and its spread to the recent unconscionable deaths of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd.

“We’re erasing and dismantling the systems that have continued to lead to the things that we’ve seen over the last several months to this even this week,” says Shabazz. “Whether it’s in the injustice of the way in which this pandemic has affected communities of color and Black people in particular because of a failed policies around health care in a public health system that is a complete failure or the ways in which the police department is targeting African American men and women.”

A recent report released by Color of Change, Normalizing Injustice: The Dangerous Misrepresentations that Define Television’s Scripted Crime Genre, highlights the real damage caused by inaccurate depictions of Black people in media. “We know that stories have a great impact on the ways in which people both see themselves, and the perception they have of the world,” says Shabazz, who leads an initiative from Color of Change to impact portrayals of Black people in movies and television. “Some of the things that we’re seeing—as it relates to George Floyd or Ahmaud Arbery, for example—are experiences and situations that we often find codified or reinforced by the demonization of Black people in the media.”

If you’d like to become a more educated ally to the Black community, below you’ll find a few of Shabazz’s recommendations. And you can help power the movement by making a donation to Color of Change, George Floyd Memorial Fund, I Run With Maud, Justice for Breonna Taylor, Minnesota Freedom Fund, and Black Lives Matter.

Anti-racist resources to consume in order to become a better ally to the Black community

1. Podcasts to listen to become a better ally

#TellBlackStories 
The 2020 Webby Award-winning podcast from the Color of Change is centered around ensuring accurate, diverse, empathetic, and human portrayals of Black people in film and television. Guests like Michael B. Jordan, Yara Shahidi, and Ava DuVernay have made appearances. You can listen to it on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Sound Cloud, and Stitcher.

Still Processing
Hosted by Jenna Wortham and Wesley Morris of the New York Times, Still Processing discusses current events and pop-culture moments. Wortham is a staff writer for the paper’s T Magazine and Morris is the paper’s critic-at-large. They’ve looked at everything from California’s new legislation to allow college athletes to make money off of endorsements to shows like High Fidelity and songs like Old Town Road. It’s available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, and Stitcher.

Code Switch
On NPR’s podcast Code Switch, hosts Shereen Marisol Meraji and Gene Demby discuss how race impacts everything from politics and pop culture to history and sports. A recent episode explored how two Los Angeles-based Capoeira instructors are staying afloat after COVID-19 forced them to close their gym. You can listen to it on NPR One, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Pocket Casts, and Spotify.

2. Books to read to become a better ally

The New Jim Crow, $17
Jim Crow laws were enforced in the United States up until 1965. But author Michelle Alexander explains in her book how a similar caste has been created through the mass incarceration of Black people. Instead of using explicit race-based discrimination, Alexander points to the fact that America has instead been able to discriminate against many Black people by discriminating against convicted criminals, who are denied basic civil and human rights, including the right to vote, the right to serve on juries, and the right to be free of legal discrimination in employment.

Between the World and Me, $23
Ta-Nehisi Coates’ letter to his 15-year-old son attempts to explain the unique experience of being Black in America. Coates mixes personal narrative, reimagined history, and current events in a way that serves as a guide for his son to recon with his own lived experience.

How to Be an Antiracist, $24
Ibram X. Kendi says that the opposite of racism isn’t not-racist—it’s antiracist. In his memoir, Kendi combines ethics, history, law, and science along with his own awakening to antiracism. It’s a good book for those who wish to meaningfully contribute to the formation of a truly just and equitable society.

Bad Feminist, $16
Roxane Gay touches on politics, criticism, and feminism with a collection of funny and insightful essays. She discusses her evolution as a woman of color and dissects pop-culture moments, like the HBO show Girls and the film Django Unchained, all while commenting on the state of feminism today.

The Source of Self-Regard, $16
Written by the incomparable Toni Morrison, The Source of Self-Regard is composed of a series of essays, speeches, and meditations. Released just months before her death in 2019, Morrison shares everything from a prayer for the dead of 9/11 to a heart-wrenching eulogy for writer James Baldwin.

3. Movies and TV shows to watch to become a better ally

When They See Us
A limited four-episode series by Ava DuVernay, When They See Us the story of The Exonerated Five, also known as The Central Park Five. It’s based on a 1989 case where five seventh- and eighth-grade students of color from Harlem were falsely accused of a brutal attack of a white woman in Central Park. They all served time for a crime they didn’t commit. You can watch it on Netflix, and visit Array 101 to download a learning companion for the series.

Freedom Riders
Freedom Riders is a documentary that tells the story of over 400 Black and white Americans who risked their lives to challenge the segregated interstate travel system. They spent six months deliberately violating Jim Crow laws (enduring beatings and imprisonment) by traveling together on buses and trains through the Deep South. It’s available to rent or purchase on Amazon.

13th
Also directed by DuVernay, the documentary 13th analyzes the criminalization of African Americans and the prison boom in the United States. The title is derived from the 13th amendment, which abolished slavery and involuntary servitude except as a punishment for a crime. The film is available to stream on Netflix.

The Watsons Go to Birmingham
This 2013 film, based on a historical-fiction novel by Christopher Paul Curtis, tells the story of an African Amerian family from Flint, Michigan. When their son gets into some trouble, the family decides to take him to spend the summer with his grandmother in Birmingham, Alabama. Tragic events take place when they arrive during a period of the Civil Rights Movement. It is available to watch on-demand on Vudu and from cable providers like Spectrum.

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