The killing of George Floyd last month has launched a new wave of protests against systemic racism, police brutality, and oppression of African American individuals in the USA. The real tragedy here is that what happened to George Floyd is only one incident signaling police brutality and oppression against a community that has continued to struggle for its rights and equality here in the United States.
George Floyd’s murder lays increased emphasis on the Black Lives Matter movement and forces you to take a closer look at the rampant racism that continues to plague American society today. It gives a new voice to minorities that have been subject to racial discrimination throughout their life. Like other forms of literature, movies provide us with the means to amplify these voices beyond the ongoing protests and embed them into the very fabric of our culture and media.In this article, we will be talking about films dealing with the subject of racism and oppression and how they can contribute to the conversation on establishing a new order based on social justice, empathy, love, and acceptance. As a medium, film encompasses the entire gamut of human emotions and will continue to be a powerful tool for disseminating the stories of our past, present, and future.
The Importance of Movies that Confront Racism
Movies are capable of invoking emotion, introducing you to new truths, and pushing the boundaries of imagination. The best films will hold up a mirror displaying the extent of human cruelty and ignorance and signal hope and the need for transformation. For instance, prior to the release of Hidden Figures, most of us were completely ignorant of the contributions of the remarkable Katherine Goble Johnson and her peers Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson to NASA and the Space Race. The movie provides poignant insights into the discrimination faced by black women in the 1960s and challenges white supremacy and misogyny by depicting how mathematical genius transcends the color of your skin and gender. To the logical mind, this would be a universal truth, but in a country that continues to enable oppressors – these lessons are necessary reminders to embrace people from other races and ethnicities.There are plenty of other more recent TV series and films on racism that also portray oppression against black people. For instance, the miniseries When They See Us on Netflix provides a gut-wrenching account of five young boys and the malicious prosecution and racial discrimination they were subjected to after being falsely accused of the assault and rape of a white young woman, Trisha Melli, in 1989. The case later became known as the Central Park Jogger case. Three of the teens convicted in the case were Black while two of them were Caucasian and Latino. Despite the incident occurring more than 30 years, very little has changed since in terms of bungled trials and unfair sentencing. The miniseries exposes uncomfortable truths and prods at your conscience to understand and recognize what black people go through every day.For those who are looking to learn about the history of the Black Lives Matter movement and how it evolved, I highly recommend that you watch the Netflix Documentary, Stay Woke.Another film, Selma, focuses on Martin Luther King Jr. and the difficulties faced by him and other nonviolent activists as they fought for African-American citizens and their constitutional right to vote. It is an illuminating account of how King struggled to gain the support of even those who cast praise for his work. The film confronts black repression and segregation and highlights the racial strife that formed a significant part of the political climate in the 1960s.
The Downside: Movies that Perpetuate Racial Stereotypes
The thing about art is that while it can be used to expose and confront the evils in society, it can also be used to normalize cruelty. The same applies here. While there are movies that highlight the struggle of black minorities, there are also movies that reinforce racial stereotypes and make matters worse.
For instance, the all-time classic “Gone With the Wind” has often been subject to criticism for its interpretation of slavery and the American civil war. The movie was recently removed from HBO Max in response to the protests that have taken place. It stereotypes persons of color and glorifies the underlying horrors of slavery. Those who are unaware of the nuances that surround the abolition of slavery in the USA will be easily susceptible to the ideas presented in the film.
Of course, one may argue about separating fact from fiction and appreciating the movie for its brazen female protagonist and other elements that make it a timeless classic. However, doing so only escalates the problem. By compartmentalizing and ignoring the blatant racism on display in such movies, we are effectively enabling those who continue to believe that being racist is okay.
There are countless such examples littered across other Hollywood movies that insult an entire race. The presence of such films further highlights the need for more movies that can kill this hate-driven narrative and portray the lives of black people with greater accuracy and spread awareness.
IN A NUTSHELL
There are several films on racism that serve as a necessary antidote to the blatant violation of human rights, which is woven into the very fabric of American society today. While they may not be able to bring large-scale reforms and magically remove discrimination from the country, they still create awareness and give a voice to the struggles of those that find it difficult to be heard.
The purpose is simple: We must shed our apathy and prompt ourselves into action in order to change the reality that confronts black people.
If you cannot swallow the uncomfortable and downright horrifying truths depicted in these films, then you must try and contribute toward building a world where minorities are no longer subject to hate, punishment, and emotional distress.
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