6 Documentaries To Watch To Educate Yourself On Systemic Racism

While we are showing support for and standing in solidarity with Black Lives Matter, and many of us are donating if we are able, it’s important to be as educated as possible on why this fight against police brutality and systemic racism is so important. Sadly, for many of us, our formal education on racism and civil rights stopped at the 1960s, and probably wasn’t nearly comprehensive enough to begin with, leaving out decades of important information.

As most of us are still spending a lot of time at home right now, this is the perfect time to get to work on being a more educated ally. Luckily, the streaming services you already spend all your time on have some amazing documentaries readily available. In the last few days, many activists like Dom Roberts and Kota Lovette have used their platforms to make some suggestions on what to watch. Of course, watching these movies is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of being a good ally, but here are some recommendations for where to get started.

’13th’ – Netflix


In this deeply unsettling doc, Ava DuVernay examines how, since the end of the Civil War, our country has perpetuated slavery through racist mechanisms like segregation and the War on Drugs. DuVernay explains why these structures have led to an enormous mass incarceration problem, and how corporations profit from keeping black people behind bars. While not an easy watch by any means, 13th does an unflinching job of illustrating how our legal system is rigged against black people.

‘I Am Not Your Negro’ – Amazon Prime

Writer and activist James Baldwin was a crucial voice in the Civil Rights Movement, and the film I Am Not Your Negro uses his own words to powerfully depict the ongoing struggle for equality in our country. Along with archival footage and recordings, Samuel L. Jackson narrates from one of Baldwin’s unfinished works, and the final result is a fascinating look at both James Baldwin’s life and his views on race. His words may be from decades ago, but they’re just as timely today.

‘LA 92’ – Netflix

You’ve probably heard a lot of references to the Rodney King riots, or the LA riots from the ’90s, but a lot of us don’t really have the proper context. Perhaps they should teach this stuff in schools? In 1992, protests broke out in LA in response to four police officers being found not guilty of using excessive force in a brutal arrest and beating of Rodney King. The whole thing was caught on video, and people were outraged that the officers were acquitted. More than 50 people were killed in the days of riots that followed, and many more were injured, and this documentary does an excellent job of teaching us about this landmark event.

‘O.J.: Made In America’ – Hulu

OJ Made In America

You probably know the general details of the O.J. Simpson trial, but this epic seven-hour documentary is an absolute must-watch. Of course, there’s the true crime element, which is incredibly interesting, but director Ezra Edelstein weaves O.J.’s story seamlessly with the background of what was happening in Los Angeles at the time. This includes the 1992 riots, and other events that led to an incredibly volatile relationship between the black community and the LAPD. This film is really a staggering feat of storytelling, and no matter how much you know about O.J., there’s plenty more to learn.

‘Knock Down The House’ – Netflix

Knock Down The House

The events happening now don’t exist in a vacuum—they’re the product of hundreds of years of racist policies and attitudes. If we are going to make meaningful changes moving forward, we have to have a government that will work for us, and Knock Down The House follows the efforts to make that a reality. The film follows Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and three other female grassroots candidates on their 2018 Congressional campaigns, and the institutional challenges designed to keep people like them out of power. I rewatched this over the weekend, and it’s one of the few things that has actually made me feel hopeful for the future.

‘The Death And Life Of Marsha P. Johnson’ – Netflix

Marsha P. Johnson

As we move into Pride month, it’s extremely important to remember that we owe the entire Pride movement to queer black people rioting for their rights. Marsha P. Johnson was an activist and trans woman who is known for being a primary figure in the Stonewall Riots of 1969. She was an icon in the queer community, until she died under mysterious circumstances in 1992. This documentary is both a celebration of her life, and an attempt to find justice for her death. If you plan on celebrating Pride this month, this should be on your viewing list.

There are no shortage of documentaries, movies, books, TV shows, and podcasts on important topics like these, so keep searching for resources to learn as much as possible. In this post, activist Dom Roberts shared some more recommendations of things to watch, all of which are great options.


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saw this quote, totally moved me. thank you guys for your lean in and support. i’m working on making more informational graphics with resources like books,podcasts, articles, etc. so you guys can stay informed and educated. thanks again for all the support you guys are incredible! also the link to give to george floyd’s memorial fund is in my bio! #justiceforgeorgefloyd

A post shared by Dom (@domrobxrts) on

It’s on all of us to do our part right now, and the least we can do is learn about why this fight is so important. If you have other movies, books, or shows you’ve found helpful, please leave them in the comments.

Images: Clay Banks / Unsplash; Courtesy of Netflix (4); ESPN Press Room; domrobxrts / Instagram

The Best TV Shows And Movies Coming To Netflix In May

Schools are almost out, and it’s time to relax and let loose. And by “let loose” I mean stay in on a Friday night for some Netflix and chill. There are some incredible original movies coming to the streaming platform this month, like Wine Country and Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile. Two totally different movie night-vibes there, but excited for both equally the same. I mean, a movie directed by Amy Poehler, and another starring Zac Efron? That’s pretty much all I could ever ask for in life! And from my streaming service nonetheless! Is that sad??? Maybe. Do I care??? Nope. So here are the TV shows and movies hitting Netflix this month that we’re most excited about, plus a few that we’re well, not so much.

1. ‘Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery’ & ‘Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me,’ May 1st

If you’ve been getting out your DVDs or VHS tapes to watch your favorite Austin Powers movies, then you’re an idiot and very behind on the times. But, no need to beat yourself up, you can now sit back and relax because these iconic movies will be available on Netflix as of May 1st. And, as if people don’t overuse Austin Powers movie references enough, expect them to be in full force this summer with these two titles now available for streaming. Guess you could say it’s both a blessing and a curse.

2. ‘Knock Down The House,’ May 1st

When I first saw this movie title, I assumed it was some Netflix interpretation of Bringing Down The House, an iconic cinematic masterpiece that I’d be super on board for a revival of. Unfortunately, it’s not. And even more unfortunately, it’s a political documentary. Again, I’m not the ideal customer for this kind of sh*t, considering my tastes in entertainment are superficial and far from deep. But, for those of you with more complex taste than myself, this documentary documents (woah, imagine that) four progressive women who ran for Congress in the midterm election, and one candidate’s ultimate success in doing so. It’s said to be hopeful and inspiring, so maybe I will actually put a pause on re-watching old Vanderpump Rules episodes to give this one a shot. I mean, I could use some hope and inspiration from someone other than Tom Sandoval to get me through my week, so we’ll see.

3. ‘Chasing Liberty,’ May 1st

Chasing Liberty is the epitome of a classic rom-com from the early 2000s. I mean, you have Mandy Moore at the height of her being Mandy Moore, playing the president’s daughter who can’t get the secret service off her back long enough to actually date boys. Tragic, right??? Tbh, idk if I’ve ever actually even seen this one, or if I’m just confusing it with that Disney channel movie with Hayden Panettiere that had basically the same exact plot. Either way, I now can’t get the song “My Date with the President’s Daughter” out of my head. Honestly, such a bop.

4. ‘Wedding Crashers,’ May 1st

Like, if this isn’t the best movie ever for staying in bed all day hungover, then I don’t know what is. Everyone loves Wedding Crashers, and this classic comedy hits Netflix this May, just in time to cure your Memorial Day hangover. Thanks for thinking of us, Netflix!!! It almost negates the fact that you’re increasing your monthly fee. Almost. Then again, wtf do I care, I don’t pay for this. Shouts out to whoever is, though, I appreciate you!!

5. ‘John Carter,’ May 2nd

I’m going to be honest, this is one I’ll probably skip. I had actually never even heard of this movie so I asked my sister’s boyfriend, who is a TV and movie connoisseur, about it and his exact summary was, “it’s a SciFi movie with good actors and a cute love story.” And sorry, but like, ya lost me at “SciFi.” I’m a religious watcher of Keeping Up With The Kardashians, so needless to say, I’m not really a SciFi gal. But for those of you interested, it’s a Disney movie based on a book, and is about an ex-military captain who somehow randomly wakes up on Mars (talk about the Sunday scaries) and is now faced with saving a bunch of randos. I mean, talk about “I didn’t sign up for this sh*t.”

6. ‘Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile,’ May 3rd

If you didn’t fall in love with Zac Efron as Troy Bolton in High School Musical, then you’re either too young or too old to be here rn. Stop what you’re doing and go watch this instant classic I think we can all agree that Zac Efron is a babe. And he has only gotten hotter with age. HOW?!?! And he’s going to be playing Ted Bundy, the infamous serial killing heartthrob??? Sign me up! I mean, in all seriousness, it’s kind of dangerous that he’s playing this character. It’s totally just going to further confuse hopeless romantics everywhere, making them believe that the serial killer-like tendencies of the guy they’re dating (but like actually, beyond just not texting you back for three days) are just something you can “fix.” Just kidding. But I will be excited to watch this.

7. ‘Lucifer’ Season 4, May 8th

So like, I don’t watch this show but maybe I should, because people are pretty hype for its return. Season 4 comes to Netflix this month, and like I just said before, people are stoked. Apparently, this show has some real stans because after it was canceled by Fox after season 3, fans campaigned for it to come back. I mean, just because something has passionate, loyal fans doesn’t mean it’s a winner *cough cough Donald Trump* but this show does look kind of good. And the lead guy is hot as sh*t, so that’s probs reason enough for me to give it a whirl.

8. ‘Wine Country,’ May 10th

Well, when you have a new movie starring half the adult cast of Mean Girls, you know you’re in store for a treat. Not to mention, it also has Maya Rudolph, Rachel Dratch, and Paula Pell. Plus, as if that star-studded cast isn’t enough, the whole thing is directed by Amy Poehler. Expect your Insta feed to be flooded with stories of girls having wine nights together to watch this movie. And no shade to them, cause I’ll be grabbing my gals and doing the same. I mean, the premise is a girl’s weekend, very basic plot line. And like, if the cast wasn’t so good, then it would probs be a movie I’d never see. But, with a cast of women who genuinely make me laugh with everything they do, I’ll have this in my queue the day it comes out.

9. ‘Wanda Sykes: Not Normal,’ May 21st

Wanda Sykes’ first one hour Netflix special comes this month, titled “Wanda Sykes: Not Normal.” Apparently the special surrounds our current f*cked-up political and cultural climate. And considering how f*cked-up the world truly is right now, there’s no doubt in my mind Wanda will have some great jokes for us on the matter. Bring it on, Wanda.

10. ‘When They See Us,’ May 31st

This is a limited miniseries surrounding the wrongful conviction of five men of color over a female jogger who was beaten and raped. It’s based on the true story of the Central Park Five and documents the breakdown of our criminal justice system. Honestly, the trailer is chilling, and if that’s not enough reason to watch, recently admittedly guilty Felicity Huffman is a main character in the drama. And, she’s playing the assistant district attorney who presided over the case and was a huge contributor to the infamous f*ck-up. Ironic, I know.

There are tons of other popular titles on the list coming for May that I’ve heard of, yet haven’t seen. So if I didn’t mention your beloved movie or show (like, relax Hairspray stans) there’s no need to come for me. Feel free to utilize the comments section for good, and promote said movie or show that you clearly feel so irrationally passionate about. If that’s what helps you sleep at night, who am I to stop you?

Images: @charlesdeluvio / Unsplash; GIPHY (5)