By: Alex Ruf
Every month the Stop Hate Project lists one action item that individuals can do to combat hate and strengthen their communities. In an already divisive and inflammatory climate, June has been a particularly challenging month. With a series of disappointing Supreme Court decisions, we are reminded that the fight for justice is far from over.
As movements grow in support of marginalized communities and against policies that further alienate and harm communities, we have compiled a list of movies and books, old and new, that we recommend to both inform and provide perspective on the historical context of today’s climate. We hope our “Summer Reading List” can contribute to an informed movement against hate.
A Raisin in the Sun (1961); PG: Mirroring the play A Raisin in the Sun written by Lorraine Hansberry, this movie was released in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement. It tells of the struggles of an African-American family in Chicago, Illinois, who has just lost their husband and father. The family, the Youngers, often disagree on what they are to do with the life insurance check they are expecting to receive as a result of their family’s recent loss. The Youngers are faced with issues of unhappiness and life dissatisfaction, money and finances,and crude racism when attempting to better their lives. A Raisin in the Sun projects the crucial, relatable story of many African-American families in the 1960s onto the big screen.
Hidden Figures (2016); PG: Given a 93% Rotten Tomatoes score, the movie Hidden Figures (based off the book authored by Margot Lee Shetterly) tells the unrecognized story of three African-American women who worked for NASA as “West Computers,” where they acted as human computers that solved and formulated calculations by hand. This movie highlights the work and contributions of these three remarkable women to the historic launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit, at a time when racism and sexism in the workplace are paramount. This amazing accomplishment turned the Space Race around while simultaneously catching the attention of the world, drawing attention to issues of sexism and racism in the workplace.
Selma (2014); PG-13: Taking place in 1965, Selma tells the historic story of the battle of African Americans to earn the right to vote—that persisted even after segregation was ended. After a less-than-productive interaction between President Lyndon B. Johnson and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. heads to Selma, Alabama, where African Americans represent more than half of the population but are still denied access to voting. This film puts the bloody and lethal path that results in the end of voting restrictions for African Americans in the spotlight, narrowing in on just one of the many movements set in motion to achieve equality for African Americans.
The 13th (2016); NR: In an engaging, almost mindboggling way, The 13th zooms in on the issue of mass incarceration in the United States, and how exactly we managed to get here. With staggering statistics, graphics, and interviews from experts, The 13th displays in an undeniable way how racism continues to exist and thrive in the 21st century. It explains the timeline of the War on Drugs, and how both Republican and Democratic administrations contributed to America’s overreliance on the prison system. Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (a recommended book on this list!) plays a substantial role in explaining the racist history behind the prison system in the United States.
I Am Not Your Negro (2017); PG-13: Given a 98% Rotten Tomatoes score, this documentary film is based off James Baldwin’s (the author of The Fire Next Time, a recommended book on our list!) unfinished manuscript of Remember This House, and his work on the lives as well as the assassinations of civil rights leaders Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King Jr. It asks the uncomfortable but needed questions about American race relations, including black representation in certain spheres of life such as Hollywood, and reminds viewers that more progress is still needed.
* Do The Right Thing (1989); R
* Amistad (1997); R
* Stand and Deliver (1988); PG
* Lincoln (2012); PG-13
* Judgment at Nuremburg (1961); PG-13
Evicted by Matthew Desmond: Written by Harvard sociologist Matthew Desmond, Evicted explores the poverty-stricken neighborhoods of Milwaukee, Michigan. Personal stories are collected through Desmond’s extensive fieldwork, and through this, the true prevalence of the economic exploitation and eviction experienced by minorities comes to light. The illusion that housing developments are easily accessible to everyone is shattered, and readers are thrust into the real-life issues of poverty and fair housing that many Americans face.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot: Henrietta Lacks was a poor black tobacco farmer—but she quickly became known as HeLa to scientists. Her cells, nicknamed HeLa, were taken without her knowledge during a cervical-cancer biopsy. HeLa cells reproduced infinitely in the lab, and have been used ever since—without giving her credit, or her family any portion of the profits, or obtaining official permission—to make revolutionary advances in medicine, such as in vitro fertilization and the development of the polio vaccine. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks works to give long, overdue credit to a black woman who gave birth to many scientific possibilities, while also demonstrating the unfair treatment of African American patients (particularly African American women) by doctors and other professionals.
When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir by Patrisse Khan-Cullors and Asha Bandele: Authored by two activists and one of the people behind the Black Lives Matter Movement, published at the very beginning of 2018, When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir recounts personal anecdotes for the purpose of showing the reader, and society, what life is like for a black woman in the United States. Separated into two parts, the book includes the harsh reality of family members in prison (Khan-Cullors being arrested herself when she was only 12), and mental illness. The memoir proves not only the vital importance and power of the Black Lives Matter movement but the necessity of it as well. When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir allows readers to see, through personal accounts, how America looks through the eyes of African Americans.
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander: This well-received book explains how racism is adaptable, and easily adjusts itself to current climates and atmospheres so that it can continue to persist. She narrows in on the uniquely American issue of mass incarceration and the War on Drugs’ vast role in it. She looks at the role of unconscious bias, stigma, and the lack of opportunities afforded to many people of color in the United States. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness identifies and explains how racism manages to manifest itself in 21st century America—particularly in ways we may not ever even think of.
The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin: Consisting of two separate essays, The Fire Next Time aims to educate white people about what it is like to be a black man in America during the 1960s. The first essay, dedicated to Baldwin’s nephew, urges him and readers to seek change for upcoming generations and to come to terms with America’s unequal and unfair history. Although anger and resentment towards white people, on the behalf of black people, is justified, Baldwin insists that anger and violence will not solve the racial inequity present in the United States. He advances messages of both love and acceptance from all people, while also advocating that although white Americans may be unaware of the oppression that they partake in, they must understand it so that they can work towards changing it.
* So You Want To Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
* Kindred by Octavia Butler
* Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism by Safiya Umoja Noble
* Waking Up White, and Finding Myself in the Story of Race by Debby Irving
* Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X
Alex Ruf is an intern with the Stop Hate Project and is a rising Senior at Wake Forest University in North Carolina.