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5 Shows to Stream for Allies

One of the more frequent questions by non-black allies is how they can help Black people when dealing with systemic racism, whether experienced at a macro or micro level. These questions are primarily asked when problematic behavior becomes highlighted by the media or local conversations concerning white supremacy or racism. For many Black people, this question occurs frequently and can feel redundant. Below is a non-ranked list of movies and shows for non-black allies to watch that will provide insight and a deeper look at issues negatively impacting Black people.

The first suggestion is a TV series from HBO called “We Own this City," which aired in 2022. The show has several noticeable actors including Treat Williams, Wunmi Mosaku, Jon Bernthal and Rob Brown. They collectively bring to life a show centered around the stories of police officers working in Baltimore, Maryland, following the death of Freddy Gray. This show offers a rare look deep within the minds of police officers of various ranks that illustrates a clearer image of police culture. Each of the police officers portrayed on the show are based on real-life police officers that worked in the Baltimore area. This show can be streamed via HBO Max and only has one season available.

Another series offering insight and entertainment is "Dear White People," based on the controversial movie-turned-Netflix series. This series explores many social issues experienced by Black youth within the realm of higher education. It often shows the struggle of juggling the complexities of college life and some everyday issues like micro-aggressions, cultural appropriation, using the n-word and others associated with the experience of Black students attending predominantly white colleges and universities. This series currently has four seasons available for streaming on Netflix.

"Black-ish" is a TV show that aired on the ABC network for eight phenomenal seasons. The show was led by cast members Anthony Anderson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Jennifer Lewis and Laurence Fishburne. As a result of the show's success, it also highlighted the careers of Daveed Diggs, Peter Mackenzie, Yara Shahidi, Marsai Martin and Marcus Scribner. The show was a modern-day sitcom centered around an upper-class Black family living in a suburban city in California. The show covers a large variety of issues that impact people within the Black diaspora, both internally and externally. The topics portrayed and discussed include racial profiling, white privilege, colorism, attending Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and many other topics. While some of the topics on this usually light-hearted show are handled with a sense of humor, there are other notable moments where other topics are handled in a more serious tone. Black-ish can be streamed on Hulu and Disney+, with reruns of the show available on your local ABC network.

The fourth suggestion is a series that serves as an autobiography of the life of Colin Kaepernick, titled "Colin in Black & White." This award-winning series was created by Colin Kaepernick and Ava DuVernay in 2021. It recounts the childhood of Kaepernick, as a biracial teenager adopted by white parents living in California. As he attempts to find his place in the world as a student in high school, Kaepernick is confronted by a multitude of circumstances concerning his blackness. The series has a contemplative view of some serious situations that Kaepernick and his parents are forced to confront, with moments that break into humor. n This series only has one season and is available to stream on Netflix.

The last suggestion on this list is, "When They See Us," another product of Ava DuVernay. This docu-series debuted in 2019 and won dozens of awards and nominations. The series is based on the true-life story of five teenagers who were wrongfully arrested and imprisoned for the rape of a woman in Central Park, also referred to by the media as the "Central Park Five." This series illustrates the lives of the five children and their families as they attempt to navigate a world that assumes their guilt based on their culture and skin color, rather than the evidence. The drama mini-series is incredibly emotional and gritty as it exposes a darker side of the Black experience that happens every day within court rooms and police departments across America. This series is a Netflix exclusive and remains available for streaming.

It must be said that merely watching any series, movie or documentary concerning the Black American experience is not enough to grasp the full complexity and nuance of what life is like as a Black person living in America. For a more complete understanding, there must be introspection, learning and a will to listen to their personal experiences. These actions will help to develop a sense of empathy and a conviction to act, which are some of the more important tools to possess to begin working as an ally.

-Cliff A May


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