Here at TGON, we’ve always tried to be a port in the storm. In this digital age, where the news cycles are 24 hours, our site has maintained that people, fans, nerds, YOU, need something to escape to. We still believe this, we still support this definite necessity to turn your mind off for a brief moment. It doesn’t mean that we can’t take steps to ensure that our silence is not read as complicity. We want all of our marginalized Blerds (Black Nerds) to know that we’ve got your back and will always be there to buffet you in any way we can.
To that effect, I thought a listicle of media that has shone a light on systematic racism would be a helpful resource for allies and marginalized people alike. This is by no means exhaustive; I recommend researching Black women writers, sociologists, and professors like Audre Lorde, Angela Davis, Toni Morrison, and Octavia Butler for insight into the insidious nature of racism and its deep lasting effects on Black people (research ‘generational trauma’ for context). The following run the gamut of media: television series, films, documentaries, books, essays. It’s something to dive into so you can become a) learned about the plight of Black people throughout the U.S. and/or b) an advocate for how to assist in the fight for quality. Without further ado, here are some old favorites and new preferences of mine:
In the Heat of the Night (1967); starring Sidney Poitier as Philadelphia detective Virgil Tibbs, this film was a departure for the turbulent 60’s. Having a Black man star as an authority figure-visiting family in the extreme deep south of Mississippi, was not the done thing for a feature film. With Rod Steiger as Chief Gillespie, we see an instant showcase of racism at work. As Det. Tibbs is minding his business at the train depot, he’s arrested on suspicion of murder. Of a white man. In Mississippi. The lynch mob literally gathers, even after Det. Tibbs is cleared and given leave by his chief in Philadelphia to assist with the case. It’s a stark reminder that even a Black person in a position of relative power can be denigrated to the lowest common denominator by people clamoring for a race war.
Without a doubt, the best part of this film is Det. Tibbs slapping the white off of the big shot planter/racist in town, Endicott. The famous line “They call me Mr. Tibbs!” comes out of that scene and it is still soul-stirring. In the Heat of the Night can be streamed on Amazon Prime or Vudu.
The 1619 Project (2019)
The ambitious brainchild of New York Times Magazine writer and reporter Nikole Hannah Jones, this sprawling special edition glossy and newspaper accompaniment launched April of 2019. Titled after the true date of the American colonies’ capitalist introduction, when white British subjects “imported” 20 to 30 enslaved Africans, the journalistic masterpiece contends the true start of this country called “America” has its ugly roots in August of 1619. When that English privateer’s ship landed in Point Comfort, VA, the disproportionate socioeconomic and discriminatory conditions that plague the Black community began a 400 plus stampede to the 21st century.
As the project is under the New York Times banner, my suggestion is to not provide that newspaper of record any additional funding. With their history of “whataboutism” and “both sides need to be heard,” the Times’ inflammatory op-ed pieces have caused more harm than good. Instead, I urge you to support your local libraries and check out The 1619 Project there.
From celebrated filmmaker Ava DuVernay, this documentary exposes the deep-seated secret of the U.S. Constitution’s thirteenth amendment. The little-known addition reads:
“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”
Read that bolded sentence over; “except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted…” It’s the legalized form of enslavement for those convicted of a crime. And the statistics show that Black, Brown, and Indigenous people are the most likely to be affected by the school-to-prison pipeline, the 3 strikes law, and imprisonment for petty crime. DuVernay’s work is a blend of archival footage, news captures, and original interviews that show just how the U.S. profits from free labor presently. Private prisons are a huge part of the prison industrial complex and those same private prisons make a lot of money for the people that invest and own them: white men. 13th subverts the notion of “do the crime, pay the time.” It breaks down how the justice system is set up against the poor (i.e. Cash bail, public defenders without proper resources), the minority (i.e. Majority white cops in Black communities), and keeps all of the above imprisoned (i.e. Biased parole boards, parole officers, vindictive prosecutors). It’s a system that was designed when the amendment was passed and it works to perfection to this day.
These are just a few of the works that can inspire, educate, and encourage people to be allies and advocates to Black folk and other marginalized people around the world. Don’t be afraid to research resources and be a change for others.
Stay tuned for part II of the series next week, only on TGON.
Check out the following for resources to support the #BlackLivesMatter movement across the country:
https://justiceforbigfloyd.com (George Floyd)
https://justiceforbreonna.org (Breonna Taylor)