Black Lives Matter

by Craig B.

Black Lives Matter is an organization that was founded in 2013 after George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch coordinator in Sanford, Florida, was acquitted for fatally shooting Trayvon Martin, a Black teenager who was walking through his neighborhood. Since that time, Black Lives Matter has been one of the most active and vocal supporters for racial equality. Their hope is “to connect Black people from all over the world who have a shared desire for justice to act together in their communities. The impetus for that commitment was, and still is, the rampant and deliberate violence inflicted on us by the state.”

In light of the recent death of George Floyd, who was killed while in police custody, and the subsequent worldwide protests that have resulted from it, many community leaders and institutions have stepped up to raise awareness of the systemic bias committed against citizens by the very institutions created to protect them. Following is a list of documentaries I have recently watched on the topic. They can all be viewed on Kanopy or Hoopla for free using your Sno-Isle library card.

The Central Park Five

Through interviews and original footage, documentarian Ken Burns presents a thorough account of the events that transpired on April 19, 1989, when Trisha Meili was raped and beaten while jogging in Central Park. Five Black and Hispanic boys were subsequently charged and found guilty of the crime. Their guilt was based on their own confessions, which they asserted had been coerced from them by the police. This film made me angry. It exposed the all-too-common reality that our nation’s judicial system is prejudicially biased against people of color; it certainly was in this case.

Peace Officer

Davis County Sheriff William ‘Dub’ Lawrence founded Utah’s first SWAT team in the 70’s. In 2008, he would watch that same unit kill his son-in-law. Fueled by this personal tragedy, Lawrence investigates several subsequent Utah cases involving officer aggression and argues that the police bear a portion of the guilt by needlessly escalating the violence in citizen contact situations. Peace Officer plaintively argues that the militarization of the police force is not the answer to America’s problems.

White Like Me

Before he became an anti-racist activist, Tim Wise grew up in the south and saw polarizing political figures like David Duke, former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, rise to positions of prominence in government. Duke held political office in the Louisiana House of Representatives for only a few years. His subsequent campaigns for U.S. Senate and Louisiana Governorship were unsuccessful. What shocked Mr. Wise wasn’t that David Duke lost…it was that he still managed to get 60% of the white vote on both occasions. This led him to ask the basic question, “What does it mean to be white?” Wise explores that question by scrutinizing the systemic racism that has existed in American laws and culture from our nation’s founding, and asserts that it is “dangerous and damaging…when white people, like me, are blind to racial inequality and our own privileges.”

I hope you find these titles as informational as I did. To see even more titles, check out my list. As always, we’d love for you to share with us what you’re watching and reading. Tell us what gems you’ve discovered, or better yet, create a list of your own.

Black Lives Matter

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6 responses to “Black Lives Matter”

  1. Alyssa says:

    Love it. Thank you so much for sharing these documentaries.

    • Craig Burgess says:

      You’re welcome! Actually, a lot of these documentaries already show up on a BLM list in Kanopy. I highly recommend checking out their list as well.

  2. hubackerg says:

    Thank you! At least two of these I have heard about and have wanted to see. Appreciate your drawing attention to their (and others) availability.

  3. Isaac H. says:

    Thank you for sharing this Craig! One of the best reads I’ve encountered that highlights systemic racism within the American criminal Justice System is the Michelle Alexander book The New Jim Crow. It highlights everything from police accountability, juror discretion, and sentencing guidelines.

    • Craig Burgess says:

      I’ve really been wanting to read that! I should add it to my increasingly unwieldy list of books I’ve been meaning to get to but haven’t yet.

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