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AV Brew – Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America

Race relations in America are at a tipping point, once again, can we move forward, honestly, this time?

If I had to boil down the thesis of Jeffrey Robinson’s lecture, Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America to a sentence, racism in America is as older than the U.S.A. itself. Using archival video, reviewing historical and current law, and the US Constitution, Robinson details how ingrained racism is in the country’s history as policy, not just in the people’s minds. However, he does it with a sense of hope. Robinson states that race relations in America have been a roller coaster that has reached tipping points several times in the past 4 centuries and then rolled backward. The last one was around the time of the killing of Martin Luther King, Jr. America can either move forward to a more just society or return to Jim Crow.  

Robinson, a former attorney with the ACLU, has been delivering his presentation across the country for the past decade. He found inspiration to research and start the lecture when he became the father to a 15-year nephew in the early 2000s. His mission is to educate as many as possible so that as a country we use this tipping point to improve the lives of Black Americans instead of watching things roll back again.

The lecture uses several events in history to make his point. From the beginning of slavery in America through the Reconstruction Era then to the Civil Rights Movement of the 60s.  He delves into several lynchings that I had not heard about previously and he included interviews with the family members of the victims. Robinson also interviews lesser-known changemakers of today, such as the city council member in St. Louis who fought successfully to have Confederate statues removed from the city.   

The directors, Emily and Sarah Kunstler, through their production company Off Center Media, captured the passion of Robinson’s lecture. The 3-hour lecture is edited down to about 90-minutes so there was time for the interviews and historical videos. They picked the perfect places to insert archival videos and interviews. These choices provided additional depth to the lecture.  

Robinson infuses the lecture with stories of how race has impacted him personally throughout his life. He speaks about how his parents had to use a friend to purchase the house he grew up in because the owners wouldn’t sell to a Black family. He also discusses his experience of attending school as one of only a handful of African-American students there.

In recent years, there have been several documentaries about racism in America, this one separates itself with more personalized storytelling. As I’m a history lover, I appreciate the work Robinson has done to create the lecture and documentary. However, in some places, it’s preaching to the choir and I wonder if his message will be able to escape the echo chamber.

Currently only available in movie theatres and worth the watch.

To see Sherri’s interview with Robinson and the Kunstler Sisters go here.

4 stars out of 5

About Simply Sherri (50 Articles)
Poet, writer, movie nerd and historian.

1 Comment on AV Brew – Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America

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