‘Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America’ Review: Social Studies

In a documentary constructed around a lecture from 2018, the lawyer Jeffery Robinson presents a persuasive look at United States history.

It’s unlikely that any lecture documentary since “An Inconvenient Truth” has had the galvanizing potential of “Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America” — and if that sounds like faint praise, it isn’t meant that way.

The film presents a talk that the lawyer Jeffery Robinson (a former deputy legal director at the A.C.L.U.) gave at Town Hall in New York on Juneteenth 2018. His subject is nothing less than the history of anti-Black racism in the United States.

For Robinson’s arguments, the historical evidence is in plain sight, yet much of it, as he promises, may be new to many viewers. He shows how the text of Article V of the Constitution shielded slavery from amendments until 1808, reads from Confederate states’ secession statements and has a chorus perform the disfavored third verse of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

The film, directed by Emily Kunstler and Sarah Kunstler (daughters of the Chicago Seven lawyer William Kunstler), intersperses scenes of Robinson traveling the country. He visits Charleston, where fingerprints from slave labor can still be seen; Staten Island, where he meets with Eric Garner’s mother; and his native Memphis, where his parents had to devise a workaround to buy a home as a Black family.

Robinson brings nuance to topics — unconscious bias, reparations, how to deal with the fact that George Washington owned slaves — that have become flash points in society, without ever losing the core of his progressive message. It’s a confrontational film, but never an alienating one, and so much of what’s in it is persuasive.

Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America
Rated PG-13. Discussion and imagery of racist violence, and derogatory language. Running time: 1 hour 57 minutes. In theaters.

Source: Movies -


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