Arts, Movies, Review

‘Who We Are’ Serves to Educate and Analyze During Black History Month


As February marks the annual celebration of Black History Month, much of the social and political debate regarding how to honor Black history involves educating Americans on unsettling historical truths. The documentary Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America presents facts about the ubiquity of slavery in the U.S. and explains how white supremacy has always had a central role in the country’s affluence. 

Part lecture and part investigative documentary, the film follows lawyer Jeffery Robinson as he visits monuments and speaks with families who have been severely impacted by racial violence. 

Segments of a lecture that Robinson gave on Juneteenth in 2018 show Robinson as contemplative, earnest, and fascinating. He educates audiences on moments in history where prejudice against Black people was overlooked, admitting that much of the history is unfamiliar to him. 

The film prompts audience members to confront deeper questions regarding how racism is inherent to this country and the prosperity of its more privileged citizens. 

In one segment, Robinson visits a former site for slave auctions in Charleston, S.C., learning that the building used for the auctions was built by slave labor. 

It serves as a stark reminder that cities across the U.S. were built using slave labor, and almost all of the pushback against the freedom of slaves lay in the need to preserve cheap labor to keep profits high. Now considered the wealthiest country in the world, the U.S. began this trajectory by profiting off the ownership of other people. 

More of an educational piece than an artistic film, Who We Are is still engaging and well organized, as Robinson’s lecture serves as an effective framework with which he can easily move from one historical event to another.

Presenting more realistic and jarring answers about the history of racism and events of prejudice that are regularly overlooked in the country, the documentary is essential viewing for Americans who have been denied proper teachings on Black history. 

Robinson makes it clear that there are many more examples of injustices to Black men and women that are not widely recognized by the broader population. But, the creators of the film could not fit everything into its two-hour runtime. 

The documentary emphasizes how there is still more to learn regarding the centuries of prejudice Americans caused or were complicit in. A crucial watch, Who We Are and Robinson’s teachings offer a reliable way to engage with and learn more about Black history.

Featured Image Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

February 6, 2022

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