The Documentary ‘Who We Are’ Examines How Racism Is Deeply Rooted in America

Jeffery Robinson, a former deputy legal director at the A.C.L.U.,of the documentary "Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America." Image: courtesy of Sony Picture Classics.

A lecture that attorney Jeffery Robinson, a former deputy legal director at the A.C.L.U., gave at a Town Hall in New York on Juneteenth in 2018 has become a documentary that further explores the long history of racism in America.

“Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America,” is a documentary that features Robinson giving a historical overview of just how deeply white supremacy is interwoven into the fabric of the American project and its effect on Black people.

According to the description of the film, “Robinson faces his largest audience, asking all of us to examine who we are, where we come from, and who we want to be.  Anchored by Robinson’s Town Hall performance, the film interweaves historical and present-day archival footage, Robinson’s personal story, and vérité and interview footage capturing Robinson’s meetings with Black changemakers and eyewitnesses to history.

Directed by Emily Kunstler and Sarah Kunstler, who are daughters of the Chicago Seven lawyer William Kunstler, Robinson travels the country touching down on various locales that are significant to the 400-year plus journey of African Americans.

He makes stops to Charleston SC that still bears the marks of slavery’s evil past, Staten Island to meet Eric Garner’s mother, his hometown of Memphis, where his parents had hatched a scheme to purchase their family home, the site of a 1947 lynching in rural Alabama, and he argues with a man over the Confederate flag.

While the documentary highlights their persuasive nature of anti-Black sentiment and the reality that racism plays in the daily lives of African Americans, Robinson found hope in the Black Lives Matter Movement.

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“The possibility of radical change is in the air,” he said. “The things they’re saying about Black Lives Matter today are the exact same things they said about Martin Luther King in the ’60s.”

Who We Are will be screened in select theaters in New York and Los Angeles beginning on January 14 through January 17.

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