Kids, Movies, and Diversity – Let’s Be Intentional

Kids, Movies, and Diversity – Let’s Be Intentional March 31, 2016


“It’s really cool how all of a sudden there’s all of these black movies and stuff out now,” my 13 year old said to me recently.

I didn’t really know how to respond. That’s not exactly what I wanted him to learn from our modified viewing habits. But I knew what he meant.

It was Black History Month, and we were taking in new items of pop culture, and had been for awhile – The Black Panthers documentary, the Misty Copeland documentary and photo shoot, Selma, Beyoncé, magazines featuring Black Lives Matter, and non-stop Hamilton (I’m talking non-stop).

And so I’m sure it seemed like to him that there was no black pop culture and now all of a sudden there is. (Which isn’t true, obviously.)

But it did make me stop and think about why we’re diversifying what culture we take in. Why do we have He Named Me Malala and McFarland, USA on our DVR?

And I  realized that for me, part of parenting is being intentional about creating opportunities for my kids to engage with people and cultures different from us. It weighs heavy on me knowing that if we default to what is easy and natural, our entire social world would be mostly white. It is worth the extra effort to find movies and documentaries to rent or record.

My white kids need to understand that they are not the center of the universe, no matter what society tells them, and that there is so much beauty and creativity in diversity.

They need to learn the long history of cultural achievements that aren’t white. I want them to learn that the world is wide enough. And I need to create the spaces necessary for that to happen, so that when the next big thing comes around, they will be better equipped to understand and appreciate the work.

Like when we talked about the Black Panthers and the Super Bowl Halftime Show, and my 8 year old finally understood why the dancers were dressed as they were – “That’s their way of saying thank you.”

Movies aren’t the end point of engaging with diversity, of course, but they can be an easy entry point. I mean if we use the TV as a babysitter anyways, we might as well have a curious and cultured one, right?

You’ll need to check your local listings (and I think most of these are probably on Netflix), but here’s a list of a few movies to get you started.

My Louisiana Love

Children of Syria

A Place At the Table

The Square

Eyes on the Prizethis one is so fantastic!

Focus on Europe

Global Voices – international documentaries

Standing on Sacred Ground

America Reframed

Independent Lens

Waste Land

Latino Americans

People of a Feather

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  • Brandon Roberts

    to me i have no problem as long as it isn’t forced just to appease some demographic who will probaly be upset anyways

    • Ah, you mean like the “Token” minority whose entire characterization is that he or she is a minority? Or the minority character who only ever shows up in episodes about how being prejudiced against minorities is wrong? Yeah, those don’t play too well with the demographics they’re supposed to “appease” either, for some reason.

    • Andre B

      ugh, i know, right? minorities, always upset about something.


      • Brandon Roberts

        well not all most are good decent people who don’t throw tantrums for their way hell most of the time it’s white college student who’s getting upset on another race’s behalf (to be fair i probaly should’ve worded it diffrently

      • Paige Turner

        Ugly skinny pssy boy

      • Marshall P


        • Andre B


    • oe_leiderhosen

      What do you mean by “forced”?

      A lot of people seem to assume that a big presence of people of color, LGBTQ people, etc. is just “forced diversity,” with the implied assumption that they need a “reason” to be in the narrative.

      But when a piece of media has a majority (or entirely) white, straight, abled, etc. cast, no one asks why, or talks about unnatural LACK of diversity. When Amelie took place in a neighborhood in Paris known for its vast racial diversity, then somehow only had white people populating its streets, residents of the real-life neighborhood were angry because the diversity was erased for no good reason. The whiteness was “forced,” you could say. Of course, the filmmakers and many others brushed the criticisms aside.

      People of color, disabled people, trans people, etc. exist in real life for “no reason,” they just exist. It should be the same in our media.

      • Brandon Roberts

        let me be clear. i mean when something major about an established character is changed or a character of a certain ethnicity or gender is jjust thrown in that doesn’t help in any way shape or form and is just there to pander to the pc crowd i’d love more major strong colored or female main characters but only if there’s a reason or they don’t make a big deal out of it and treat them just like they would a caucasian protagonists

  • jekylldoc

    The world is such a rich place, but diversity is like sports – you get more out of it if you put more into it. It is astonishing to me that there are so many who will sit in boredom with yet another formulaic piece of “entertainment” rather than engage the world outside their comfort zone. In some ways having children saves the parents, because we are asked to explain things that we are therefore able to see with fresh eyes.