Black Boys

Movie review by
Melissa Camacho, Common Sense Media
Black Boys Movie Poster Image
Insightful, earnest docu about racism's toll on Black boys.
  • NR
  • 2020
  • 95 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

It discusses how ongoing, systematic racism is taking its toll on Black boys, and how it continues to impact how they see themselves and the choices they make. It also highlights how Black boys and men are not limited to the opportunities seemingly defined by society. Pervasive, normalized stereotypes are simply deconstructed by looking at the historical foundations of the political, economic, and social systems of the United States, which produced and reinforced slavery and subsequent racist beliefs and attitudes about Black men. It also reveals the different, but continual, ways Black men are forced to think about themselves and negotiate their place within these systems every day.  

Positive Role Models

A cast of Black athletes, activists, journalists, educators, etc. offer their thoughts about what systemic problems exist, and some reveal what they are trying to do to help Black young men. Black teens from different parts of the country are also featured. 

Violence

Shows violent news footage of Black boys and men being harassed, assaulted, and shot by police. Cast members share stories of racism, abuse, shooting deaths, etc. Trauma (including that which is caused by encounters with police) and PTSD are discussed. Archival footage shows Black men lynched or hanged, but this offered in a historical context. Conversations about White people being fearful of Black men due to common stereotypes and the result of systemic problems are also discussed. 

Sex

Stereotypes about Black men and sexual aggression towards White women is discussed. 

Language

Words like "damn" and curses like "f-k" are audible. 

Consumerism

Logos for brands like Nike and Under Armor are visible. The exploitation of Black men to make money for White people is discussed. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Drug use is referred to occasionally, and there are subtle references to selling drugs. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Black Boys is an insightful documentary about the toll racism is taking on Black boys in the United States. With the help of athletes, scholars, activists, and young Black men, it addresses topics ranging from the perpetuation of systemic racism to how young Black men view themselves and their futures in a racist world. There’s some cursing ("f-k" and "damn"), some references to drug use, and conversations about violent acts committed against Black men. Historical photographs of men being lynched or hanged, and news media footage of of Black men being assaulted, shot, or suffocated, is also shown. White reinforcement is discussed, but the importance of the White community’s participation in conversations about racism and supporting Black men is also highlighted. Adults may want to watch with their teens to kick off conversations about the different ways racism is reinforced in society, and the different ways non-Black communities can be a part of enacting lasting, long-overdue change.

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What's the story?

Executive produced by NFL player Malcolm Jenkins, BLACK BOYS is a documentary that explores the toll racism is taking on Black boys in America. It offers an in-depth discussion of how Black boys’ bodies, minds, voices, and hearts are viewed in the United States, and how this forces them to operate in a space that is not hospitable to them, simply based on the color of their skin. Interviews with athletes like Greg Scruggs, scholars like Harry Edwards, journalists like Jemele Hill, artists like Vic Mensa, and a wide array of other Black activists help deconstruct how the country’s political, economic, and social systems -- the foundations of which go back to the days of slavery -- continue to inform the way we think about, and treat, Black boys and men today. Conversations with diverse groups of young Black men reveal their thoughts and fears about what it feels like to be a Black man in America, and how it both challenges and drives them. 

Is it any good?

This intelligent documentary offers an in-depth look into what it really means to be a Black man in America. It deconstructs conventional stereotypes that continue to perpetuate things like the White commodification of the Black body through sports, the justification of violence against Black men by law enforcement, and the systematic creation of opportunity gaps due to a lack of public funding and other support for majority-Black school districts. The film explores the impact these issues have on how Black boys see themselves, how they build self-confidence, and their ability to understand that their choices are not as limited as society makes them out to be.

Black Boys discusses the systematic reinforcement of Whiteness in the United States, and offers this conversation within the context of showing how Black men living in this country have to think about their Blackness in every aspect of their lives because of it. The need to make White people feel comfortable with their presence is also underscored. But it's the earnest comments made by the Black teens that are the most powerful. They reveal how they are simultaneously building and limiting their hopes for the future in a society that is often unreceptive or hostile towards them simply due to the color of their skin. It’s an insightful documentary, and one that calls for more awareness about how racism persists in America, and why it’s important for everyone to be part of the conversation. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how racism is reinforced in a community or society. What examples of systemic racism does Black Boys offer as a way of explaining how racist attitudes and behaviors continue to impact the way Black boys see themselves, and how they relate to society? How can dismantling existing racist systems help Black boys and men?

  • Why are non-Black people often hesitant to, or uncomfortable with, discussing racism? It’s a complicated issue that has no easy solutions, but how can talking about it help eradicate it? 

Movie details

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