Interweaving lecture, personal anecdotes, interviews, and shocking revelations, criminal defense and civil rights lawyer Jeffery Robinson draws a stark timeline of anti-black racism in the United States, from slavery to the modern myth of a post-racial America.
Former ACLU Deputy Legal Director Jeffery Robinson had one of the best educations in America. He went to Marquette University and Harvard Law School and has been a trial lawyer for over 40 years. In 2011, Robinson began raising his then 13-year-old nephew and, as a Black man raising a Black son, struggled with what to tell his son about racism in America. Robinson was 11 years old when the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered in Robinson’s hometown of Memphis, Tennessee. He marched with his father and brother in one of the Memphis Sanitation Worker strikes. Robinson also attended a court hearing for some of those arrested for marching and that experience, at 11 years old, is why he ultimately became a criminal defense lawyer. Before King’s murder, Robinson believed the country had reached a “tipping point,” and true racial equality was within reach. When King was killed, it felt to Robinson like the movement died with him. How, he wondered, did we get here?
In Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America, Robinson shows us how legalized discrimination and state-sanctioned brutality, murder, dispossession, and disenfranchisement continued long after slavery ended, profoundly impeding Black Americans’ ability to create and accumulate wealth as well as to gain access to jobs, housing, education, and health care. Weaving heartbreak, humor, passion, and rage, Robinson’s words lay bare an all-but-forgotten past, as well as our shared responsibility to create a better country in our lifetimes.
More about the Who We Are Project: https://thewhoweareproject.org/
Who We Are
Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America is a collaborative effort between Black and white Americans to get back our nation’s stolen history, to accept our obligation to learn it and represent it, and to come to terms with it as our shared inheritance. It is also the profile of a man on a quest to share what he has learned and to go beneath that history to the lived experience of Black people whose lives have been shaped by a legacy that our country has largely forgotten. It is a film that meets the historical and cultural moment in which we are living. It asks all of us to examine where we come from, who we are, and who we want to be.
– excerpt from the Director’s Statement By Emily Kunstler
Executive Producer, Writer
Khalil Gibran Muhammad
Professor of history, race, and public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School
Directed by EMILY KUNSTLER and SARAH KUNSTLER produced by JEFFREY ROBINSON, EMILY KUNSTLER and SARAH KUNSTLER written by JEFFREY ROBINSON edited by EMILY KUNSTLER director of photography by JESSE WAKEMAN music by KATHRYN BOSTIC produced by GBENGA AKINNAGBE, ANDREA CRABTREE, VANESSA HOPE, SUSAN KORDA, KATHARINE NEPHEW, JAYASHRI WYATT executive producers BEN & JERRY’S HONEMADE, INCE., DAVID J. LNDA A.CORNFIELD, FRED CROSETTO, ELLISON FOUNDATION, THE GREENSTEIN FAMILY FOUNDATION, TED HOPE, NADER and YEGANEH NAINI, BRYAN and CHRISTINE WHITE story consultant SUSAN KORDA consulting producers TITUS JACKSON and JESSE WAKEMAN additional editing by JESSE WAKEMAN archival producer ERIKKA YANCY graphics producer and designer REGINALD WILLIAM BUTLER more can be found on thewhoweareproject.com.
“...Jeffery Robinson’s guided tour through the past that anchors and divides his country is the best contextual primer for all those documentaries which came before and, hopefully, will carry on his mission to educate and advocate for change in the future.”
“To hear him speak is to feel his words and learn our shared, collective history. With a wider audience, this film and the Who We Are Project could easily change some hearts and minds. Here’s hoping the film earns that opportunity.”
“Who We Are is a significant work, both for its confrontation of a nation’s troubled past and for its hopeful look to the future.”
“Robinson doesn’t just tell you that racism is structural, but he shows the receipts.”
“I shed tears during Who We Are, yet I also became angered by the images before me and as the closing credits scrolled by I found myself wanting to use my own platforms with an even stronger commitment.”
"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” ... 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... ... 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."