Race and Ethnic Politics in Pop Culture

Teaching Race, Ethnicity, and Politics: Identity, Discrimination, & Inequality

Victoria Wilson, California State University Northridge


Film and Documentary

Native American identity/Politics

  • Akicita: The Battle at Standing Rock (dir. Cody Lucich, 2016); theme(s): territorial sovereignty
  • Geronimo: An American Legend (dir. Walter Hill, 1993); theme(s): Native American resistance to the U.S. during the Manifest Destiny era.
  • Little Big Man (dir. Arthur Penn, 1970); theme(s):
  • The Searchers (dir. John Ford, 1956); theme(s): identity

Black/African American Identity/Politics

  • 12 Years a Slave (dir. Steve McQueen, 2013); theme(s): slavery
  • 4 Little Girls (dir. Spike Lee, 1997); theme(s): the Civil Rights era
  • Blackkklansman (dir. Spike Lee, 2016); theme(s): the Civil Rights era
  • Do the Right Thing (dir. Spike Lee, 1989); theme(s): Black/Asian American conflict, urban racial uprising
  • Fruitvale Station (dir. Ryan Coogler, 2013); theme(s): police brutality
  • Get on the Bus (dir. Spike Lee, 1996); theme(s): Black LGBTQ identity
  • Gandhi (dir. Richard Attenborough. 1982); theme(s): organizing strategies, non-violent direct action
  • Lincoln (dir. Steven Spielberg, 2012); theme(s): the Civil War
  • Loving (dir. Jeff Nichols, 2016); theme(s): anti-miscegenation
  • Malcolm X (dir. Spike Lee, 1992); theme(s): Black separatism
  • Suburbicon (dir. George Clooney, 2017): Racial exclusion in suburban America

Latinx/Chicano Identity/Politics

    • Cesar Chavez (dir. Diego Luna, 2014); theme(s): labor organizing
    • Salt of the Earth (dir. Herbert J. Biberman, 1954); theme(s): labor organizing
    • Walkout (dir. Edward James Olmos, 2005); theme(s): the Chicano Blowouts, The East Los Angeles Walkouts

Asian American Pacific Islander Identity/Politics

  • American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs (dir. Grace Lee, 2013); theme(s): Asian American movement activism
  • Blue Bayou (dir. Justin Chon, 2021); theme(s): immigration and citizenship
  • Gook (dir. Justin Chon, 2017); theme(s): Black/Asian American conflict, urban racial uprising

White Identity/Politics

  • Imperium (dir. Daniel Ragussis, 2016); theme(s): White nationalism
  • Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People (2006)
  • White People (dir. Jose Antonio Vargas, 2015); theme(s): White racial identity
  • The Birth of a Nation (dir. D.W. Griffith, 1915); theme(s): white redemption in the post-Reconstruction era


Civil Rights Movement-themed songs:

  • “Mississippi Goddamn” by Nina Simone
  • “Strange Fruit” by Nina Simone
  • “What’s Going On” by Marvin Gaye


Portrayals of Native Americans in art:

  • “American Progress” by John Gast (1856)
  • “Landing of the Pilgrims”; sandstone carving in the Capitol Rotunda (1825)
  • “Progress of Civilization”; marble sculpture atop the Senate entrance to the Capitol (1863)
  • “Landing of Columbus”; part of a frieze in display in the Capitol Rotunda (1855-63)
  • “Death Whoop”’ hung on the wall in a hearing room for the House Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs until 1987

Return to the Teaching Race, Ethnicity, and Politics Symposium Collection


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