25 Resources to Be a Better Ally (Films, Podcasts and Books)
Updated February 3, 2023
An ally is someone who doesn’t belong to an underrepresented minority group but makes continuous efforts to understand, support and advocate for that group. Practicing allyship in your workplace may help create a more inclusive and healthy environment where people feel comfortable bringing their full selves to work.
Becoming an ally is multifaceted and it doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a journey that starts with learning and self-education.
While there are many paths to becoming a better ally, one important foundational practice is consuming resources to learn and understand the communities you want to be an ally to. In this article, we’ll explore films, podcasts and books that might help you better understand underrepresented or marginalized groups.
Resources to become a better ally
These resources were selected because of their focus on the history, achievements and challenges of groups that have experienced harmful discrimination and prejudice (in and outside of the workplace). We’ve compiled a small sample of pieces that have been recognized by large audiences as helpful tools that bring insight to some important issues. It’s not an exhaustive collection of resources or an all-encompassing view of social and cultural groups, but may be a helpful place to start depending on your allyship goals.
Various types of resources are provided below, including “how-to” materials that may introduce you to new concepts or deepen your understanding of them, historical documentation and creative storytelling. You can watch, read or listen to each of these, depending on your learning preference.
Films and TV shows to raise awareness
1. “America to Me” (2018)
Created by Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Steve James (“Hoop Dreams,” “Life Itself”), “America to Me” examines racial, economic and class issues by following students at Oak Park River Forest High School on the west side of Chicago. The 10-episode series is filmed over the course of a year.
2. “Say Her Name: The Life and Death of Sandra Bland” (2018)
This documentary begins shortly after the death of Sandra Bland, an African-American woman who died in police custody after a routine traffic stop. The film follows the two-year case while questioning what really happened to her in police custody.
3. “Miss Representation” (2011)
This documentary explores how the media’s portrayal of women and girls leads to a society of women who feel like they can’t succeed in positions of power or leadership. It shines a light on how our culture sends the message that a woman’s value lies in her appearance rather than her skills, abilities and qualities.
4. “The Mask You Live In” (2015)
With the same director as “Miss Representation,” “The Mask You Live In” explores the negative reality of how the United States constructs masculinity. This documentary illustrates how society encourages boys and young men to detach from their emotions, demean women and resort to violence.
5. “13th” (2016)
The 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution abolished slavery but came with a provision many don’t know about. This film takes a critical look at the 13th Amendment’s link to the U.S. prison system’s overrepresentation of Black people and the prison labor system.
6. “The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson” (2017)
This documentary examines the suspicious death of transgender activist Marsha P. Johnson. Johnson was an important player in the Stonewall Riots and gay-rights movement. She was found in the Hudson River in 1992, with authorities labeling her death a suicide. The film focuses on Johnson’s death, historic gay-rights gatherings and the ongoing injustices of the transgender community.
7. “Dear White People” (2017)
This comedy-drama television show is an adaptation of a critically acclaimed film of the same name. The Netflix show illustrates the race relations and Black identity of students at a predominantly white Ivy League school.
8. “The Hate You Give” (2018)
This movie adaptation of the 2017 New York Times bestselling book illustrates the life of a Black teen after witnessing the fatal shooting of her best friend by a police officer. Living in a mostly Black, underserved community and attending a wealthy, mostly white prep school, the film follows the teen navigating the aftermath.
9. “When They See Us” (2019)
This Netflix mini-series is based on the true events of five Black teens falsely charged with a brutal assault in New York’s Central Park. It covers 25 years spanning from the incident in 1989 to their settlement with the City of New York in 2014.
10. “Explained: The Racial Wealth Gap” (2018)
This series explores a wide range of topics. In season one episode 20, “Explained” explores the racial wealth gap where experts explain how slavery, housing discrimination and a history of inequality have created and supported this issue.
11. “Explained: Why Women Are Paid Less” (2018)
Also from “Explained,” episode 3 explores why women are paid less than men for equal work. From the history of women in the workforce and legal discrimination to the “motherhood penalty,” this episode exposes how and why this is still a worldwide issue
12. “Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution” (2020)
This documentary follows the journey of a group of teens in the 1970s who attended Camp Jened, a camp for youth with disabilities who grew into activists starting a movement toward equality.
13. “Human Flow” (2017)
In the largest human displacement since World War II, over 65 million people were forced to leave their home countries in search of a safer life. This documentary takes a broad look at the current refugee crisis by following refugees in 23 countries over the course of a year.
14. “Latino Americans” (2013)
This is a six-hour docuseries detailing the Latino experience via nearly 100 interviews and covering 500 years of history. “Latino Americans” highlights the largest underrepresented minority group in America and the challenges they face.
Podcasts to advance equity
Listen on Apple, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts.
15. “Code Switch”
Hosted by journalists of color, this podcast tackles the subject of race head-on. The hosts explore how race impacts every part of society from politics and pop culture to history, sports and everything in between. This podcast strives to make all of us part of the conversation about race because, as the creators believe, we are all part of the story.
16. “Woman’s Hour”
This podcast offers a female perspective on a breadth of social and political topics from around the world. Women and allies of women can listen to informed discussions about racism, history and equality or pop culture, mental health and relationships. Daily episodes hosted by women broadcasters include personal stories and expert opinions.
17. “The Will to Change”
Field expert Jennifer Brown uncovers true stories about diversity and inclusion (D&I) in the workplace. Listeners can learn about D&I concepts from thought leaders who share their personal and professional experiences surrounding the topic and stories of successfully implementing strategies to support diversity, inclusion and belonging at work.
18. “Making Gay History”
This podcast brings the voices of LGBTQ history to life through intimate conversations with champions, heroes and witnesses. Many are stories that went unheard throughout history but are shared here by the people who lived them. The creators, renowned authors and documentarians attempt to unite listeners with accounts of courage, persistence and resilience.
Hosted by notable historians, this weekly show looks at current events through a historical lens to help listeners understand how the past forms who we are and how we live today. Episodes share different perspectives on the subject matter, which spans from racial disparities in health and the history of indigenous resistance in the U.S. to equality in sports.
Books to increase allyship skills
20. “So You Want to Talk About Race” by Ijeoma Oluo
Oluo guides readers of all races through subjects ranging from intersectionality and affirmative action to "model minorities" to help us understand just how much they affect every aspect of life and enable honest conversations about race and racism. Oluo also advises on how to discuss topics like white privilege and racism with people you know and examines how we might reconcile our microaggressions.
21. “What If I Say the Wrong Thing?: 25 Habits for Culturally Effective People” by Verna Myers
In this book, Myers provides bite-size and accessible tips to make progress in your personal and work-life diversity journey. Myers, an inclusion strategist and renowned thought leader, provides short answers to typical questions like, “What should I do if I say the wrong thing?” or, “What should I say if someone makes a sexist joke at work?”
22. “No Pity: People with Disabilities Forging a New Civil Rights Movement” by Joseph P. Shapiro
This book chronicles the lives and experiences of differently abled persons and their struggle for inclusion in America. Through historical events and personal stories, the author examines the discrimination those with disabilities have endured and tells of a political and social awakening that produced a human rights movement in the early 1990s.
23. “We Are Everywhere: Protest, Power, and Pride in the History of Queer Liberation” by Matthew Riemer and Leighton Brown
Through the lenses of protest, power and pride, “We Are Everywhere” is an introduction to the history of the fight for queer liberation. It combines researched narrative with curated photographs and traces queer activism from its roots in late 19th-century Europe to today. By challenging many of the assumptions that dominate mainstream LGBTQ history, this book aims to show readers how they can honor the queer past to shape a tolerant and accepting future.
24. “Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People” by Mahzarin Banaji and Anthony Greenwald
Psychologists Banaji and Greenwald explore the hidden biases we carry from a lifetime of exposure to cultural attitudes about age, gender, race, ethnicity, religion, social class, sexuality, disability status and nationality. They also investigate how biases affect our perceptions of social groups and shape our judgments about people’s character, abilities and potential. The authors aim to explain the science of unconscious bias to help well-intentioned people build self-awareness and align their behavior with their intentions.
25. “Pay Up: The Future of Women and Work (and Why It's Different Than You Think)” by Reshma Saujani
Saujani analyzes the negative impact of COVID-19 on women, which resulted in a historic percentage of women leaving the workforce. She uses recent data to support her argument that systemic change is needed to support women at work and lays out four key steps to enact that change.
Understanding the injustices that certain groups face can help you—as a peer, manager or leader—become a better ally. The more you know about the history of underrepresented communities, the better you can identify when to use your voice to support them and how to empower them with inclusive environments.
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