Hidden Figures

Last week was Martin Luther King day and I reblogged a great post by Tim Fall, author of post by Tim Fall, author of Just One Train Wreck After Another. I mentioned in my preamble to his post that I had recently seen Hidden Figures with my sister. These are my thoughts, with a touch of review, about the film.

(Before I get too far into this though let me say, go see it.  If you can’t afford to take your family out to the movies, make sure you rent it as soon as it comes on DVD and make everyone watch it.)

As a white woman who grew up in a mostly white community, I have always been drawn to books and movies that dealt with the issues of slavery or racism. For many years, Remember the Titans, was my favorite movie. I don’t know what drew me to that as a child, except that I have always admired the richness of the African American culture, but as an adult, I have been drawn to media that dealt with those issues out a desire to understand.

This was especially true after I moved into South Bethlehem and began to realize the subtle racism that existed in me. Confronting your own darkness is never pleasant and can be difficult to overcome. I had, and still have, a predominantly white community.

So the question I have often wondered is how does a white girl in a white world continue to move away from the lies of racism?

This is not a complete answer-by any means-so don’t take it as such, but I have found that media can help me come to a better understand the racism that we white people often don’t notice.

Dear White People was such a movie, with examples of both subtle racism and outright horrific parties built around making fun of people. Things I was blissfully unaware of. Things I needed to know.

The play Honkey was a powerful exploration of how we can be demeaning and dismissive even in our attempts to overcome racism.

Hidden Figures didn’t give me new information; it gave new meaning.

Getting to journey with the three women at the heart of the movie was incredibly powerful. It took racism as a concept and made it deeply personal by showing it at work in areas of life that I could relate to.

 

From coffee pots to water fountains, to the Library (that one shocked me), Hidden Figures craftily (in a good way) used ordinary elements of everyone’s life, whether you are black or white, to make you get a picture of the pain that our African American brothers and sisters experienced back then and still do today.

The breaking point revolved around the segregation of bathrooms. That hit me the most because I have to go to the bathroom all the time. Imagining the inconvenience and humiliation the character, Catherine, had to endure just to use the bathroom, simply because she had another skin color, really impacted me.

I nearly wept in the theater.

When I watch the movie in the privacy of my own home, I probably will weep.

 

The abuse and hatred and disdain we heap on one another is unfathomable to me. It’s easy to think that this kind of evil is something of the past. Yet we often don’t see the ways we allow ourselves to feel superior to another because things are “so much better now” and it is somewhat “controlled”, slipping out in “insignificant” ways.

This is not easy for me to confess, but when I first moved into the city, I was horrified to realize that I would often cross to the other side of the street if I saw an African American man walking towards me. It had more to it than just race, there was classism and an unnecessary fear of men mixed in there as well, but a lot of it had to do with race.

Where did that come from? I don’t know. But it was there, evil hiding in my heart.

I don’t do that anymore, but I know there are other ways that I still struggle with feeling superior to those who are “different”. Hidden Figures gave me a glimpse of the pain that even small actions-nonchalantly crossing to the other sidewalk for instance- can cause.

It’s easy for us to say along with Kirsten Dunst’s character “I don’t have anything against y’all”. We need to hear, “I know you probably believe that.”, and be challenged to examine ourselves.

So please go watch this movie. I think we need it, especially right now, as we can be so quick to dismiss the way our actions and words impact people. We need to be reminded that people who are different from us are still people. We need to seek to understand their perspective and their pain. We’ll learn much from them if we do.

Hopefully, I’ve sold you on this film. It has a great message. And I believe it is a solid film.

My only critique of the movie was that it had too much greatness and not enough time. Each of the three women portrayed in the movie are powerhouses, but I felt like we didn’t get enough time with them, especially the woman who wanted to become an engineer. I connected to Catherine and Dorothy Vaughn’s one liner of “I know you probably believe that” will stick with me forever, but I felt like Mary was under used. I would have liked to have gotten to know her better through the movie.

But that small complaint is an effect of the strength of the movie’s characters.

Now go see this movie.

And if you have seen it, what did you think of it?

Or for a deeper questions:

Are there areas in your life where you’ve had to fight subtle racism?

What are ways that we can move towards a better understanding and accepting of each other?

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