Sunday, February 19, 2017

Screw all those people!

I was in graduate school when I watched Guess Who's Coming to Dinner on television.

I. Was. Blown. Away.

When Spencer Tracy delivered those lines at the end, I was all teary-eyed.

Movies, like theatre and fiction, have taught me a lot about life. About humans. About what it means to be human.

A long time civil rights leader, and a successful business hand, Vernon Jordan, writes in the context of Hidden Figures:
Over a lifetime spent fighting on the battlefield of civil rights, I’ve seen how movies can be one of the most effective weapons in our arsenal. As a young man, I marveled at Sidney Poitier challenging prejudice in “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?” and giving as good as he got in “In the Heat of the Night.” When we see injustice from another perspective on the screen, it makes us more aware of real-life injustices around us.
Yes.  Works of art educate us about the injustices all around us.

Decades ago, back in the old country, I watched quite a few "art" movies on the small black-and-white television set at home.  There were so many stories of the "others" that I watched and learnt.  And empathized.  The struggles often related to two kinds of "others": Women and lower-castes.  

Jordan notes a similar parallel here too:
“Hidden Figures” shows the complexity of prejudice from many angles. We see in stark clarity that the fights for women’s rights and civil rights have never been separate stories. These issues are intertwined and inescapable — and that’s exactly how they should be viewed in and out of the theater.
As tough as the current political climate is in my adopted country for anybody who is not a white male, with even white females less than equal to the white males, we have come a long way from those bad old days.  As MLK said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."  

Jordan adds:
Making progress on civil rights depends on a willingness to dig into each of our pasts. Even small actions — something as simple as encouraging someone not to give up, or telling someone that their story matters as much as anyone else’s — can make a difference.
I needed such an encouragement and a reminder.

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