Earlier today Wolf Blitzer tweeted about how much he enjoyed the movie Hidden Figures. I saw the movie last week and immediately told my husband that I was going to write about my experience because it was simply inspiring. Not only was the movie fantastic, but the experience of watching the movie was uplifting in a time when I could certainly stand a little lift.
As I have written before, I live in a very conservative community in the Florida panhandle (otherwise known as lower Alabama). The number of confederate flags that I see on the bumpers of cars or flown off the backs of trucks on the average day is more than I can count, quite frankly. And while there is approximately thirty percent of our population that consist of people of color, the divide between the rich and the poor is astounding.
I’ve lived in this area my whole life. As an adult, I chose to stay in spite of being able to work elsewhere because I wanted to raise my children near family. And while there are many things about my hometown that I don’t appreciate, there are many things about the south that I love, mostly things that fit into my romanticized notion of the south in terms of land, creatures, and culture.
However, I do not by any means ever pretend that I do not know what exists here in terms of ideology, or what took place here before I was born. I’ve heard more racial epithets over the years than the law should allow, and as a woman who married and had children with a Black man, my family and I have endured a special kind of bigotry that exists to this day. This particular type of bigotry can manifest itself among majority and minority racial group members; social scientist have labeled it borderism (Bélanger Robinson, 2011).
What my lived experiences here in the south have taught me, however, is that you can only take them one at a time, and by them I mean people. I have learned that I can never tell from appearance alone when someone will support our family, or go out of their way to try to make our lives miserable. Sometimes I brace for the worst reaction possible, and then find out that there was absolutely no need to brace for anything. I’ve found good and not so good people in all shapes, sizes, and colors.
Watching Hidden Figures with my husband and youngest son was one more example of that important lesson in my life. As I watched people fill into the movie theater I was struck by the fact that I only saw two other Black people enter, aside from my family. The theater was composed almost entirely of White people, and at least half of those people appeared to be middle aged people.
I was delighted that so many White people paid to watch the movie in our community (some movies don’t even make it to our theaters), but even more I was delighted with the comments and cheers that arose during various parts of the film. At the end of the movie, the most amazing thing happened; My community members sporadically burst into applause.
The south is a complicated place with long held complicated relationships, and my place in the south is about the most complicated relationship that I have ever known. By no means does the sporadic applause for the film cancel out what I know to exist here in terms of overwhelming attitude; that would be naïve thinking on my part . However, what it did do was remind me that there are people embedded in my otherwise conservative community who are open, tolerant, accepting, and proud of all of American history. My guess is that I am not the only person here with internal anguish regarding my simultaneous appreciation and rejection of the south.
I’ve always gone out of my way to take my children to films such as Hidden Figures, as well as to talk about other African American historical figures with them. I have always felt that those lessons were important for all Americans, but in particular for children of color. I am thankful that my son got to witness a film highlighting significant historical contributions made by African Americans. Additionally, I am thankful that he was able to witness other people in his community also appreciating those particular contributions to American history. Overall, going to watch Hidden Figures with my family made for a great Saturday!