Sunday, January 15, 2017

Prejudice and Transformation

Last Friday I went to the movies and watched Hidden Figures. As the movie progressed I winced as I watched the true story of three women who endured treatment that no human should experience. Prejudice in all it's hateful glory was on display. However, by the end of the movie, the hearts of the most prejudice among the players had changed. Instead we saw understanding, respect, and kindness on the screen. How did that happen? What triggered the transformation?

On Saturday night, my daughter and I watched the 30th anniversary edition of The Breakfast Club. She had never seen it before, indeed it was released before she was born. "Why do you like this movie, mom?" she asked.

Because it too was about prejudice and transformation. There were no people of color in this movie. In fact, they were all white, straight teens in a middle class high school. And yet they found a way to be prejudiced, to put people in little boxes and not let them out. The brain, the athlete, the basket case, the princess and the criminal. But one Saturday they were forced to sit together all day and after they fought and talked and played together they discovered they were not so different after all. Same thing happened in Hidden Figures. Forced to work together in NASA for the common goal of getting a man into space and returning him safely, they discovered they could see past the boxes of man and woman and black and white that they had been forced into.

Our family in Washington DC 
Tomorrow is the day we remember Martin Luther King Jr. He was a great man who fought for liberty and peace. Four days later, the power of presidential leadership passes from our first black president to a white man, a billionaire real estate tycoon who never before held public office. 2016 was a year tarnished and torn by trash talk and bloodshed and bigotry. We remain a nation divided into pieces and more than just black and white.

How do we heal from this?

Like the teens in The Breakfast Club, maybe we need a Saturday detention, a forced time to sit face to face. Maybe we need a common goal like those who discovered they needed even Hidden Figures to help them all succeed.

Maybe if just one of us reaches out  to someone different to listen, not merely to judge or mock but to try to understand.

Maybe me. Maybe you. Maybe today. Let's try that. Are you in?

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. 
-- Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. 1963

Me too, Martin. Me too.