We just finished Hidden Figures — a wonderful film! It tells the story of some amazing black women who were crucial to the success of the NASA space program in its early days. It was 1961 and bathrooms and coffee pots were still segregated in Virginia.
As we watched, I was struck by the fact that it really hasn’t been that long. I mean, my dad was born in ’61! Heck, it was only 26 years before I was born. People try to tell me that we’re past racism in the United States. I’ve heard conservative folks make comments suggesting we’re all starting the race of life at the same point on the racetrack. I’ve heard others suggest that things like affirmative action are unnecessary because, hey, we’ve already had a black president. “Racism is over.”
But, there’s still a very real problem today. We’re not all starting from the same point on the racetrack. I’ve spent a lot of time with people my same age that live in low-income housing in rougher areas. What I’ve found is generally completely opposite to what I’ve heard people tell me. See, I didn’t work harder than my friends in the low-income housing. I wasn’t smarter or more of a go-getter. That’s not why I graduated college and have had a good career.
I did the “default,” just like my friends in the low-income housing did. In fact, many of them worked harder than I did to swim against the river of setbacks and negative influences that I didn’t have to deal with. I was raised with great privilege and I took that for granted for most of my life.
We didn’t start from the same point on the racetrack. And it shouldn’t really surprise us. It hasn’t been that long since black people couldn’t drink from the same fountain as everyone else.
Also, it was wonderful to see a movie with women heroes that were lauded for their brains and leadership, not their physical beauty.