I must open this by saying that I am rather partial to African Americans. Perhaps because in part I am a woman of color. Perhaps because the people of the state I am from–Kerala bear a strong resemblance to black folk. We could easily be cousins if you take clothing and language out of the equation.
Maybe it is because my dad who was always made to feel conscious about his dark coloring from the time he was a child can pass for an elderly black gentleman.
He is 82 and gorgeous.
Or perhaps it is simple because they have and continue to suffer so much.
At any rate, when I watched Hidden Figures after all this time, I felt good, yes. Those women were rockstars. And got their due recognition.
But I felt sad too. Quite sad.
These women, especially, Katherine Johnson were near geniuses.
As were indeed most of the women working there as computers. They were all obviously more than merely smart.
But Ms. Johnson was a genius.
That she could use her genius made me happy.
That she had to suffer indignity made me sad.
But it was not just that.
I got thinking that this woman of color, this genius one in a gazillion woman had to prove herself to be a genius so that she would be accepted finally into a club of smart enough white men, yes but otherwise ordinary NASA engineers. That only because John Glen said quite inadequately, “Ask the smart girl to check the numbers,” was she invited to the launch room of the Friendship 7 mission that without her would not have happened.
What am I missing here? Are we to feel grateful that Kevin Costner’s character was sometimes sensitive towards her? Appreciative yes, but not enough that he could give her work that made full use of her genius? That in the end he gave her a string of pearls and a strong handshake?
This remarkable woman had to show her super human math skills every day, solving gargantuan problems every hour only to be finally, reluctantly accepted into the fold of these otherwise ordinary people (white men) with skills far inferior to her own.
And for that acceptance we are supposed to feel grateful? Uplifted?
And isn’t it so even now? Why must a person in the minority–a woman, a person of color, a foreigner, new immigrant, anyone like that have to be ten times as good as a mainstream person only in order to be accepted into their fold?
Does this mean that if you are a minority, a woman, a person of color, a foreigner and if you are smart, good at what you do but not a hundred times times as smart as the mainstream person, and not a genius, sorry.
You’re out of luck. Try another club. You cannot belong to the smart enough but otherwise ordinary mainstream club?
Different standards, yes. And how glaringly different!
Women, even today must work twice, three times, four times as hard as men just to stay in equal positions. God forbid if they show the slightest inclination that they love their family life or reveal the slightest hint of softness.
This must mean their careers mean nothing to them. They are weak women.
Why must a man of color go to lengths to prove that he is NOT a violent person. Why is that the standard assumption. He is black. Must mean trouble.
Will this ever change? It is 2018 and we are still having women’s marches protesting the same old shit. Over and over. Our bodies are our own! Really? It is 2018.
Black men still get stopped in cars, boats, roads, planes. For one reason alone. Their race.
What is wrong with us?
Will we change?
One ray of hope remains that I have seen.
Elementary school kids are discussing segregation, race. They’re having underground railroad simulations. They talk about MLK JR. and Rosa Parks.
They are feeling bad as a result of the discussions, the simulations.
My 8 year old was so riled up when we watched Hidden Figures. He was jumping in his seat saying how bad it was–the colored toilets, the discrimination, the unfairness. All of it. His face turned red and he was angry.
Dare I hope that this is the future?
If one day these kids shake their heads at us it would be a win.
If they wonder at the absurdity of a world where judging someone on the basis of anything but their humanity is wrong, then it will have been a win.