I don't often sit down to watch TV or to watch a movie. On a recent rainy Saturday my wife and I sat down to watch Remember the Titans. I had heard about the film for years and had seen video clips from the film. I'm no sports fan, but I understood that the film was a triumphal movie about far more than football.
Our youngest son joined us to watch the film. We found it necessary to pause the film from time to time to explain the history and culture behind the racial tensions depicted. Although my son has a pretty good grounding in the history of slavery and the Civil War, and has been taught for years about the civil rights movement, he simply had no context for understanding early 1970s race issues, especially with respect to the South.
It took me quite a bit of explaining before my son could even begin to fathom some of the movie scenes that showed racially charged events. He just could not seem to grasp why anyone would consider someone superior or inferior on the basis of race. He couldn't figure out why anyone should be treated differently on the basis of race. It made no sense to him.
My son attends school with people of various races. To him, all of these are just people. Sure, people look different. But, so what?
I greatly enjoyed the 12-year-old film, which portrays football as the catalyst for overcoming the harsh realities of culturally enforced racism. The coaches are depicted as heroes, but interviews with the actual coaches included in the bonus features make it clear that they did not see themselves that way. They gave much of the credit to the boys on the team. They seemed to suggest that youth often have the ability to transcend issues that stymie adults.
In truth, the film is about far more than football or racism. It's about the triumph of the human spirit. We tend to love stories of this nature because we have all had a taste of this kind of accomplishment and because such stories speak to the best that is within each of us.
I was glad for an opportunity to discuss our nation's history of racism. I would no more want to hide the truth of these ugly episodes than I would want to bury the history of the Holocaust. Our country is still far from perfect when it comes to racial issues. But I think my son's attitudes about race show how far we've come in the past 40 years.
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