Thoughts on MLK Day and how Movies Influence Us
When I was a kid I loved this movie called Selma, Lord, Selma. It was about two little girls living in Selma, Alabama who decided to join the Civil Rights movement and march with Dr. Martin Luther King on what is now known as Bloody Sunday.
The lead character was 11 years old and I was probably 9 or 10 when I first watched it. I felt like I could connect with this girl. She met Martin Luther King Jr. and was inspired to join the movement. After her friend dies, they plan the march. She talks to her parents about the things the reverend King taught her, but they are just worried about her getting involved because they don’t want her to be hurt.
She starts slowly fighting the racial injustice wherever she can. She drinks from the “whites only” water fountain and gets yelled at by a woman. She sings songs with others who are in the movement. She also meets a white man who is a reverend and has come from out of town to be a part of the movement. Some people didn’t like him being there because he was white, but he felt convicted and the girls could tell he really cared. He explained that he didn’t think it was right that people treated them differently than him. He wanted to help in any way he could. I remember wondering why more white people didn't join in the movement.
Today, in many ways, we are in the midst of another civil rights movement. I never thought I’d have the opportunity to fight for justice the way MLK and his followers did, because it felt like there wasn't anymore problems with race in our country. I knew that there were racist people still, but I didn't know that there were real systemic problems. I lived in a town that was majority white and black people with a few other minorities. Since I was white I was blind to any racial issues that my classmates may have been dealing with. We were all friends, so I felt like we must have all share the same experiences.
So 10 - year - old me was a little naïve. But now I see the world is not all rainbows and butterflies. We have the Black Lives Matter movement and the me too movement. People everywhere are standing up and say Times Up on sexual assault and harassment. The thing is, it isn’t as easy to join the movements as kid me thought when I would sit on my carpet and watch the TV. Speaking up is easy for me because I’ve always been a talker and a writer. But taking action is more difficult. In the movie, the marches walked towards the bridge singing Christian songs and smiling. They were met with cops on horses. They beat them and the Marchers all ran away in a panic. The little girl got maced in the face and she fell to the ground and she couldn’t see. She was crying and hollering for help. One of the other marchers picked her up and carried her to safety. I cried every time I saw that scene. There was so much pain on the faces of these peaceful protestors. But still I thought, “I would do that, I would suffer if I had to to make the world a better place.”
But I was young. It’s so easy to feel brave when there's no need to be. It’s easy to say you would do something IF you had to, but when the time actually comes the reality is scary. I remember as a kid thinking, “Can you imagine being alive during the march on washington and missing it?” I thought people must be so disappointed that they missed that incredible historical moment. But then I didn’t join the women's march. I was still in such a state of shock and confusion. I didn’t understand how it would help. But sometimes just making a statement makes a difference. Change doesn’t happen overnight. And without an MLK to lead us, it can be hard not to lose faith.
All we can do is try to inspire one another whenever we can. Remember that you aren’t alone, many of us want things to be better. In the future, I’ll try to take action when I can and I will not be silent when I see an injustice. I want to make the 10-year-old me proud of me.