If you want to see a movie that will clench your viscera, lift your spirits, and remind you of something very important, check out Red Tails, George Lucas’ movie about the Tuskegee Airmen of World War II.
Samuel and I went over the weekend, and it’s a movie people ought to see, sort of a male version of The Help, in that it chronicles the long time struggle of African Americans to find a place at the table when the American dream is on the menu.
The movie appeals on several levels. World War II was before my time, but I spent many an hour painstakingly constructing and painting — complete with oil stains and flak damage — plastic models of WWII-era planes, including the P-47 Thuderbolts, P-51 Mustangs, B-17 Stratofortresses, and the occasional military DC-3 featured in the movie. The dialogue is surprisingly clunky, and I don’t know how realistic the impressive fight scenes are or how accurate some aspects of the “inspired by” story might be, but the jolting portrayal of America’s racist past is a helpful reminder that we still have a long way to go.
The heights we achieve in life are clearly related to the opportunities we are given. It’s still up to each individual to make the most of his or her situation, as members of the 332nd Fighter Division did, but the people who hold the power or the purse strings have an equal obligation to give them the chance.
Movies like The Help and Red Tails remind us that white folks also need to make the most of their opportunities, including the opportunity to overcome whatever ingrained prejudice we might have inherited, and act like we believe that all people are made in God’s image.
[An aside: If they pay attention, patrons connected with Campbell University will note that the school’s motto (ad astra per aspera) shows up in the pilots’ pep-rally style huddle before missions. The chant includes the line “Through adversity, to the stars!”]