What Did Hidden Figures Mean to You?

I watched the movie “Hidden Figures” this week, in my attempt to try and see as many of the movies nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars next month. And it made me ask a question that I have asked myself several times in the past, over the years:

What do conservatives think about when they think about the Civil Rights movement?

When I watch this movie, I feel overcome with emotion — to the point that I can’t really rationally judge it as a film. I feel overcome with joy to see African American women achieve hard-fought recognition. I feel rage to see how much harder they had to struggle for their success than their white, male peers.

Katherine Johnson receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom, 2016.

I feel pride. Pride in a society that began the hard work of recognizing that all people have intrinsic value. That the measure of a woman or man is not in their gender, or the color of their skin, but in the content of their character. In the ethic of their work. In their contributions to family and community. In their talents, in their intellect, in their passion, and in their inspiration.

I feel included. I feel like this is the story of my country. The struggle of these women is my struggle. I know that some among the feminist movement would argue that I am not a woman, and so I cannot intrinsically be a part of the movement. The same could be said of the civil rights movement fought by African Americans. I recognize and respect that I am not personally among those minorities (others, yes, but not that one). But I count myself a strong ally — and feel a sense of inclusion from that association.

I hope and pray that, if I were placed in that situation, I would respond like Kevin Costner’s character of Al Harrison. A man who — when confronted by racial and gender inequity — managed to see past it. There is no shame in being confronted on your blindspots — so long as you respond to that confrontation with humility and an honest effort to come to a moral outcome.

To me, the Civil Rights Movement was one of the greatest achievements in American society of the 20th century.

But, I come back to the question — and it is a sincere one — what, and how, do conservatives think about the Civil Rights movement? Conservatives at the time were relatively opposed. Modern conservatives, however — at least on the political stage — have to pay respect to figures like Rosa Parks, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Harriet Tubman, Daisy Bates, Thurgood Marshall, and John Lewis.

President-Elect Donald J. Trump meeting with Martin Luther King III, son of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on Martin Luther King Day, 2017. This was 4 days prior to his inauguration.

But I constantly wonder — do conservatives feel a visceral sense of American patriotism and pride around the movement? Do they feel a sense of inclusion? Is the struggle of overcoming one of American’s two great original sins, something conservatives feel that they are a part of?

We can disagree on policy, and the way in which the cultural, social, political, and economic vestiges of slavery must slowly be eradicated from our country.

As part of my Understanding Project, I really want to know how people on the other side of the political spectrum feel about this. I would love for anyone who wants to respectfully share their thoughts to respond, or contact me privately.