I saw the film Selma this weekend, and personally, I think that everyone America needs to see it right now. Beyond being a fantastic film for a ton of reasons, Selma struck me in two prominent ways.
Number one: we let them down. We have forgotten the struggle that our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents engaged in to earn us legal rights that so many of us enjoy today. We also blame them for not going far enough. As a feminist, I blamed the 2nd wavers for not focusing on women of color and the issues of race and poverty. What I realized both by reading one of Gloria Steinem’s books and by seeing Selma, is that: 1) our leaders were not perfect (duh) and 2) they never intended the fight to end with legal rights. They began with legal rights because the violations were so blatant and discriminatory that they could win substantial victories and they did. But they never intended the fight to end with overturning barriers to vote or by giving women the right to take birth control. These legal battles were the first steps in a long marathon towards equality and justice for all and we were supposed to continue the fight. But we kind of gave up, until recently.
Number two: we need to embrace the struggle. Struggle is good. We can only fight unjust systems through sustained, nonviolent struggle.
I know that in some ways, this post speaks to everyone who has already embraced the struggle. But I also think that our generation has divided into career activists and everybody else. (Not that being a career activist is a bad thing) But when was the last time you went to a protest and did not just support it by pressing “like” on FB? I was personally so inspired by the Ferguson protests and saddened by the fact that I couldn’t join them. But then I think, why didn’t I join these protests, if the issue means so much to me? Part of the answer lies in the fact that I let the career activists (which is sometimes myself) do all the “dirty” work for me. I know that they will show up so I don’t have to. The struggle is not worth taking off work or missing school or….etc. But the struggle must be worth a little sacrifice.
That’s another important lesson from Selma. The film highlighted how much everyone sacrificed to be a part of the movement; whether it was the Coretta Scott King, Dr. King himself or the White priest from Boston who was murdered. The struggle for civil rights, voting rights, women’s rights was real and IT IS REAL.
For the most part, I embraced the struggle awhile ago, but now my job is to get others to embrace the struggle with me. Because the career activists cannot struggle alone. They need us, and we can only move forward with the help of a bunch of people.
Anyone ready to embrace the struggle with me?