I spent the beginning of this week in Hot Springs, Arkansas visiting my aunt and uncle there, and cheering on the WKU basketball teams in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament. Perhaps, once my traveling companions harass me enough, I’ll explore the finer point of this trip.
The relevance of the trip is my overbearing aunt and all the things she thinks I should have done by now, more specifically, movies should have watched by now. The only I one I managed time enough to watch was the 1963 film Lilies of the Field. It’s Sidney Poitier‘s break through film. Poitier is a very fine actor–refine, handsome, and humorous. In LILIES OF THE FIELD, he plays a Baptist nomad who runs into a group of Austrian nuns in need of someone to build them a church.
Now that I’m merrily reveling in the SEC Conference win of the Kentucky Wildcats, I’m watching the original GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER (1967). It’s a comedy about racial issues set in a time when the was country milling through Dr. King speeches, Malcolm X rallies, and the NCAA Championship won by the all black Western Texas basketball team in 1966. Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy play characters very real to modern American. They are the white parents, putting on the face of acceptance while they internally battle over the biracial relationship their daughter is so serious about.
The theme of “political correctness” comes to mind. Poitier is the open minded, well spoken voice of reason. He accepts the conditions of prejudice and appeals to the morality of the parents. Society might be slanted, might hide their prejudices in order to appear saintly, when really there are standards and lines not to be crossed. Poitier slowly and with ease, draws these prejudices to be admitted so they can be finally over come.
I’ve never dated a black boy; I’ve never considered dating a black boy. When I was in high school my mother passed on her fear of family acceptance to me. Her grandfather, my great-grandfather, would roll over in his grave. Nothing more than that was said to me on the subject. Subliminally, perhaps, I am biding by some social line of acceptable behavior. Maybe I follow some other rules, too, without really thinking about it.
Have you seen THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU (2011)?
I’ll attempt to be “politically correct” in my response.
Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner takes head-on the subject of prejudice during a time of change for racial and social equality in our country. And I must say, Poitier’s performance demonstrated yet again why he was worthy of the Oscar in Lilies of the Field.
Molly, I think your post is ironic in many ways, but I’ll just add my two cents in one area. You point so clearly to the potential prejudice of your family when you state your mother’s “fear” and suggest your great-grandfather “would roll over in his grave” if you dated a “black boy”. Seems to parallel the movie, yet over 40 years later.
I guess I still have a dream that one day we will be judged not by our skin color as little black boys and little black girls, but by our individual character. It seems we need to continue “milling through Dr. King’s speeches” if generations later we still find it difficult to accept those that appear different. “Subliminally”? I don’t think you should leave social acceptance to chance…maybe you should start really thinking about it…especially if not thinking about it leads you to exclusion…