The Roadblocks in Our Mind

Sidney Portier as Thurgood Marshall in "Separate But Equal"

As I sat in the TV room, writing my last post on my laptop, I was watching a movie I think should be required viewing for all school children. “Separate But Equal” features Sidney Portier as Thurgood Marshall in a story of his experience as NAACP’s chief lawyer, trying to get public schools desegregated in the 1950’s. The case ultimately led  to Brown v. Board of Education (1954), the famous case in which the U.S. Supreme Court officially overturned racial segregation in U.S. public schools.

Separate But Equal was a four-hour made for TV movie and it is long, but exciting, in large part due to the performances.

I was blown away by this soliloquy by Thurgood Marshall (via Sidney Portier’s understated, yet powerful delivery) in the court, “Separate but equal has been the law of the land for many years, but the Supreme Court ended segregation in Southern graduate schools without any negative consequences. This is progressive development of the law. In South Carolina, all the state officials are white. All the school officials are white. This is not just segregation, this is exclusion – from the group that runs everything. The Negro child is made to go to an inferior school. He is branded in his own mind as inferior. Which sets up – in his own mind – a roadblock that prevents him from ever feeling that he is equal. You can teach such a child citizenship. You can teach such a child the Constitution. But he knows, that for him, it isn’t true.”

The movie is a quiet, powerful drama telling the legacy of this country’s ugly history of slavery, and its legacy in the systematic exclusion and discrimination against African American school children and the immeasurable and lasting damage to those children, and a powerful fight to end it. Given many of the stories in the news today, it is remarkably relevant. I hear echoes of some of the same arguments that were used to prolong discrimination and oppression used today, and it is chilling.

Surprisingly, the film’s messages are also relevant to every woman, and every person who has been subjected to a power that they cannot attain or participate in directing.  I really encourage you to see this film, it’s available in two parts on YouTube: Part One of Separate But Equal, Part Two of Separate But Equal.

I was speaking with a girlfriend on the phone today and she was outraged at the sexism and gender bias her little girl faces as the only female on her baseball team. Her daughter said to her, “It would be so much easier if I was a boy.” It breaks my friend’s heart to think that her daughter has, or may setup that roadblock, the roadblock that prevents her from feeling equal.

I know I have roadblocks in my own mind. As a fearful flier, when I board a plane, I always give a quick glance into the cockpit to see who will have my fate in their hands for the upcoming flight. Once, I saw a petite woman in the pilot’s seat and my heart sank. I know a million reasons why I should not have felt that way – but I did. I wanted a man flying that plane. I sometimes see other women through my own limiting filter and it kills me. If I am thinking that way about other women, I can only imagine how my thinking has been self-limiting. But seeing women in new positions of power helps us all.

Do you have your own stories of the roadblocks you have in your own mind?  Have you liberated yourself from them? I’d love to hear about your experiences.

A few links from around the web:

Entertainment Weekly reviews Separate But Equal.

Even if you don’t plan to make the sublime Espresso Semifreddo on the Vanilla Bean Blog, click over to read the wonderful letter from C.S. Lewis to a little girl.

Yoga poses to help you sleep better.

“My Life as a Turkey,” a lovely, profound and deeply moving documentary about a man who raises 16 wild turkeys as their mother. Amazing. Really.

Analysis of this final season of Mad Men, and here is an oral history of the show.

A fun tutorial on herb starts.

Must be Jelly cause Jam don’t shake like that. The Limoncello Gelle looks fun.

Good advice for any age: What You Learn in Your 40s.

Salted chocolate chunk cookies.

My favorite look: jeans and white shirt.

A visit to Alamo Square.

Cultivating self-compassion for caregivers.


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