Each year, the third Monday of January is dedicated to Martin Luther King, Jr. Prior to that day this year, I attended the movie Green Book, based on a a true story that occurred in the 1960s. I was incredibly moved by the film, which depicted incidences of racial prejudice and discrimination.
In this story, a black musician named “Doc” hires an Italian man, Frank (aka "Tony Lip"), to be his chauffeur for scheduled performances throughout the mostly-segregated southern United States. Fortunately, they have a “Green Book” that lists places where both blacks and whites are welcome. Initially the two men don't get along, as Tony is uncomfortable being asked to act in a more refined way, while Doc is disgusted by Tony’s uncouth habits.
However, as the tour progresses, Tony is impressed with Doc’s talents as a pianist and increasingly appalled by discriminatory treatment of Doc by their hosts and the general public when he is off stage. A group of white men threaten Doc’s life in a bar, and Tony rescues him. He then tells Doc not to go out without him for the rest of the tour.
When Doc is caught having a gay encounter with a white man, Tony bribes the officers to prevent the musician’s arrest. Doc becomes upset that Tony seemingly rewarded the officers. Later the two are arrested when a police officer pulls them over late at night, and Tony punches the cop after being insulted. While they are incarcerated, Doc asks to call his lawyer, and uses the opportunity to reach Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, who orders the governor to release them.
Tony is amazed by the experience, yet Doc is humiliated. They argue, and Tony angrily says he considers himself more “black” than Doc. Having reached his breaking point, Doc laments that his affluence prevents him from identifying with many people of his race, while his color prevents him from being accepted by most white people. This bind makes him feel very alone in the world. It is a poignant moment in the film that brings home the isolation and pain of prejudice.
Having had personal experience of how prejudice and discrimination occur, I can relate to this story. I was involved in a civil rights project in the 1970s. My husband and I traveled to Mississippi and were met by LC, a black man who was our counterpart in the effort to have black children temporarily live with white families, and white children to live with black families. Our joint effort began with my husband and I spending the night in LC’s home. As he drove us through the town and passersby observed us all together, the tension and even hostility were palpable. I was not fearful during this time, yet I knew deep within me the truth of this life-and-death-issue. Consequently, I was determined to pursue ways to change prejudice into approval and appreciation of all races, genders, and creeds.
Dear readers, are you aware of and/or have you participated in prejudice against others? Are you one who values and seeks freedom and justice for all? Comments are most welcome.