The much ballyhooed film, SELMA, is taking a hit which could and should have been avoided. The experience of my Advance Placement teaching days make this conclusion easy – sadly reluctant.
Utilizing an important instrument, in my case teaching A.P. United States History, and accurately assessing the role of a white, politically Democratic president in the 1964 Civil Rights movement, is essential – particularly for young minorities. These students must have some solid foundation to comprehend this troubled racial world of today.
The film missed the mark. It strayed and betrayed itself into a reverse racism platform, complying with current minority cultural demands. What a lost opportunity! Only in America: Glen Beck, national radio-talk conservative, and Michael Paul Williams, Richmond Times Dispatch’s predictable leftist columnist, stood hand-in-hand on the matter of SELMA. Both saw it as richly inspiring and a critical must-see – accompanied by others who believe it a personal spiritual requirement – to be in love, with loving this film.
For those of us who were clearly around – remembering well the black and white TV coverage of Montgomery fire hoses – a couple years prior to the disaster on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, AL, I am absolutely baffled by the propensity to present spurious history regarding President Lyndon Banes Johnson’s role. Johnson’s pivotal and a supportive action for the protestors was very clear – backed up by released tapes of these discussions. Sadly, the film’s director chose to bring her audience a depiction both warped, and inaccurate – in an overtly dishonest presentation.
Joylessly, I find myself in agreement with New York Times columnist, Maureen Dowd’s description of the SELMA’s message as: “artful falsehood.”
Making it worse, Richmond VA’s leadership sponsored 10,000 Richmond high school students to see Selma, without any apparent teaching-moment follow up; they bought into a blemished version. One would think corporate leadership would know better!
For both Glen Beck and, Michael Paul Williams, it makes little difference if the film presents bogus history regarding LBJ’s role in the event. Artistic license often purposefully distorts the truth; it clearly does in Selma’s case. The natural and protracted excuse enveloping those of us appalled and saddened with this production, is….that it’s simply a movie – and, hey, that’s really OK after all.
If the presentation was contrived through ignorance (it wasn’t), or distorted with an “emotional history”, triumphanting over truth, the disgrace expands. Sadly this show borders on unforgivable because it was directed to vulnerable minds – totally bereft of a frame of reference or any comparative background. Because a white President Johnson was portrayed in a version the current minority culture demands, the consideration of truth seems non-existent.
The heart breaking question rings loudly: what are we doing to ourselves? Americans: African-American and whites, must do better.
I really speculate those 10,000 Richmond middle and high school students, under the local RVA’s sponsorship to free-see the film; will not be taught accurate history about their President – in 1960’s American history. Their impression will slowly morph into “knowledge”; it will be serving a dreaded and pleasing, growing ignorance and separatism further along racial lines.
Want to put money on it?