While the movie, Red Tails, which premiered in movie theatres across the nation this weekend, is about an all black Air Force unit that flew successful air strikes in World War II, it is not a lesson just for black Americans, but all Americans. It depicts the journey of black men who were well trained and proud to fight for their country, even though they were not perceived or treated as equals by the very country and countrymen for whom they willingly risked their lives.
George Lucas, the director best known for Star Wars and Indiana Jones, collaborated with another noted filmmaker, Steven Spielberg, to produce and finance the film. Even in 21st Century America, Lucas found it very difficult to get support from major studios because those studios expressed concern that a primarily black cast about a black subject — albeit about bravery and heroism — would not have broad audience appeal either here at home or abroad.
That perception did not deter Lucas. He was determined to get it to the big screen. It is a great portrayal of triumph over racism and a sobering reminder that there is so much more to be done to eradicate racism and all of its ugliness.
Red Tails is not just a movie for black Americans, and its premiere is not just because we are approaching Black History month. Hopefully, its content will be a good lesson for all Americans.
Another great opportunity to learn about race, racism, and the commonalities we share — the good, and not-so-good — will be with the new Showtime series, House of Lies, which stars black actor, Don Cheadle. He plays a ruthless management consultant as he confronts racism in the business world. The series is on Sundays on Showtime, it is billed and commended for taking on the elephant in the room. It promises to address race, racism, and racial situations like no other. It is not about being colorblind or race-neutral.
Whether it is Red Tails, House of Lies, or a TV sitcom, good book, theatrical play, music, food, sporting events, or some other everyday experience, there are so many opportunities to learn more about each other. We can venture out of our comfort zones and go to a movie, a live performance, a restaurant, or worship service to learn first-hand, close-up and personal. Or, we can remain in the comfort of our own homes, with friends or colleagues. But there are so many, many ways we can become acquainted or re-examine old perceptions and misperceptions.
Those are the real lasting lessons about race and race relations that big screen films like Red Tails and TV series like House of Lies offer as we go about our daily lives. As we work to rid our society of the unwarranted and unnecessary negative impact and by product of perpetual racist attitudes and practices, we should embrace those efforts of enlightenment.