I Can Breathe, how do I help?
In the movie Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, there exists one of the most powerful and beautiful scenes I believe has ever been put on film. If you haven't seen the film I won't spoil it, but the plot centers around a black man who happens to be in love with a young white woman. At the end of the film, Sidney Poitier (who plays the lead character) is having a discussion with his father about who he is, and the way in which he thinks of himself. The famous line is spoken, "You think of yourself as a colored man, I think of myself as a man".
At the time of this post, there are protests, riots, rallies, and civil unrest all over America regarding the killing of an unarmed black man by a Police officer in Minneapolis. It may have gone unnoticed, except for the fact that it was caught on video and by now, nearly the entire world has seen the footage. I desperately want to lie and tell that that the year is 1969 or even 1987, but I can't. This is 2020.
I'm trying to imagine myself as a black man in America, and it's hard. I've studied under black teachers, my church pastor is black, most of my sports heroes are black, and some of the deepest and most meaningful conversations I've had in life have taken place with black people. Despite all this, I still find it difficult to imagine myself black. I've thought about this for a while and believe the reason is simple. I don't believe in racism.
Allow me to clarify. It's not that I don't believe racism exists, or that I myself have never practiced some form of it. It's clearly evident every day all over the world in countless forms. I just don't believe it needs to exist as a way in which we as people function in society. The sheer audacity of this thought seems ludicrous. Yes, what a wonderfully nice thought that is, no racism. It would also be nice if leprechauns and unicorns delivered boxes full of unending treasure to my door every morning.
So, I've decided to come up with another thought. One that seems a bit more psychologically manageable. What if the only reason anyone ever took another person's life, was simply because they didn't understand love.
Call me insanely naive if you want. Something so simple could never happen, right? It's clearly impossible to think that the whole world could come to understand and agree on the meaning of something. Maybe. But we all understand that water is wet, we all get that fire is hot, so what's the difficulty with love? The answers for this could vary wildly depending on interpretation, experience, and emotional maturity. However, is it really that far fetched of an idea? What would it actually take for every single person to understand the importance, value, and gravitas of what love truly is?
I have an idea, but you might not like it. It's all at once groundbreakingly new and refreshingly old. Every person in the world right now go grab a buddy. No, no don't be greedy, just get one. One buddy is all this will take. Ok, you ready? Now take your buddy and gently lay him or her down on their stomach. Place your knee ever so softly on their neck and continue to apply pressure until they beg you to stop. Did you do it? Great! Good job, we're almost done. Ok, so here comes the hard part. Let your buddy up, and now allow them to do the exact same thing to you. See, the key to this exercise is that you both need to feel the same sensation or else this doesn't work. Alright, here we go. You can do this, you ready? Ok, go!
At the end of Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, as two families of different races sit around a dinner table, the end credits roll and the music swells. The screen fades to black and the last thing we hear are voices harmonizing in song, "that's the story of, that's the glory of love." We never found out what happens to these families after this, but the intention of the film is to leave us on a high note and in good spirits. We want to believe that even though things might be tough now, they eventually will work themselves out. 53 years have passed since this movie came out, and while undeniably a lot has changed, some things still haven't.
One of my ongoing goals in life is to be an incredibly successful director and producer. I'd love to make a movie or documentary that has a positive cultural impact and generates thought provoking conversations about how to make the world a better place. Until that chance comes along, I think there's really only one thing I can do. It's something we can all do no matter who you are, or where you come from, or what you look like.
Before I tell you what it is, can I ask you something? How does your neck feel? Your buddy let you up, right? I mean, clearly they had to. There's no way you're still on the ground and your buddy didn't get the point of the exercise... right?
Hmm, well that's weird.