I’ve been so busy living my life lately that I haven’t taken much time during the past several weeks to sit down and write about it. Two excellent movies that I saw over the Labor Day weekend, though, finally inspired me to carve out some time for an overdue blog post.
First, I sneaked away to see “BlacKkKlansman,” Spike Lee’s extraordinary true-life film about Ron Stallworth, the first African-American detective to serve with the Colorado Springs Police Department in the 1970s. Working with a friend who was an undercover narcotics detective, Stallworth infiltrated and exposed the Ku Klux Klan, even speaking regularly over the telephone with the hate group’s leader, David Duke.
Although entertaining, Lee’s film more importantly provides a searingly honest and uncomfortable glimpse of racism in America. Halfway through it, I started to cry, realizing how little had changed in four decades. In fact, in many ways, the situation today seems much worse, with white supremacists again marching openly, hate crimes in the headlines almost daily and a Hater-in-Chief in the Oval Office, firing off every insult that enters his head with no thought or care about the outcome. I climbed into my car for the drive home feeling shell-shocked and angry, wondering what it will take to finally put the battles of racism and sexism behind us. Hasn’t this country learned anything from the past?
At that moment, there was only one person I wanted to talk to: my mom.
Until she became ill and required a care center, my mother was my most frequent movie companion, especially if the films involved history, true crime or controversy and caused those who viewed them to stop popping Milk Duds into their mouths and think about what they ultimately meant. Although my mother’s body is no longer active, her mind is still running on full steam most days. She listened intently as I told her about the movie and showed her photographs of the real-life Ron Stallworth on my iPhone. Then she reached out for my hand and squeezed it tightly.
“It’s a hard time,” she said, “but you can’t give up. One day at a time, everyone has to make a difference the best way they can. Nobody can solve all the world’s problems, but everyone can show kindness to even one person.”
Comforted by her optimism, I smiled through my tears all the way home. Then two nights later, I stopped by my mom’s room at the care center again, this time to watch “RBG” — the award-winning CNN documentary about Ruth Bader Ginsburg, our country’s first female Supreme Court justice. My mother had wanted to see it for months.
Over plates of her favorite Florentine ravioli, we watched raptly as a young Ginsburg took on gender equality, encouraged by her husband and longtime love, Marty, who died eight years ago. We cheered as she was appointed to the high court by President Bill Clinton, laughed at her reaction to skits about her on Saturday Night Live and shook our heads in amazement at footage of her working out with weights at age 85.
“Hang in there, Ruth — we need you,” said my mother as the end credits rolled. I looked at her, propped up in her bed, enthusiastically waving her black cane in the air, and smiled.
“Hang in there, Mom — we also need YOU,” I said, kissing her forehead. That evening, I drove home with Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” pounding from the speakers and my mom’s longtime mantra echoing in my head:
“Never give up. Never give in.” ☺️❤️🦉