Teaching Concern and Compassion Through Film
There are times when a movie makes me feel dirty and ashamed. But it’s not because of some explicit content. It’s because the real-life narrative revealed some wrong attitudes I held in the past.
Our family recently watched Loving. It centers on an interracial couple whose love story led them to the Supreme Court. It is a great film showcasing the struggle of the Loving’s and their fight for marriage equality. If you haven't seen it, I highly encourage you to—especially if you are a white person who grew up in a northern state.
You see, as I was growing up in suburban St. Peters, in my mostly white county, going to a mostly white school, I didn't realize the struggle that was still happening oh so close to my front door. Because I didn't see it firsthand, I spent the majority of my growing up years—yes, even into high school—feeling that the Civil Rights movement was much ado about nothing.
I am ashamed that, even as a 15 year-old, I didn't fully understand the struggle of my black brothers and sisters because I had been led to believe that all their mistreatment ended when slavery did. I knew there were small uprisings; we learned about Alabama and the fight for equal education. But I really had no idea! None at all.
Our nation's history, especially those parts, had been sanitized in my education. It was taught in a way that made it seem so long ago, all the while, watering those events down to isolated incidents and not the reality of that time period. Up until the 1960's, just a decade or so before I was born, it was illegal to marry a person of another race in some parts of our nation.
We literally told people they weren't allowed to love someone simply because of their skin color. It's despicable that we treated people that way. Even after the law was changed, it took time for the hearts of people to change. There were still mindsets and biases about this sort of thing for many years—maybe even still today.
We watched this film with our kids. The small ones fell asleep, but our pre-teens and older watched it until the end. Yes, there were some "bad" words, but they were used in context and accurately considering the time period.
If your kids haven't had much interaction with people of color, or live in a predominantly white area, they should see this film. It's probably best for older kids, middle and high school. Use it as a platform to discuss this time in our nation's history, and how we should treat others.
There are many ways you can use this to teach them about our history. But learning history is pretty pointless if you don't learn from it. I am determined to give my kids a solid and accurate picture of our nation's history. I will not sanitize the yucky parts simply because they make “my race” look bad.
The white majority did some horrible things in our nation, and we need to remember them so we can be a conduit of healing and change. There are people of color in our nation today who still bear the emotional wounds of past generations.
This year, I’ve broached these topics in our home school curriculum. We’ve just finished studying the Civil War and post war reconstruction era with my 5th grader. I have been careful to help him see both sides of the issues and give all the facts of the struggle of that time period. As a mom, I’ve been both shocked and proud of some of the conclusions he has come to on his own without prompting from me.
As we talked about the film the next day in the context of our nation’s history, my 5th grader was shocked to find out that it was based on a true story. We talked about how those things—and situations similar to it—really did happen in that time period. Even though it was a movie, it wasn’t a made-up story. His insights into the whole thing were pretty simple, but sometimes we need the simple perspective of a child to bring clarity.
He said, “Wow, Mom, that was really wrong how they were treated.” Yes, it was. My hope and prayer as I teach my kids these truths is that they not only have a well-rounded education, but that they become well rounded adults—able to see beyond the walls of our home with compassion and concern for those who are hurting.
Let's raise the next generation to usher in healing. We cannot continue to sweep things under the rug and act like they are no big deal. I'm ready to see a healing and revival movement sweep through our nation. It starts with the heart.
Melissa Jacobs and her husband Jeremy serve as local leaders of Bound4LIFE International, a pro-life prayer movement. She earned a degree in early childhood education from the University of Missouri-St. Louis and writes regularly for Bound4LIFE St. Louis. An interracial adoptive family, the Jacobs live in St. Louis, Missouri.