I was particularly struck this week by King’s desire to remain peaceful, even when others were inclined to use force to get ahead. Given the world in which we live today, I was especially impressed with his unwavering stand on peaceful demonstrations. I only wish we could follow his lead today, and allow our voices and our beings to make statements, instead of our weapons.
I was also taken by the conversation surrounding the movie about the Jewish presence or lack their of. I am well aware and quite proud of the fact that Jews, in particular rabbis, came down to Selma to march with MLK. Many were put in jail with him, and take great pride in this experience. I have often shared the words of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel and Rabbi Yoachim Prinz, who were among the great rabbis to stand up for Civil Rights. However, I was not disappointed by the lack of Jewish presence depicted in the movie. I saw several actors wearing kippot, obviously playing rabbis, and that was enough for me. This movie was not focused on the clergy or others who came to support MLK; it was about the events in Selma in 1964, and for that, it did a great job.
He continued to push the question, and inquired as to the depth of violence and hatred that was depicted in the movie. He thought that, perhaps, the director added violence and went a little extreme to make a point because it was “the movies”. I explained that this was, simply, what happened. I shared that this was not a time in our American history for which we are proud; quite the opposite. There was a hatred that existed among whites toward blacks that was unexplainable and inexcusable.
Sam and Sophie were completely baffled when they watched people simply sitting or standing peacefully, and the police and others coming at them with bats and other weapons, seriously injuring them, and in some cases, killing them. It was beyond their capacity to understand how human beings could behave like this. We discussed how, unfortunately, this has occurred in history time and time again, to the blacks in America, to the Jews during the Holocaust, and even in various places around the world today.
Though it was not my intention in watching this movie, I would strongly encourage all parents of children ten and older to view this movie with their children, to discuss the realities of our history and how we can learn from this period as we look to the future. Though there are moments that are somewhat violent, they are no more violent than scenes from The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, or even Harry Potter. And these scenes are based on reality.
As MLK Jr. said: “An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.” Let us all find a way to rise above, and care more for others and the way of the world. Then we have helped to do a little tikkun olam, our part in healing the world.
Rabbi Deborah K. Bravo