Tuesday, January 06, 2009

An Open Letter to Denzel Washington

Dear Denzel Washington,

I had my first child at 25 and my last and fourth at 35. It was important to me to pass along my experiences as a child of integration growing up in Mississippi in the 60's. I wanted them to understand all that happened during that turbulent and amazing time. I was part of it.

I did well with the stories, my reflections, and my belief that all people are created equal and are loved by God equally no matter the color of one's skin.

This year my youngest turned 12. I realized that I hadn't done as good of a job with him as I had the others. Time got away, and you just can't remember what stories you have told. Then I remembered that my youngest hadn't seen your movie, "Remember The Titans." He was only four when the movie came out. Too young to understand it.

I remembered watching it thinking the movie said so much about how it was really like at that time. The only movie I have seen that I felt that way about. The icing on the cake was that it was about football too. You see, my son loves football and he's good at it too. So I got him the movie for Christmas.

We watched it today and I remembered all the things I loved about it. In so many movies about that time period, the whites are always the evil ones. There aren't any good guys. But in reality, there were lots of white good guys. Lots of men, women, and kids who weren't sure about the whole thing, but had good hearts and did the right thing.

Every little lesson I wanted my son to know about that time, like the restaurant who wouldn't serve the black football players and how wrong that was, or the white players who learned to respect the black players, or the black players who learned not to resent the white ones, or the white coach who ended up doing the right thing when you didn't think he would. All those things I wanted my son to understand.

The friendships on that team brought back so many memories of sports teams I played on with blacks, where we learned how different we were, but also how alike we were. Goodness, honesty, and respect, this movie had it all. Maybe I should be thanking the producers or writers, right? But we all know that no one would have seen that movie if it hadn't had your star power in it. You made that movie happen.

I loved the talk my son and I were able to have. I loved that I could honestly say that a movie portrayed a time as it actually was, and that we are all better people because of that time.

I was also happy to tell him that the actor playing the black head coach was as fine a man in real life as he was on that screen. I couldn't say that about any other movie star. I told him that you had been happily married for 26 years with four children. I told him that you had never been in the tabloids for cheating or drugs. I said that I saw you on an interview once talking about your faith and what it meant to you. And that explained why you were a different kind of movie star. I told him that I didn't know what your politics was and I didn't care, because you supported the troops when it wasn't cool to do so in Hollywood. You visited soldiers at the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio Texas. You didn't tell a press agent about it. There was no tabloids there. It only got out when some personal photos from soldiers were posted on the Internet. You also made a large donation to the Fisher Houses. that provide rooms for hospitalized soldier's families.

I wish there were much more movies like "Remember The Titans." Ones that tell us our history, and uplift us with all that we did right. I wish Hollywood would use this powerful medium as a force for good, instead of entertaining filth. Such power there to make us think and to make us better...... all wasted. But not "Remember The Titans." It was exactly what I wish most movies could be, inspiring, entertaining, and creative.

Thank you Denzel Washington, for that movie and for being the one movie star I can tell my son it's ok to look up to.


Kathleen McKinley