Racism has been a part of our country for almost 200 years. I hasn’t been until recently where everyone is accepted equally (or at least we’re trying to accept them). Of course, there is one instance that racism makes absolutely no sense, but that’s just because racism perpetuates a stereotype that certain people aren’t even important enough to be called people. This instance is war. If we’re fighting for our freedoms and liberties, why don’t we let everyone fight? And yet, even when the oppressed races are allowed to enter the battle, they aren’t taken seriously. While war is perhaps the last place you could think of to produce positive results, it certainly gives the oppressed a chance to stand as equals with their oppressors as they fight against a common enemy. This week’s two films highlight the battles of African American warfighters who fought not only in war, but against the prejudices of their fellow soldiers.
Length: 125 minutes / 2.08 hours
Since the Civil Rights activities of the 1960’s were still decades away, there was still rampant discrimination even as recent as World War II. And yet, this war may have been the push to those demonstrations in the 60’s. After all, even though slavery had been abolished almost 100 years earlier, our nation was still trying to peacefully integrate blacks into society as equals, even if it seemed like they weren’t trying very hard. That being said, when the members of the Tuskegee Airmen were given opportunities to fight, they proved that not only could they hold their own in the air, they could be even better than their white counterparts.
Right from the start of the movie, one can see that discrimination against this group of soldiers is obvious. Not only are they sent on somewhat unimportant missions, but the planes they’ve been given to fly are a bunch of junkers that the other squadrons have essentially thrown out. When they finally get the chance to go on a real mission to bomb a strategic German location, they hold to formation and make the mission a success. As a result, they get better planes and more missions, eventually proving to everyone else that they are some of the greatest American pilots around. Their skills in the sky eventually help to alleviate their persecution on the ground.
Length: 122 minutes / 2.03 hours
If there was any war that African Americans would want to fight in, it would be the Civil War. Not only would they be fighting for the unity of their country, but for their very freedom. And yet, even though the North was more accepting of the idea of freed slaves, they didn’t necessarily want to fight a war with their help. Still, that didn’t prevent blacks from signing up to fight for the Union, each one volunteering to die for their freedom and the freedom of their brothers. The challenge now became who would lead these men? Certainly they couldn’t lead themselves, since they had been told what to do for generations [/tongue-in-cheek].
Unfortunately for Colonel Robert Shaw (Matthew Broderick), he was chosen to lead the first company of black volunteers. Now, not only did he have a target on his head from the Confederate side (which made it a point to take out officers in charge of blacks), but he was essentially shunned by the officers in the Union, who were above leading former slaves into battle. As Col. Shaw trains his troops for battle, he goes into a battle of his own: convincing his superiors to let his company fight. When they’re given a chance against an impenetrable fortress set up in Charleston, their effort is eventually recognized as more blacks are allowed into the service of the Union.
2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 fights for freedom