Monday, August 15, 2016

Numbers Game

You know when you see something and say to yourself, “Man, that is too good to be true.” Well, say, hell, hello trailer for “Hidden Figures.” At first, it plays like almost any other feel-good story of so-called American exceptionalism. Hidden talents, overcoming odds, uplifting soundtrack. But then those five little words flash on screen: “Based on the untold true story.” The story of the black women who worked for NASA during the space race of the 1950s and 60s is about as untold a true story as they come. The deficiency of our history books is nothing new. But that so few people – myself very much included – knew these extraordinary women even existed let alone what they accomplished is a true miscarriage of history.

Take Taraji P. Henson’s real-life character in the film, Katherine Johnson. A math whiz from a very young age she entered college at age 15 and graduated by age 18. And in segregated Jim Crow America she worked for NASA, she was the one who calculated the trajectory for Alan Shepard, the first American in space, as well as verifying the numbers for John Glenn’s historic orbit around the Earth. And she also calculated the trajectory for Apollo 11 – you know the one that made that “one giant leap for mankind” on the Moon.

Yet, I never learned about her in my texbooks I don’t recall her in “The Right Stuff.” Nor did she make an appearance in “Apollo 13,” though she helped devise the plan to bring them back safely to Earth. Not in our history books, not in the mythologizing of our heroes. Invisible if not for a concerted effort to correct the record, decades later. Last year President Obama awarded Johnson the Presidential Medal of Freedom, our nation’s highest civilian honor.

You see, that’s why it matters who takes down our history. Sexism and racism and all those other –isms find their way in when only one group dictates who gets the credit for our accomplishments. And, make no mistake, this is intentional. These are no accidental omissions – this once again is one of the mechanisms to perpetuate the patriarchy. Yes, yes – I know. I am feminist hear me roar. But a movie like this, it matters.

And, on a much more superficial note, it just looks so damn good. Taraji! Octavia Spencer! Janelle! Monáe!! Hell, yeah. Now that’s one for the history books.


Carmen San Diego said...

Oh I'm so watching this
Thanks for bringing it to my attention

Unknown said...

Hello Ms. Snarker, This is an off topic comment but I wanted to share this New York Times story in (the highly unlikely) case that you haven't already seen it:

Thank you for the amazing work you do for our community!

Unknown said...

Wonderful. Thank you for sharing.