Friday, August 23, 2013

The Butler: More than a Good Movie

If I know one thing for sure, it's that racial issues in the United States are still alive and well.

And although African Americans now have the right to vote, own property, attend desegregated public schools, etc. etc... I still find myself saying every so often - "Wow, and it's 2013."

Take this story, for example:

One of my friends, who happens to be African American too, took her two daughters to see "The Butler" last week. Her daughters were deeply moved and amazed at the narrative of history being played out before them. They had learned very little of this history in school, and they wondered why.

I too have questioned this lack of the "whole-story" in our country's history lessons.

I think the answer is found in the rest of this story.

So... one of my friend's daughter's plans to try out for a part in her private school's production of "The Great Gatsby." In order to prepare the students for tryouts, the drama teacher set the stage for the 1920s - the decade that  F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby takes place.

The teacher went on and on about how wonderful this time period was for Americans. How most people enjoyed a time of wealth and prosperity. How this period marked a time of fun and revelry.

After noting that "The Butler" began in the 1920's, when sharecropping covered a dark blanket over much of the South, and therefore, most African American families, my friend's daughter responded something like this:

"Mommy, my teacher said the '20s were a time of fun and wealth. But it wasn't that way for African Americans."

And that, my Friend, is one reason why race relations are so difficult in every era of our country. Oftentimes, African Americans and Caucasians have two completely different realities. And what becomes frustrating is when one side is unwilling to see and validate the other side's reality.

Which is why a movie like "The Butler" is so vitally important.

We've all seen movies that helped us peer into the White House. We've seen Eisenhower portrayed. We've seen the Kennedy family portrayed. We've even seen Ronald Reagan portrayed.

Yet how amazing was it to see the White House through the lens of a servant - an African American one at that.

That alone is enough reason to see "The Butler."

What director Lee Daniels did was afford us the opportunity to see life from a different perspective -- the perspective of an African American man who grew up in abject poverty, but rose to a comfortable middle-class lifestyle. A man who served with dignity and pride, despite many who considered his occupation beneath the modern Black man. A man who, in service to his country, resembled our Savior.
"Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave -- just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." *
So, whatever you've got planned this weekend, fit in a viewing of "The Butler" if you haven't already seen it. Go see it with others and discuss it afterwards. Feel free to discuss it with me here or in my Facebook inbox.

Brothers and Sisters, we've got to begin to attempt to see life from the lenses of our brothers and sisters of different hues and cultural backgrounds. 

We've got to talk less and listen more.

We've got to open our hearts to truly see.

It's the only way we're going to tackle this race thing in our country.

Laws cannot do it.

Changed hearts are the answer.


* These words are found in Matthew 20:26-28. And it's no coincidence that I just read them during my devotional time this morning. 


  1. The movie sounds really good, I look forward to seeing it! I agree that only changed hearts will bring about the real change in our country.

    1. Kathleen, I'm sure you'll like it! Thanks for commenting. And aren't you glad you know the Heart-changer? Blessings to you, Friend.

  2. this should be read by as many people as possible...

    1. Thank you "Deeps" for visiting Deep Waters and for you comment. Feel free to share this post with your friends. Blessings to you.

  3. Enjoyed the movie and will be returning with a car load. I have never seen a movie with so many layers. It has peaked my interest
    in our history and our presidents. When you buy a tablet for a child, please also include an African-American history book.

    1. "Anonymous" I also look forward to taking my sons to see this movie as well. I too learned so much about the Civil Rights era and our country's presidents - the good and the bad. I agree with you about the African-American history books. Bless you!

  4. Wow, thank you, Carla. I've been realizing the last few years how very much of history isn't usually taught. I look forward to seeing this movie! Blessings.

    1. Kiersti, so good to connect with you again - my "blogger-friend"! I agree - there's so much I know now that I didn't learn in school. I think you'll definitely enjoy "The Butler." Blessings back to you.

  5. It is good for me to read your comments on the movie and those of your readers. I will go see it. As a Caucasian raised in a small town in Arkansas, I know I can't even begin to understand the hurts and harm inflicted upon your people. My grandfather was a tenant farmer who never owned property. From what I've been told, he was a good farmer, but there was never a way to get out of that system. So I understand humble beginnings. Yet as a white man, he was afforded more than the Black tenant. I'm sorry that teacher didn't convey the truth that all white people did not live the great Gatsby life. Among many things for which I am grateful is that my mother and father understood the worth of all people and taught us to respect people of all races. I encountered a measure of discrimination when I was in college and as a young divorced mother of two wasn't allowed to live in married student housing. I remember one wife of a fellow student who took an immediate dislike to me when I had no designs on anyone, not to mention assumptions made by some of the men I encountered. I pressed on because I had my eye on getting an education. I know that my experiences don't begin to compare to the history of African Americans, but they gave me a glimpse into the pain we can inflict on others. So I, too, hope for a new way of living together. It makes me sad when I encounter anger and rudeness because I am white, but I understand that injured people injure others. I pray for the day that we all live into Dr. King's vision. I also pray against a need for revenge in all groups. May the Lord Jesus Christ draw us together in the unity of His love!

    1. Dorothy, thank you so much for visiting "Deep Waters." And thank you so much for commenting here. I appreciate you sharing a slice of your personal story and personal struggles. It's true that we all have various perspectives of the exact same time periods and even experiences. May we, as God's children, continue to live as true family and as you say "May the Lord Jesus Christ draw us together in the unity of His love." His love in and through us is the only way we can truly walk together and love one another.

  6. Carla, I just read this prayer in ALIVE NOW!, a United Methodist publication. I thought you might like it.
    Prayer: O God of Hospitality, transform me into a host like you, welcoming all those who the world has rejected. Amen.

    1. What a beautiful prayer, Dorothy. Thanks for sharing!