The time in which Odessa lives is unfamiliar to most that was not alive or that did not live in the south. The daily struggle of African Americans of the time is also unfamiliar to whites. There exists a level of prejudice that we could not even imagine today. Odessa, like other black folk sees the injustices that exists and realizes that change is inevitable but not possible without organization and solidarity.
The simple idea that blacks are not equal, in any way, to the whites is obviously ludicrous. How can a human being think, that because of the color of one’s skin, they are not the same. People of this time even go as far to suggest that blacks are not part of the human race and that they are more closely related to animals. Imagine that? This is an example of how far unchecked thinking could take a person, but in this time many whites feel this way, and the rest have no choice but to abide. If they do not they would be shunned and labeled a "white nigger" which is just about the same as being black.
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I grew up in two countries, and I am married to a person from yet another country. During my time in the United States, I always lived in the L.A. or San Diego area, which is needless to say, is multi-cultural. I traveled through out the U.S., Mexico, Canada, Japan, and China. I take great interest in areas of countries that are not culturally the same as the rest. For example, Hong Kong with its slightly British twist, or New Orleans with its Cajun culture, or even Tijuana and the amount of poverty and crime, and Okinawa where everyone speaks both Japanese and English. Because of my past, I have become pretty good at seeing the differences and similarities of cultures, and I can see why people would easily stereotype other races and act upon that prejudice.
People have a need to categorize everything, and races are no exception. I don’t think that it is wrong to categorize or to recognize similarities in certain races, because similarities do exist. I think many factors could create a personality of a certain race. Look at New York for instance, a place where everyone is living on top of each other, a highly populated place. What is the first thing that most would say about a New Yorker? Does the term "New York Minuet" mean anything? What about China? Did you know that citizens of China are allowed to have only a single child? What do you think that would do to the personality of the nation as a whole? I feel blacks, having been discriminated against for so long, have developed a better sense of humor than most, and Japanese, because of the high level of competition in there country, are more detail oriented than other races. I think that Mexicans are very family oriented and would go out of the way to help a "paizon" (fellow countrymen) even if he didn’t know him.
It’s how you look at it and what you do with this information. If we remember that not every person of a race is exactly alike, then I think we’re okay. If you take this to another level and start seeing negative similarities, then we’re in trouble. But, how can we not see negative similarities though? It is difficult, especially when things would seem a certain way when actually it’s not. Like for example, it is a fact that there are more blacks in prison than whites, but we have to ask ourselves why. It would seem pretty simple to me, because of the prejudices that people harbor, blacks are subjected to unfair trials, and because many blacks are below the poverty line, they can’t afford to fight back. Many blacks are kept below the poverty line because of the same reason; a white person with prejudices hiring someone would simply trust the white guy. There are other negative similarities like Chinese are cheap, but coming from a poverty stricken third world country, you would also learn to make every penny count. A lot of Chinese immigrants do very well in our society and become successful.
Negative prejudices about blacks are the reason they were kept in suppression for so long. Odessa as well as all others know this to be true. This is why it is so important to them to participate in the movement and that it be a peaceful one. Trying to advocate change in any other way, than peaceful protest, would be disastrous. You cannot change the thinking of just about everyone, who’s not black, by forcing an idea down there throats. Changing peoples mind is like educating them, it takes time to bring a person’s mind to a level that they can understand and the bus boycott is the first step.
The boycott’s organization is such that all blacks had to understand the long term commitment and what that effort would yield. They also know that this is not the only battle that will be fought, and they know that without solidarity it would be lost. The movie suggests, though, that once the boycott did start, no black person really had a choice. With no blacks riding the busses, if one were to ride, they would become the center of attention, the kind of attention they could do without. This is what happens to Selma when she decides to take the bus to meet her friend and gets harassed by some white teenagers.
Odessa’s will to change the future for her children is the motivation for her to stay committed to the movement, and she will literally walk until her feet fall off to achieve this and it was achieved. In December of 1956, the boycott ended and the busses were desegregated. The first step was achieved. It would still be a long time before true equality is achieved. Some would argue that even today, it doesn’t exist, that it is just less obvious. It is, however well underway. The direction this movement takes is really up to each generation and what they teach the next. I have seen so many public service announcements that show us how easy it is to be prejudice and I think we need to keep this idea in the limelight.
I feel that we cannot become comfortable about the level of prejudice that exists today. The movement is still alive and needs to keep going until we all become one race. What I mean is that it is never over. As long as there are races on this earth, we will always have prejudice. It can never be abolished.
It has changed though, today we do not have segregation in fact the opposite is true. Affirmative action tries to ensure that blacks and other minorities have the same chance that whites do. Black history month tries to teach not only blacks, that there were those that did great things. In the past black dolls were made with white features only, which could make a black child think she was ugly. Today, if you notice, black dolls have black features. In certain industries it’s even cool to be black. More and more blacks are being elected into office and there are more black professionals than ever before. Black owned businesses are also on the rise. It’s only a matter of time before the first black president is elected, that would be a great accomplishment! None of this would have been possible without the efforts of people like Rosa Parks.
I think that Whoopi’s character knew that things would change eventually and that she had to participate in that change to make things better for her children. It has changed, and as long as we keep things moving, it will keep getting better.
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