I saw Hidden Figures on MLK day. I haven’t written in a while but I couldn’t stay away after watching this film. I don’t recall any movie ever touching me quite this way. My only regret was having to watch it in a theater full of old, White folks who annoyed me with every exclamation. Like, honestly, why are you collectively gasping at the sight of the “Colored Only” coffee pot or bathroom? This wasn’t that long ago…you were an adult then.
I felt so much during and after this movie and I couldn’t wait to come home and share. Given how rich this film is, I will share my thoughts over the next couple of parts to do it justice. Btw, Spoiler Alert!
Nothing like a Black Sista Circle
Kat, Dorothy, and Mary from the very beginning, exuded a strong bond and an acceptance for each other that is … precious and enviable. When Black women love each other and stand together, we create a support system that is nothing short of true sisterhood; a kind, I think, is unparalleled in women of any other race. Seeing these women accept Dorothy’s love for all things mechanical, Mary’s smart mouth, Kat’s quirkiness… made me long to call my girlfriends. When Dorothy opens up about feeling left behind while Mary and Kat’s careers seem to be moving forward, her comfort in her vulnerability speaks volumes about the closeness and genuineness of their bond. How many times have you felt a twinge of jealousy amidst genuine feelings of joy at your friend’s success? Do you share this with them? Will your friends wait hours for you so you can share their ride, pour you a drink and crank up some music when you feel down, nudge you towards Mr. Right when you want to run and hide from past hurt? If yes, hold on tight. They are keepers.
Be Ye Perfect, O Black Woman
Despite many challenges, these women were the best in their fields. They were surrounded by mediocrity and yet, were still not allowed a seat at the table. If you’ve read most of my posts, you know how often this happens to Black women in Corporate. Like Dorothy, we are often passed up for promotions we are deserving of, even after doing the job for years. And yet, we are expected to suck it up, smile and nod and keep giving our all. While today I am free to use any bathroom I choose, I find myself in a Corporate environment that is, uninviting at best, to someone like me. I am constantly battling micro aggressive behaviors and comments and there are days when I feel inadequate and out of place. On those days, I do not get a pass. Not only can I not scream and cuss people out like I want to at times, but I must feign a light-hearted, relaxed persona like my White counterparts. Perfection. The unwritten qualification every Corporate Black woman must possess to be just as successful as her mediocre peers.
The Benevolent White Man
This is one of the themes that struck me the most. The idea of a tough but kindhearted, White man who goes against the grain to “save” the Black woman from the system designed to gobble her up. We are first introduced to him in the form of the police officer in the first scene who helps them when their car breaks down. We meet him again in Kat’s boss Al, who is seen dramatically destroying the “Colored” bathroom sign, allowing people to use any bathroom of their choosing. Throughout the film, he grudgingly elevates Kat when it becomes clear she is head and shoulders above the rest of his staff.
I have met this man in my career in Corporate. A White male boss I had during an internship, who “went to bat” for me with senior leadership and had to fight to keep me on even though I had received raving reviews. Another who offered to help me in salary negotiations because he noticed I was earning much less than others within my tier (who were White). While I applaud these men for taking unpopular stances to support Black women, I cannot ignore the structure that creates and fosters this power dynamic.
Stay Tuned for Part 2!