“The Children Were Watching,” dir. Robert Drew and Richard Leacock, USA 1961, 25 min. — This documentary doesn’t feel as old to me as I wish it did. In part that’s because I watched it in Trump’s America during an especially difficult year, but something deeper is at play. The film’s ongoing relevance represents an ambiguous answer to its directors’ main question: What were the children of a New Orleans neighborhood learning as they watched their parents during the conflicts surrounding school integration in November 1960?
Minnesota Governor Walz’s assertion that ongoing riots are no longer about George Floyd ring true in a way. But were they ever about one man? Floyd’s death was certainly no one-off. The protests—and the participation of so many young people—should give pause to those leaders who would gloss over this society’s brutal injustices and disparities.
This 1899 map’s legend makes sense within a late-nineteenth-century imperialist framework, and the brutality of its seemingly objectively portrayed vision is unmistakable. Source: New York Public Library Digital Collections, http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47df-fd22-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99.
Jeet Heer’s provocative commentary in the New Republic is worth a read: “America Has Always Been Angry and Violent”. The historical rhetoric he offers is startling. I definitely need to read more U.S. history.
There is an infectious simplicity about this film, which rings true politically in these times, even if the history it tells was more complicated.
A woman I met way back when my son and her daughter were still in kindergarten or the first grade has written a piece that drives home the unfortunate contradictions in what passes for a national conversation in these United States. It’s not preachy or partisan, just personal, the kind of thing that can make you think, even if you don’t happen to know the man in question.
My husband of twenty-seven years is a police officer. He’s a decent man, a kind man, the kind of police officer you’d want if you were in trouble. He’s also a black man. A black man who I worry about more when he is out of uniform than when he is wearing one.
Read the whole piece: Black Man Driving