Revisiting Selma

My wife and I saw the movie Selma. It is a dramatization, not a documentary, so could be expected to depart from an exact history. In this case, the most insistent complaint I’ve heard is over the portrayal of President Johnson. I lived through the years depicted and, while I never witnessed anything as violent and despicable as shown on screen, I’ve no doubt that life for black Americans was just as bad as characterized.

I have, however, met persons years ago whose faces and voices seemed to seethe with hate and anger directed against blacks who were just looking to be treated like equal human beings. I have seen and heard the same prejudice, somewhat quietened by the social changes that have intervened, in a few of my contemporaries. With almost no exception, those of my acquaintance were and are Church-goers, certain of their faith and certain of the superiority of their code of morality.

As I once again watched the Selma events—admittedly dramatized—I could not avoid thinking about the everyday, peaceful, seemingly good people who could so easily become monsters when their racial bias and white superiority were threatened.

My thoughts in those moments were not happy ones, nor were they complimentary to the white citizens of that southern town, or to the hundreds of other quite similar towns. Nor was the brutal treatment by Christians anywhere near as bad as it has been in the history of the South, of the country, or of the world. I also knew that even under such powerful situations of group-think writ large, some Christians would stand against such behavior. And some showed up in the movie. But those Christians were in the minority on the horrid occasion and even more in the minority in the days leading up to it.

I salute the nonviolence of blacks that must have taken so much courage and trust in the method. And the blacks who led the process, unwilling to allow the situation to go on as it had for years, taking chances with their own lives. So with gratitude to and appreciation of blacks and those other whites, what went through my mind was this:

  • In white Selma, most citizens likely believed Jesus of Nazareth to be God incarnate, the source of all goodness, who was resurrected after death, and now hears prayers and will later judge.
  • In white Selma, most law officers likely believed Jesus of Nazareth to be God incarnate, the source of all goodness, who was resurrected after death, and now hears prayers and will later judge.
  • In white Selma, most bystanders who stood by and watched as blacks were beaten likely believed Jesus of Nazareth to be God incarnate, the source of all goodness, who was resurrected after death, and now hears prayers and will later judge.
  • In white Selma, probably all white preachers believed Jesus of Nazareth to be God incarnate, the source of all goodness, who was resurrected after death, and now hears prayers and will later judge.

About John Bruce Carver

I am a U. S. citizen living in Atlanta, Georgia, having grown up in Chattanooga, Tennessee, graduating from Chattanooga High School. I served in the Electronic Security Command of the U. S. Air Force before receiving a B.S. degree in business/economics and an M.Ed. in educational psychology, both at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. I then completed a Ph.D. in clinical (and research) psychology at Emory University. I have two daughters and three granddaughters. An ardent international traveller, I have been in over 70 countries for business and pleasure. My reading, other than novels, tends to be in history, philosophy, government, and light science. I identify philosophically as a secular humanist, in complete awe of the universe including my fellows and myself. I am married to my best friend, Miriam, formerly of the United Kingdom and Canada.
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