Hidden Figures - The Glorious and Ugly, Naked Truth
Rose-colored sunglasses give everything a softer tone – although it’s monotone. But we oftentimes seem content to live with the monotone color, wearing rose-colored sunglasses in our society. But life is framed by some ugly grays creating senseless and unnecessary boundaries for many people.
“Hidden Figures” is a newly-released, gloriously inspirational motion picture based on true facts about NASA’s space program. The movie recounts the drama of how three African-American female scientists – Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson – were integral in the space race to put American astronauts into orbit in the 1960’s. “Hidden Figures” lauds these three ladies who triumphed over prejudice and indignities to propel America into the forefront of the space race.
When I viewed the movie’s trailer for the first time, I knew I must see the film. Movie-going is a rare pastime of mine, to be frank. But I ventured beyond my general lifestyle to see “Hidden Figures” because when I watched the trailer, I knew the film would touch me in a deep way. Not simply because of the plot or drama. I was positive “Hidden Figures” would bring me to tears because of my first-hand identification with the struggles of those African-American female scientists.
Johnson, Vaughan, and Jackson fought senseless prejudice almost sixty years ago to just do their jobs. But some of our experiences haven’t been that long ago. For me, it was in the 1990’s and even in the new millennium.
Judging by the box office-topping ticket sales for “Hidden Figures” (outperforming newly-released flicks starring Ben Afleck and Ryan Gosling this past weekend alone), I sense that my identification with those ladies’ challenge is neither an isolated nor foreign experience to many. People truly are connecting with “Hidden Figures.”
That’s the naked and ugly truth. People are identifying with the senseless battle those three brilliant and resourceful scientists experienced. Johnson, Vaughan, and Jackson simply wanted to perform to the best of their abilities on their jobs. They desired opportunities to grow, excel, and simply work – without underhanded contrivances, sabotage of their work, or disrespect of their dignity as professionals.
“Hidden Figures” spawned some questions in my mind, however. Those questions are:
1. What tremendous strides in the STEM arena today are being chopped off at the knees because of ideologies that prevent those like Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson from utilizing their abilities?
2. How many industries across the board are currently suffering stillbirths in innovation because bright minds and ambitions are shackled by baseless criteria and prejudices?
3. How has humanity suffered because someone was not given the opportunity or the support needed to blossom, simply because the person was esteemed as inferior or insignificant by irrelevant standards?
The ugly, naked truth is that we’ll never know the answers to these questions.
“Hidden Figures” has revealed glorious truth and naked, ugly truth about our culture and the nation’s space program of the 1960’s. But what it revealed strikes home with the experiences of many people today, including me.
Perhaps one day, the glorious truth about everyone’s abilities will be seen as assets for the furtherance of all of our American dreams, rather than being seen as threats to others’ ambitions or unfounded prejudices.
As a society, we need help getting beyond the naked truth and ugly grays formed by black and white lines which imprison too many undiscovered heroes. The motion picture “Hidden Figures” portrays the glorious and ugly, naked truth surrounding the space race. But similar scenarios still are playing out in all kinds of industries and companies today. Our society needs to remove the rose-colored sunglasses. We have to acknowledge the problem before we can fix it.
Let’s hope the threat of human extinction or potential subservience to oppressive ideologies (like in the 1960’s) isn’t required to spur us to forsake the ugly, naked truth of prejudice to seek the glorious, talented, brilliant hidden figures inside of us all.
(To the producers, writers, and most of all, the three scientists revealed in “Hidden Figures” – Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson who stood together against tremendous attacks on their dignity to propel the American space program to the forefront of history – I offer a personal, sincere “thank you,” posthumously in two cases. Perhaps had I known about you in my youth, I might have aspired to follow in your footsteps. I watched space rocket launches at Cape Canaveral from my back porch as a youth.)