- Posted by Janet Zaretsky
- On February 28, 2017
- 1 Comments
When I saw the film, “Hidden Figures”, recently I was very impacted. I was impacted by the massive effect prejudice (of all kinds) has on people, on society, on humanity and the possibility of the contribution people make to one another. I am not writing this to stir up any controversy, to take a position on any subject, but to have us, you and I, open up to what is possible when people are given equal opportunity.
We all have prejudices, biases, and most of them are invisible to us. To be prejudiced or biased is to simply prejudge someone, hold someone separate as a result of a belief about an aspect of that person- be it sex, religion, color of one’s skin, age, political affiliation, nationality or any trait you observe. Mostly we learned these biases when we were young, when a trusted adult told us something that we adopted as our belief, the media told us something we adopted as a belief or we had an incident when something happened and we lumped all people into a category. I recommend we all take a moment and note what we are biased about or beliefs we have about a category of people.
Now, imagine, that someone has a belief or bias about you- as we all fit into several categories that others have biases against. It doesn’t seem right, does it?- after all they don’t know you. And with your bias, where you put people into categories, you don’t know them—it is equally unfair. We are all doing it without being conscious to it.
The movie was adapted from Margot Lee Shetterly’s book Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race. The film, if you have not seen it, focuses on three real-life African-American female pioneers who were part of NASA’s team of human ‘computers’/mathematicians.: Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson. NASA’s mathematicians, mostly women, did the complex calculations that allowed astronauts to travel safely to space and back. Their story; of courage, intellect and persistence made a huge contribution to American history. Due to prejudice of the times, they were unsung heroes until recently. Which begs the makes me wonder—how many thousands of people have made huge impacts on humanity but are not fully acknowledged? I have started researching this and reading the stories of unsung heroes.
I also began thinking about what it does take to be someone who makes a positive and lasting impact on society, on humanity. I once had a mentor who pointed out that we, people, often kill off our leaders- take JFK, Martin Luther King, Jr. for example. If they are not killed physically, often they are vilified. This mentor also asked a profound question-“Are you living a life worth getting shot?” Not literally, but what he was saying is are you giving everything you have and really contributing to the world. Most of us shy away from making the difference we each could make. We are often afraid to be judged, have people put us into a category. And the reality is we are already being judged, categorized, biased against.
Since that is the case, the question is what contribution could I make to the world? What does it take to be someone who truly impacts humanity- courage, willingness to be at risk, willingness to speak up and deal with potential judgments? What do I have to give up to be that kind of person? What about you?