Point of View for ’42’ by Angenita Williams

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I made it a point to take my daughter to see 42, the movie based on the story of Jackie Robinson. Whether she wanted to see it or not, she was going to. I thought it was important for her to see a piece of history about breaking barriers that was not set in the era of Civil Rights and MLK. She actually wanted to see the movie. I was pleased.

42 is long, but it doesn’t really seem that way until near the end of the movie. The cast did a great job of depiction. As I watched, I wondered how it truly felt to be Black in America before we stood up and claimed our rights as humans.

It was interesting to see Jim Crow before the 60’s. Jackie Robinson stood his ground, but he did so respectfully. That took strength and grace. I loved the way he shut up his Caucasian naysayers by dismantling the pitcher, and by knocking the ball out the park. It was really in-your-face, and I chuckled at the stupidity of their actions. He was Black. He was a man. He was a ball player.

I think one thing that held steadfast throughout the movie was the story of Branch Rickey. He was a different kind of white man. Although he made it very clear he was about money, he also prepared and lead Robinson to greatness. His compassion about baseball, and his ideology about racism, moved me. He was a money man willing to risk everything to break the color barrier. But, just like every human, he was flawed. The underlying cause of wanting a “Negro” ball player was to right a wrong in his life. He was old, and it weighed on his soul.

Rachel Robinson was portrayed as the perfect wife. She held her man down throughout the entire story. Not a word in disagreement. Not a nagging anything. She played her part in his life and constantly encouraged him to keep going. She completely and unquestionably had his back. Although she seemed a little too squeaky clean, she had her moments of opposition. She walked in a whites only restroom, and questioned just about everything.

There is a scene in the movie in which a father and son are in the stands. The son states that Pee Wee Reese is the best player ever. The father and everyone else around them shouted racial epithets at Robinson, and while the son looked uncomfortable, he does as well. He watches in confusion as his favorite ball player walks up to Robinson, and puts his arm around him as they laugh and talk. That scene was powerful because it showed how racism is carried throughout the generations. It spoke tremendous volumes just as a scene where Robinson makes the decision not to fight after being degraded by a white man.

As we walked out of the theatre, I asked my daughter how she felt about the movie. She was happy she saw it. I asked her to imagine herself back in those days. Then I said, “Do you think you could have been that strong?”

“Without fighting?” she replied

“Yes.”

“No. I don’t know how they did that. I would have been so mad!”

“Well, Jackie Robinson went through all that so we didn’t have to,” I replied. And it’s true.

I think all children, especially our kids, need to see this movie for more reasons than one. They need to see what it felt like before we had a voice to say enough is enough. They need to see what it meant to be a Black man, and what it took for him to be successful in a sport he loved. They also need to see how everything they have is because someone had to fight and/or die for it.

Jackie Robinson was educated, and he stood his ground…with his mind. There is nothing more powerful than that.

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