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Posted by | January 19, 2015 | BAMBINOS | 19 Comments


A couple of weeks ago we were at the movie theater (seeing Annie), and before the movie began there was a preview for the movie Selma. Kyle was sitting next to me. As soon as the preview began and I realized what it was, I turned to look at him (just knowing my son, I knew he’d be transfixed). Sure enough, he was transfixed, literally on the edge of his seat for that movie trailer. As soon as the preview was over, he turned to me and whispered in my ear, “I need to see that movie.” Since then he’s been all over me — daily — wanting to see it and asking me to take him. I posted to Facebook about it, asking for insight from people who had seen the film — “Do you think I could bring a 10-year old to this?” For the most part, the response was, “Yes, especially because it is Kyle.” I talked to a couple of friends who had seen it, and who know Kyle, and I decided that I’d bring him. Kyle is a huge Civil War history buff, and is also quite knowledgeable on the Civil Rights Movement. African-American history is his passion. Secretly, I had the idea that I wanted to take him on MLK Jr. Day — I just thought the symbolism of that would not be lost on him.

And it wasn’t. Today was the day. We arranged it so that Braydon took Owen and Meera to see the new Paddington movie, while I took Kyle to see Selma. Kyle was unusually calm and focused and solemn as we went to the movie theater, and he and I got our tickets, then stood in line for popcorn. We got settled in the theater and then the movie started. For the entire two hours, Kyle was deep into it. It was an incredible experience for us — Selma, on MLK Jr. Day, white mom and black son. We went out to dinner afterwards, and then came home to write the following blog post together. We did it in “interview” form to make it easy for us. Here it is~~

* * * * *

H: So, what did you think of the movie?

K: I thought it taught me a lot. I did not know a lot about what happened in Selma. I knew about the bridge and what happened there. I knew it was a massacre. But I didn’t know MLK was not there for the first bridge protest. I thought the movie was really good. I admit, I started getting the shivers. I didn’t know if it was just cold or if I was really really attached to the movie and knowing it just happened a few decades ago. I never got the shivers like that in a movie before.

H: Why did you want to see the movie Selma?

K: I wanted to know a lot more about Martin Luther King Jr., and when those movies come out I really feel like I need to see it.

H: Do you think other people need to see it?

K: Some, but not all. Some kids need to wait a little longer. They need to get a little older and a little more mature. Some people can’t handle seeing someone be really beat like that, or someone being shot, and seeing nothing happened— meaning, they never go to jail – and this is in real life, it was not like a fiction story. So, you really have to be mature enough to know that and be able to handle that.

H: You said that during the movie you were getting “the shivers.” What do you think was the most “shivering” part of the movie for you?

K: Probably when they were starting the march, just about when it was going to start the huge engagement. It was a peaceful protest but they engaged it with violence. I wasn’t like, “oh this is scary!” or “oooh, what’s going to happen?”—it was like excitement. And I knew they were going to win the civil rights, but it still seemed like anything could happen. And knowing it was real life, that’s what gave me the shivers.

H: What was it like for you, as a 10-year old Haitian-American black boy, to see this movie?

K: 10 and a half. But, close enough! Anyway, it was like, well, I knew I needed to see this movie. I needed to see the truth. To know the truth. And I knew my mom would support me on this. And I wanted to see the action – like in a movie – not just in the books. I read a lot about these topics in books. Like the Civil War, and the Civil Rights Movement, but in a movie you can see it in action.

H: And then, when you were actually seeing it in action, what was that like for you?

K: I knew it had all happened, but seeing it was like, “My gosh!” It was like, “That’s sad– how people can be like that over just the skin color of someone.” It made it a lot more real.

H: Did you feel uncomfortable watching the movie?

K: I was squirming in my seat a lot. Like, literally. Cringing.

H: Are you glad you saw it?

K: I’m definitely glad I saw it.

H: Why?

K: It was just meant to be. When I saw the preview for it, I knew I had to see it. Even if there was violence, which I thought there would be. I just knew, “I need to see this movie.” And that’s how I feel now—like, “Yes, I did need to see that. And I’m glad I did.”

H: What other questions should I ask you?

K: You should ask, “How did you feel seeing something like that? Seeing such a massacre, or seeing the beatings?”

H: So, how did you feel seeing something like that? Seeing such a massacre, or seeing the beatings?

K: I felt like I wanted to do something when I was watching it. I wanted to be in that line, protesting with them. I would have to do a lot of practicing to do running – to run as quick as I can, to retreat from the massacre on the bridge and other places. They had to run for their lives. I’d have to run for my life if it was me. It made me inspired to want to try to help fix this type of stuff. Today it isn’t as bad as back then, but stuff still happens today. Like the shooting in Ferguson, and stuff. And it makes me—well, it makes me — not worried — but I have to be extra careful— more careful than I should need to be. It made me want to do something about that – like nonviolence – and trying to help with the problems now.

H: Anything else you want to say to the people who might read this?

K: I would say, “go see this movie!” But if you don’t think your kid is mature enough, then don’t let them go. Warning – if they are scared of loud noises, watch out because in the beginning something sudden’s going to happen. I’m not telling you what—because you have to see the movie. But that’s just a warning.

H: Any last words?

K: I hope you enjoy this movie as much as I do and learn as much as I do.

H: Ok, so, do you have any questions for me? I asked you all these questions. Do you want to ask me questions now?

K: As a sociology professor, how do you feel seeing that movie?

H: Ok, I’m going to answer this question like this is a real interview– ok? So, here’s my answer–  I was anxious to bring my 10-year old black son to see it. I was nervous for what he’d see, and how he’d feel about it, and process it. But I’m glad I did it. I believe in being as honest as possible with my kids about social issues, and all issues. As a white mother raising black boys, I believe that it is of the highest importance to be truthful and real with them — in as age-appropriate a way as possible. Selma helped Kyle to understand the civil rights movement, the history before it, and our history after it— through to today —- in a way that was different than us just talking about it, or him reading a book about it. It was powerful for him and for me to see the movie. And to see it together was a bonding experience for us as mother and son. I want him to remember that his mom had the guts to take him to see Selma when he was 10 years old. But that’s actually all how I feel about seeing it as a MOM. As a sociologist, here is what I think: I think people today of all ages, including young people, believe that the Civil Rights Movement was won and that it is done. I think we need to understand that this push for justice and equality and humane-treatment-of-all-people is still very much needed now. As a sociologist, I believe that movies like Selma can be powerful and inspirational for all people, including young people. I think everyone should see Selma when they are ready. And some will need to be pushed even before they are “ready” (because some will never really be ready to face reality and see the truth). I think it is ESPECIALLY important for white people to see it. Particularly white YOUTH. So, white parents: Please bring your white kids to see Selma. And then talk about it with your kids.

K: I don’t think I should give you any more questions because we’ll probably be sitting here for hours!!!

H & K: [[[laughing out loud]]]

H: Ok, well, then, let’s end it with a quote. Can you give us a quote to end this with? A quote from you.

K: “If you want something so bad, you will risk your life for it.”



  • Rose Wade says:

    i know YOU KNOW THIS….You are such a great mama!!!

  • Maggie says:

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Heather and Kyle. I loved reading this. And I absolutely agree with you Heather that parents of white kids should take them to this film and then talk about it! Love you guys! XOXO

  • Lynde says:

    Perhaps there was a deeper conversation than just what you report here but I am surprised actually that the focus was on the violence and not what the voting rights act symbolized. This was clear in the movie and part of a very important conversation because what voting represents in our society. Black people marched for very important societal equality that was not afforded them. It is a huge ugly blemish on our society and we still are witness to inequality today. That would have been at least one focus of my conversation with a bright 10.5 year old.

    What did you think of Maureen Dowd’s review of the movie in Sunday’s NY Times. I think she raised some important issues, which lead to another type of conversation, namely that what we see in a movie may not always be the truth.

    • Heather says:

      This was not a report on the conversations Kyle and I had at dinner about the movie, nor will I be reporting on the many conversations we will continue to have in the coming days and years. Those are private conversations between us, as we both work out our deeper thoughts and concerns and fears about race and human rights. Do not fret: Kyle and I both fully understand what the crux of the movie was about. This post was simply an account of some of Kyle’s thoughts he wanted to share publicly on our blog, and some of mine. And yes, I did read Maureen Dowd’s review. Clearly you think you’d do a better job with conversing with kids about this film, so I’d encourage you to go do so! Thanks for reading, ~Heather

  • Gail McCormick says:

    Wonderful post. It’s truly incredible how mature Kyle is and equally incredible that he doesn’t react with hate or despair. He will be one of the ones to solve these problems.

    And it would be good to have conversation posts.

  • Molly says:

    I LOVE this. and him. and you. and the rest of your family.

  • Mandy McDonald says:

    What an awesome kiddo you have!

  • Michelle says:

    The world needs more ten year old Kyles and more mothers like Heather. (Oh, I mean ten-and-a-half year olds! :-)) I teach 5th grade in a very multiracial inner-city high-poverty classroom and very few of my students of any ethnicity possess the maturity to process the messages this movie seeks to share. In a strangely refreshing way, it is their poverty that unites them, and race, at this point in their lives, isn’t an issue. I also grew up blind to race, mainly because I only ever saw white people, for the most part. In college I finally encountered (very minimal) diversity. I saw “Eyes on the Prize” in its entirety and it changed me as a person. Literally changed me. In a hard, painful way, in a freshman seminar in which I shed many tears and grappled with many hard thoughts involving my own unearned and unrequested white privilege. Maybe this movie is an abbreviated version of that message (that shook me to the core) for those people who didn’t happen to attend liberal arts colleges that had already decided that this was a message that needed to be widely disseminated. I hope it makes people think. That’s certainly a step.

  • Beth says:

    Thank you both for sharing your thoughts. As a white mom to a 13 year old black boy, I found your observations that you were squirming and cringing, and yet you enjoyed the movie and would encourage us to see it, very helpful. Sometimes, I don’t want my son to squirm and cringe, and yet learning is good. Thanks again.

  • Dana says:

    This is wonderful. Thank you for having the courage to take your son and thank you for sharing with others. What a great mom and what an insightful son!

  • Kate says:

    Hi Heather and Kyle,
    Thanks for this post – I won’t get a chance to watch Selma until maybe February when it gets released outside of the US, me and my friends, my parents and I’m sure many others are eagerly awaiting! I was compelled to write in so to I thinking you you both as and Selma and MLK Day around this weekend. And I saw this Facebook post from “A Mighty Girl” that you might find interesting:

    I love how you portrayed this slice of your conversations and I get that this was a small segment of the greater conversation you had over dinner and will continue to have over time — thank you for sharing this slice of the conversation with us — I particularly commend you both for sharing your insights in a helpful and genuine manner, but not including “spoilers” or major details (as many of us might not have seen the movie yet!) and also giving helpful advice to parents and children who might want to see it. I love all the insights and I will come back to re-read it after I’ve watched Selma. Thanks Heather and Kyle for sharing! And hope Braydon, Owen and Meera enjoyed Paddington and their outing too!
    – Kate
    P.S. I love K: “I don’t think I should give you any more questions because we’ll probably be sitting here for hours!!!”

  • Susan says:

    Wonderful blog post. Kyle is an amazing, reflective, and insightful young boy, and you are an amazing mother. Much love to you both!

  • Anon says:

    Your family is amazeballs!!!

  • Kendall says:

    My gosh. What wisdom! I know you are already so proud of Kyle for his beautiful perspective and beautiful self, but, if you’re not already, you should also be proud of yourself for raising your boys so very truthfully and intentionally! This was awesome to read, especially seeing how much Kyle is growing up.

  • Jess says:

    Love it! Loved the movie, love his comments, love your comments. Bravo.

  • Mike In Ohio says:

    Reading posts like this on your blog always give me a real sense of hope and optimism. Optimism that there are probably many other families out there just like yours who are doing the heavy lifting that is necessary for us to get to a place in this country where the subject of race and racism becomes something that we have to study in history books, because it has become so rare as to be almost non-existent in our daily experiences. That wish might be a bit of a stretch, but one can always have hope. Especially when I see accounts such as yours. Thank you!

  • Melanie Andrus says:

    Your son is what my gramma would call an “old soul”. Such thoughtfulness from a ten year old gave me the shivers. You are doing an amazing job, Heather. Simply amazing.

  • Sabihe Tavakoli says:

    Your writing about your sons and the very sad reality of racism in our society is so powerful that my words could not possibly do justice praising it. I am dreading the future dangers that my two little black grand children might encounter. As you say we should certainly teach them and prepare them for the unjust society they will live in, but we should pray and hope for the best for their safety.

  • Kate says:

    I finally managed to watch Selma today on DVD, it didn’t come out in the cinemas in most of Asia, I just wish this was shown more widely globally. I found it powerful and really thought-provoking and I agree it’s not over at all and the need to stand up to inhumane treatment of people is global issue between different races in all the different parts of the world. Thanks again for sharing snippets of your conversation here.
    – Kate

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