Not everything we fail to see is a unicorn.
I saw the lovely movie Hidden Figures yesterday. Have you seen it?
In the film, you see what it could mean for a black woman to need a bathroom. Katherine Jackson has to run so far from her desk in whatever the weather and in heels to do an ordinary human thing. And her boss is oblivious. He yells at her for being away from her desk and taking such long, time-wasting breaks.
She finally snaps in what is one of my son’s favorite scenes. Katherine Jackson tells everyone off and tells the truth. It’s a terrific cathartic scene.
Her boss, thankfully, is appropriately chastened. I heard he is a composite character. Did anyone at NASA really tear down a bathroom sign in righteous anger? It would make me happy to think so, though I expect that was added to make us feel better. But whatever. I can live with that.
In any event, her boss isn’t a bad guy. He’s oblivious. He never thinks about things like a black woman having to use the bathroom. Of course he doesn’t.
But how many of us don’t even realize what we don’t see? We think we understand why someone is away from her desk, so to speak. But we have no understanding that she is jumping through hoops we don’t have to jump through. We not only don’t have to jump through those hoops, we don’t even know the hoops exist.
The character of Al Harrison was a good guy and a smart guy. Ultimately all he cared about was the brain power someone had to do the job he needed them to do. But he still couldn’t see the reality right in front of him.
As much as I love unicorns, I don’t think one is hiding in back yard. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t very real things out in the world that exist whether I see them or not.
How often are we Al Harrison? Doing good work. Being good people. And still not realizing the obstacles someone else must overcome. If he had to go to the bathroom, he just walked a short distance and went. Easy! It had to have been that easy for everyone! Except, of course, it wasn’t.
And it’s also easy to look back on those days and roll our eyes. But what will our grandchildren look at of our current times and think, “What was wrong with them?”
Thanks for reading!