This past weekend I was able to go see the new movie titled “Just Mercy.” Without giving anything away, the film is set in Alabama, with several parts specifically filmed in Montgomery, the capital city and my hometown. The film accurately depicts many of the underlying and unquestionable prejudices that the people of the state held and, unfortunately, some that they still do.
The movie powerfully made many of us Alabamians reckon with horrific tragedies that we allowed privilege to hide from us. By telling the truth on a big screen about a story largely surrounding some characters still living, the filmmaker left his audience with a choice. He gave the choice to continue allowing privilege to hide our neighbors’ tragedies, but removed the excuse, “I didn’t know.” The second, and hopefully only acceptable option was to begin asking God to take away any and every single part of us that resembles racism, prejudice and excuse. The movie begs us to finally stand up for our entire community, not just the ones with whom we share a fence.
In its two hours of screen time, “Just Mercy” made me rethink most parts of my life. Though the central event in the movie takes place just before I was born, the Alabama, the South and the country that I have grown up in can look often too much like what should be entirely in the past. That’s what happens with hate, though — you feel its tremors for quite some time. We can pretend not to feel those tremors, or we can acknowledge them with the understanding that a lot of our neighbors do not have the option of simply choosing to ignore. I would imagine that the tremors are felt as full earthquakes by our neighbors who have been or continue to be victims of racism.
The movie not only sheds light on wrongs done in the state of Alabama, but beckons all people to notice the injustices and unfairness that is happening around us. Not stopping there, however, but humbling ourselves to the point of speaking the truth, telling the truth, and living to bring about truth knowing that we all need it.
As I have found out, being on this earth is not about having those around you think you are a good person for doing the right things, but about being a person who uses all they have been given to bring about goodness for those around you — every single one of your neighbors. “Just Mercy” heavily aided me in coming to the conclusion that it is time to stop choosing to acknowledge only the parts of our community that we want to acknowledge, and to start actually seeing and learning every single bit of it.