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A Walk Down Memory Lane with "The Butler"

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This weekend, my wife Cheryl took me to see the movie “The Butler” directed by Lee Daniels. The movie stars such notables as Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, Cuba Gooding, Jr., and others portraying past presidents. It is a love story of a Black man, his family, and friends growing up in America from childhood to manhood during the legalized separate but equal system of Jim Crow Laws in the southern part of our United States of America.

The movie begins with a young Cecil “The Butler” Gaines played by Michael Rainer, Jr. and his dad in a cotton field as he explains how to pick cotton. They witness the White landowner forcing Cecil’s mother to go into a shed for an un-wanting pleasure break that interrupts their exchange. Cecil asks his dad can’t you do something? But his dad is later shot and killed for confronting the White landowner about this unauthorized pleasure break with his wife.

This reminded me of my experience while working at Kaiser Steel in Fontana when a White man asked me if I would like being a slave. I responded with how about him being my slave and I take his wife and there was nothing he could do about it.

The movie took Cheryl and myself down memory lane of growing up in America as the director took us through the timeline of events from presidential administrations, policies, and documenting our struggle for equality as humans in this world.

Earlier in the day Westside Action Group, WAG was meeting in Ontario drafting a constitution for the organization that would encompass our plight from overcoming enslavement, legalized separate but unequal Jim Crow Laws and now entrenched institutionalized discrimination practices that prevent or act as barriers to full freedom of Blacks in America.

Just as The Butler got his job in the White House by word of mouth that practice has not changed today. The good jobs only come about by the personal recruiting of family and friends and if you do not have that link you are not going to get that job.

The Butler now played by Whitaker was a proud man and knew well the art of his trade to be in the room where important confidential issues were being discussed but went about his duties unnoticed. Even when derogatory things were being expressed about his people, he never flinched or told any one about the discussion. That happened to me several times during my job as a chauffer and garage attendant.

His role as husband, father, and friend was very telling of many African American men growing up during that era while trying to survive with dignity in the face of humiliating treatment. It was also filled full of cultural things that if you have not lived it you might not understand the significance. For example, my wife and I laughed out loud when Oprah said our son is seeking a career as a numbers runner. No one else in the theater even made a peep.

The Butler is a movie for everyone to see that would like to better understand the plight of what a Black family goes through in trying to make it in America. It is also a good documentation of American history for all to see as it weaves how elected officials make public policy. It is a good movie to be used for discussion by those for better understanding between the races. I highly recommend you take the time to see this move and if possible take someone with you who grew up under our Jim Crow Laws.

Great movie.

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