Why I Read Roger Ebert

When the civil rights struggle came to Birmingham, Alabama, I was not yet born to see it.  The fact that it rages to this day, in Prescott, AZ, says something about the number of people in this country who feel they have something to lose … to other people.

I can’t believe anyone still has to actually say the tired old things about equality and ability and content of character.  It makes me angry that we still have to remind other adults about these things.

So I’ll let this man do the talking for me:

I began … by imagining I was a student in Prescott, Arizona, with my face being painted over. That was easy for me. What I cannot imagine is what it would be like to be one of those people driving past in their cars day after day and screaming hateful things out of the window. How do you get to that place in your life? Were you raised as a racist, or become one on your own? Yes, there was racism involved as my mother let the driver wait outside in the car, but my mother had not evolved past that point at that time. The hard-won social struggles of the 1960s and before have fundamentally altered the feelings most of us breathe, and we have evolved, and that is how America will survive. We are all in this together. …

Not along ago I read this observation by Clint Eastwood: “The less secure a man is, the more likely he is to have extreme prejudice.” Do the drive-by haters feel insecure? How are they threatened? What have they talked themselves into? Who benefits by feeding off their fear? We have a black man in the White House, and I suspect they don’t like that very much. They don’t want to accept the reality that other races live here right along with them, and are doing just fine and making a contribution and the same sun rises and sets on us all. Do they fear their own adequacy? Do they grasp for assurance that they’re “better”–which means, not worse? Those poor people. It must be agony to live with such hate, and to seek the company of others so damaged.

Roger Ebert still reviews movies, is writing a book about making one-pot meals, just returned from his annual trip to Cannes, and was recently given his own citywide holiday in San Francisco.  He is also, through his Tweets and blog posts, well on his way helping the American culture redeem its battered soul.


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