This review attempts to contextualize ‘Selma’ in view of Hawai’i and current events; I am not a critic, so it is simply my perspective. That said, it is an amazing film, directed by a rare African American woman director, Ava DuVernay, with a powerful, yet subtle performance by David Oyelowo. The film highlights MLK’s humanity, that he was not perfect, but faced internal struggles contemporaneously with the external struggle that he helped lead. Fractures were developing between the mainstream SCLC and the young, as represented by SNCC, who were increasingly impatient with what they perceived as the slow pace of change. Yet other fractures were healing, as the brief appearance of Malcom X (Nigel Thatch) demonstrates: his hajj and subsequent movement away from accepting violence led to what would have been a convergence to some extent with the thought and actions of MLK.
More than anything, particularly with the killings of Ferguson and going back to Trayvon Martin, ‘Selma’ reminds us that the struggle for human rights is far from over. Moreover, this struggle is not simply about racism and other forms of discrimination: it is a struggle that is intimately linked with all human rights, including struggles against poverty, inequity, and violence. There is no coincidence between the roles of the military in Hawai’i, the TMT conflict, the shooting of Kollin Elderts, and the lack of affordable housing: occupation and colonization and the children of capitalism and a racist ideology. A failure to understand and link struggles leads to divide and rule and the reproduction of hatred; this was the conclusion that MLK and Malcom X had reached, and certainly contributed to their assassinations. For the biggest threat to the existing system is solidarity; the biggest ally is division.
Berman A. What ‘Selma’ gets right – and wrong – about civil rights history. Nation. 2014 January 8. Available at: http://www.thenation.com/blog/194473/what-selma-gets-right-and-wrong
Kawika Liu, PhD, JD, MD, is a physician and researcher at Consolidate Tribal Health Project, Inc. in Ukiah, CA. Formerly he was the Medical Director of the Moloka’i Community Health Center.