The Martin Luther King, Jr., biopic Selma has been getting a lot of positive attention (from everyone other than the elderly white dudes who vote for the Oscars) – so much so that a “Selma for Students” group has raised enough money to allow thousands and thousands of students to see the movie for free. The movie exposes a painfully raw spot in our country’s history (and, to be honest, one in our present), one often ignored or glossed over in history classes. So when a high school history club in Alabama planned a special trip to go see the movie, the response from the school district administration was overwhelmingly positive … right? Oh wait, no, it was to cancel the trip and forbid the club from going. Happy Martin Luther King, Jr., Day, everyone!
District superintendent Hugh Taylor (who, coincidentally, is white), reports Raw Story, forbade the club at the mostly-minority Collinsville High School to go on their trip … because Selma has some naughty words in it. Specifically, to use Taylor’s words, there is ‘racial profanity’ – how inconsiderate, really, of filmmaker Ava Duvernay to not totally sanitize history in order to keep a potato-faced white dude in Alabama from flop-sweating a little!
Taylor also expressed concerns that a student might become offended (by the swearing or the racism, it’s not clear) and leave the theater, and I’m not sure what he thinks will happen then – they’ll eat too much overpriced theater candy in the lobby and make themselves sick? They’ll be kidnapped by an inland band of pirates? Or they’ll fall through a wormhole into an alternate dimension and thus miss the bus back to school? Perhaps Taylor is unaware of the concept of permission slips, which are usually involved anyway when it comes to taking a bunch of kids off campus. I suspect that the issue of ‘kids hearing some cursing in a serious historical film’ is going to rank somewhere around ‘might accidentally touch some old gum on the bottom of a theater seat’ as far as parental worries go.
Some parents in the district are – unsurprisingly – unhappy with the superintendent’s decision. Said parent Reverend James Stanton:
“It raises my curiosity as to whether something that they are not wanting exposed or the children not to know about … I don’t believe it is just about the profanity.”
I don’t believe it either, Reverend Stanton. I do believe there is something troubling about a school superintendent who wants to supervise a district that he declines to send his own four kids (the Taylor children attend a private Christian school instead of public Dekalb County facilities). And I believe that Selma has something important to say, something young people need to hear. Even if they’ll hear some swearing along with it.
(Image: Selma Official Trailer)