The Power of Art

I love books and movies because they can transport me to a place and time that I’ve never experienced.

From River Heights in grade school, Pern and Ireta in middle and high school, to 1800s Thornfield Hall and Inland in college, literature has given me insight into how people behave and think in different situations.

Lately, I’ve read and watched some interesting works that have allowed me to explore racial differences. I grew up in Eugene, Oregon, which though quite politically liberal, is not overly diverse. (I gather it has become a bit less overwhelmingly white since I moved up north.) So I feel like Rebecca and Audra in this section of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s “JAP Battle Rap”.

Here are two that I highly recommend: the movie Kicks and the book The Hate U Give. I read The Hate U Give in about a day — and I laughed and cried throughout the whole thing. I was so invested in the main character Star, her family, and her neighborhood by the time it was done.

One of the defining traits of Star was her love of Air Jordans. And that prepared me for the main storyline of Kicks. Main character Brandon has a classic pair of Jordans stolen and enlists the help of his two best friends and his uncle, played by the incomparable Mahershala Ali, to get them back. Brandon grows up a lot in the course of the search for his shoes, and there are some very tense moments as he makes decisions that will shape his life to come.

Now, I don’t think a white girl from Eugene totally gets what it’s like to be an African American youth in the current political and economic climate after reading one book and watching one movie. But my capacity for empathy and understanding were increased by experiencing these stories. And that is the great power of art. It helps us see the similarities we share even in the midst of differences in skin color, affluence, and opportunity. It helps us understand the thinking behind the choices we make in response to those differences. And, I hope, it makes us more able to accept the differences between us.

I urge you to create art that helps people see and value the world you want to create. And I urge you to consume art that is created by and explores people very different than you. And absolutely read The Hate U Give. It’s so good.

What is your favorite book, movie, or TV show about someone who is different than you?

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