Imitation of Life was based on the book, by the same name written in 1933 by Fannie Hurst. Hurst was a Jewish white woman and supporter of feminist causes. She also supported African Americans in their struggle for greater equality. The book and the films are set in different time periods, the book reflecting the 1910 era; the two subsequent films were made in 1934 and 1959. I’ve seen both versions and read the book and the basic elements are the same. It is about two mothers, one black and one white and their daughters. It reflects the racism and the sexism of eras that were destructive and cruel to all who weren’t in the ruling class of white males.
From the turn of the 20th century until the Supreme Court ruled in Loving v. Virginia in 1967, numerous Southern states passed laws enforcing a "one-drop rule", requiring that persons of any known African ancestry had to be classified in records as black. Only black and white was recognized as racial categories, and racial segregation laws restricted blacks. Imitation of Life reflected the tragedy of those laws. A young black woman who so desperately wanted to be accepted that she denied her race and her mother in an effort to pass as white and escape the cruel injustices that were inflicted on her simply because of her race. Two mothers, one black and one white, each struggling in their own way to survive on their own and raise their daughters in a culture that placed insurmountable obstacles on their path to survival and independence.
There was controversy around this film and novel, some saying that it depicted African American’s in stereotypical roles. And I’m sure that’s true. But it was a story that was reflective of its time when racial and gender oppression were so blatant that a woman felt desperate enough to try and pass as white so that she could find a good man and survive in a culture that told her there was something wrong with everything about her.
And for those of us who did not grow up with memories of segregation or Jim Crow Laws, or the one-drop rule to determine race. Who could forget the heart wrenching scenes of Susan Kohner’s character, Sarah Jane, as she cried, proclaiming that she was white and then hugged her mother for the last time as she denied her, or the powerful funeral scene when Sarah Jane sobbed and after a life of running from who she was, finally admitting, “That’s my mother”.
These painful and dramatic scenes cut to the core of who we have been in this country and why it is so important to remind ourselves that we don’t ever want to go back.
I hate to even mention ‘Duck Dynasty’ in the same breath as Imitation of life, or great women like Juanita Moore and Fannie Hurst. And I do so only to contrast greatness and ignorance. The star of this reality Red Neck show, Phil Robertson has been in the news for his racist, homophobic and misogynistic comments.
Robertson’s pedophile video where he stated, and I quote, “Look, you wait till they get to be 20 years old - the only picking that’s gonna take place is your pocket. You gotta marry these girls when they’re about 15 or 16.”
This video hasn’t gotten the outrage it deserves because, well forcing girls in to marriage when they are still children is not a completely foreign concept in our culture where marriage laws in most states still make the legal age 16 with parental consent.
Yet a video showing a 67-year-old man waving a Bible from his pulpit and using it to justify acts of pedophilia by adult men seems to be over the top for most reasonable people.
Some on the right cried foul that it was a violation of ‘freedom of speech’ rights for Robertson to be rejected for his hateful racist, homophobic and misogynistic words. Seriously? Freedom of Speech was evident by the mere fact that, unlike the Punk Rock Band in Russia, Pussy Riot, Robertson wasn’t thrown in prison for a few years and forced to have regular gynecological exams for simply voicing his opinion.
Robertson has a history of violating underage girls. At age 20, he was having sex with a 14-year-old girl who got pregnant and was he forced to marry her at 16 to avoid going to prison for statutory rape in Louisiana.
Police reports show Robertson, in drunken rages, beat and abused his wife and children and then threw them out of his house before he later claimed to “find God” and repent for his ways. But this is the man advising other adult men to go after child brides.
It seems that on the right we have a group of Americans who are so intolerant of others and whose hatred towards gays and blacks and women is so ingrained that they will embrace a disturbed star of a “reality” show in a desperate attempt to rationalize their own bigotry, homophobia and misogyny.
According to Forbes Magazine, “Duck Dynasty” is the most popular show on the A&E Network. It has 14 million weekly viewers. That is pretty scary.
A new Pew Research poll showed that Republicans are even more anti science than they were 4 years ago. According to the poll, 67 percent of Democrats acknowledge that all living things on Earth evolved over time. That’s up by three points from a 2009 poll. 65 percent of Independents also agree that evolution is a real process supported by scientific evidence. On the flip side, Republican support for evolution science has reversed. In 2009, 54 percent of Republicans believed in evolution. Four years later, that number now stands at 43 percent. More Republicans now reject evolution than support it. They deny science and fact. Apparently, stupidity has become a Republican value as the party shifts further to the extreme right wing. More state abortion restrictions were enacted in Republican controlled states between 2011–2013, than in the entire previous decade. In 2013 California moved to expand women’s reproductive rights. Hawaii became the 18th state to provide protections to women who have been sexually assaulted by enacting a new law requiring that a woman receive medically accurate and unbiased information on emergency contraception from the hospital treating her injuries. While at the same time Oklahoma and Missouri moved to restrict access to emergency contraception after rape.
In the past few years Republicans have made incomprehensible efforts to strip women’s rights from them. Republicans and their teabag cousins want to claim that they are the real America. The South will rise again is a popular chant. As if the Southern states did not already distinguish themselves with seriously depressing statistics in every quality of life category, eleven of the top 12 states with the highest mortality rates are located in the South. Every factor contributing to higher than normal mortality rates is the result of conservative policies that were paid for by the Koch brothers with propaganda from Americans for Prosperity and the Heritage Foundation. They are all organizations representing corporations benefiting from low wages, no corporate taxes, no environmental protections, no labor protections, and no healthcare for what Republicans call the real America.
I am so fortunate to live in California, one of the most progressive and economically stable states in the U.S. And where affordable health care and women’s rights are not blasphemy and our Governor is actually interested in a better life for our citizens as well as business. It is difficult for reasonable Americans to comprehend why people vote for Republicans when their policies have transformed most states under Republican leadership into poverty-ridden regions. They convince voters that health insurance is a bad thing and so you have states like Texas with the highest uninsured rate of residents in the country.
It is no coincidence that Republicans pass Draconian abortion laws, and convince residents that voter suppression laws are necessary to preserve their Christian way of life. Bigotry, homophobia, misogyny and ignorance have become a way of life for many on the right who live in fear that their god and their guns are being stolen from them.
There is a quote from the 1930’s that states, “When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross”
On New Years’ eve the Supreme Court made another decision that placed the division of church and state more critically at risk when it exempted groups affiliated with the Catholic religion from complying with the contraception mandate in the Affordable Care Act. The groups, none of them churches, complained the mandate violated their religious freedom. Catholic organizations demanding exemption from the mandate see it as restricting their biblical right to impose their religion on their employees and the High Court agreed. The irony is that in this particular case we’re not even discussing the distribution of birth control by the nuns, or even their insurance company. This is a pure and simple case of the church’s over reach and blatant effort to control the rest of America with their religious beliefs.
Extremist Christians are adamant the First Amendment protects their religious freedom to impose compliance with their religious beliefs on all Americans. In Utah they are demanding that recent legal approval of marriage equality be stopped. Their case states a refusal by the federal government to accommodate a state’s biblical definition of marriage.
The Founding Fathers wrote a constitution that was aimed at protecting Americans from religious tyranny. The Right wing fundamentalists are determined to be make America a theocracy and we should all be terrified of those who are wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.