Hidden Figures

Hidden Figures

They were there, all the time, but most people weren’t aware of them. And those who were able to see them, didn’t actually see them. They seemed like aliens to them, a different kind, one that is maybe even less worth. They looked differently somehow, so they assumed that these “other” people had to be different, that maybe they even want to take their jobs, ruin their lives. But now, there is this movie. Lots of things have changed since back then, but have they really?

Banning all muslims is a highly discussed topic in the US right now. Is it the right thing to do? Will this actually make the Amercians safe? Will these actions prevent terrorists attacks? Wouldn’t it be a better question to ask what leads some people to harm others? Trying to hurt those who think differently, who appear differently?

It’s not even a century ago when women barely had rights. They weren’t allowed to vote, they were supposed to stay at home and raise the kids. These days, this is simply impossible. Most women want to go out, most people want to show their abilities. It’s not only the men who can do great things, who can inspire others, who can be role models.

img_2355Three smart and brave women are the main characters in the movie “Hidden Figures”, which won a SAG Award last Sunday for Outstanding performance by a cast in a motion picture (and I think it’s also very much likey to win at the Oscars). Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Mary Jackson (Janelle (Monáe) and Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) were three ladies that worked at NASA back in the 1960s. They were part of the reason why John Glenn (Glen Powell) was the first American man to orbit the earth and came back home safely.

Back in the 60s the focus was only on the men. They were shown on TV, they were discussed on the radio, they were the ones people could read about in the newspapers. But it wasn’t only one man who did something that seemed to be almost impossible back then. Katherine did the calculations more exactly than anyone else. She was the one John trusted in the end to compute the correct angle for him to reenter the earth’s athmosphere without getting burned. John was also the one who greeted the three black ladies when he first met them and the rest of the NASA team, just the same way like he greeted the men there.

Unlike him most of the other men had trouble to accept women working with them, like Paul Stafford (Jim Parsons) who blacked out information that was given to Katherine and made it difficult for her to make the right calculations. Katherine, Dorothy and Mary were three black women. And back in the 60s they were treated like second class citiziens who weren’t really welcome. They had their own “colored” water fountains and bathrooms, they sat separately on the bus and weren’t even allowed to use all parts of the library.

But none of the three ladies let these circumstances put them down. They knew their abilities, and stood up for themselves. Katherine told her boss Al Harrison (Kevin Costner) that she had to leave the office several times every day for a longer period of time because there was no bathroom for her to use near the office. She ran even through the rain as fast as she could without complaining but when she was asked about her multiple absences, she couldn’t keep her mouth shut any longer. That made not only Al realize that all human beings pee the same color, and so he teared down the “colored bathroom” signs at NASA.

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Katherine, Mary and Dorothy in the movie “Hidden Figures” (above) and the real ladies.

Mary wanted to be an engineer but because she was a woman and black, she wasn’t able to attend a college she had to for getting a chance of being considered working as an engineer. Mary went to court and convinced the judge that she should have the same possibilities as white men and get the chance to take classes at that college, because she could do that, too.

Dorothy was already supervising the black women at NASA without getting credit for that. She wasn’t even considered by Vivian Michael (Kirsten Dunst) who was responsible for the promotions. When Dorothy heard of the IBM, the computer that was supposed to do all the calculations better and faster than the human beings, but the men working with it had no idea how to programme it, she borrowed a book from the library to get to know all about the new super computer. She taught her team everything she learned and convinced the men that they need the women to help them. After her promotion Dorothy met Vivian at the now shared ladies’ room, when Vivian told her that she never had a problem with Dorothy that kept her from her promotion. But Dorothy just smiled, and replied that she believed her to believe that.

“This story is about what happens when we put our differences aside, and we come together as a human race. We win. Love wins every time.”

img_2357-1The movie clearly shows that once there had been darker times, harder ones. These ladies were part of a minority but that didn’t keep them from believing in themselves, no matter what other people told them. These women made it not only possible for a man to see the entire beauty of our planet from the universe, they are also role models for young women, for black women, for a minority to stay up for their rights. Who decides which is the “only” kind that actually matters? What makes us think we are more different than equal? Isn’t it the lack of knowledge about each other that makes us feel suspcious about someone else?

“Hidden Figures” plays in 1961, but it’s also very much contemporary. The hate for a minority in one country, others to blame for instead of finding solutions that unites us. And someone who truly believes in a God, no matter how HE is called, never hurts anybody on purpose. Because every religion preaches love. Those who pretend they do hurt others in the name of their God, only seek for a reason for themselves to make it “okay”. Instead of putting all into one box, everyone deserves an equal chance of being understood. No one wants to be told everything she believes in is wrong.

Maybe people should finally start to listen more, to respect different opinions even though they don’t fully agree with each other. Everyone has a mind, everyone can think, and everyone has the chance to say her opinion, without being judged. There is no one right way. And there is not a person who matters more than anyone else. Our differences make us strong, don’t hide your abilities. Keep the faith in you, like Katherine, like Mary, like Dorothy. Differences make us progress. Luckily the NASA made it possible for us all to enjoy a view like John Glenn, to see what we all have in common: earth, our all home.

earth-from-space
You can click on this link to watch the NASA live stream “Earth from Space”
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