Tea Party of Scottsdale, AZ
Our mission is to attract, educate, organize, and mobilize our fellow citizens to secure public policy consistent with our three core values: Personal Freedom, Economic Freedom and a Debt-Free Future



‘Hidden Figures’ Is a Powerful Story of Black Achievement

hidden_figures.jpegAfrican-Americans have heard lots of excuses for failure and are hungry for inspiration.


People should never be defined by circumstances beyond their control—a principle exemplified by the three women whose stories are popularized in the Oscar-nominated film “Hidden Figures.” Based on a 2016 book by Margot Lee Shetterly, “Hidden Figures” chronicles how NASA mathematicians Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson and Dorothy Vaughan overcame legal segregation and racial discrimination to play a critical role in astronaut John Glenn’s orbital mission aboard Friendship 7 in 1962.

There is a thirst among black Americans for such inspiring messages. I witnessed evidence of this yearning last week when I attended a book signing with Ms. Shetterly at the Fredericksburg, Va., campus of the University of Mary Washington. The 1,000-seat auditorium was filled to capacity by a predominantly African-American audience. People were packed into the balcony and there wasn’t a spare inch of standing room anywhere along the walls. The 100 copies of “Hidden Figures” that organizers had brought to the venue sold out well before the presentation began. Even the local bookstores ran out of copies.

During the question-and-answer session following Ms. Shetterly’s talk, some in the audience lamented that they had not known earlier about the heroines of “Hidden Figures.” Children in the audience 

excitedly raised their hands to learn more about these pioneering “human computers” and their triumph over adversity.

There are thousands of such stories embedded in the history of black America. Sadly, they are rarely told by the elite media—black or white—and often ignored by academia. The most powerful antidote to disrespect is not protest but performance. Stories that convey this idea, however, are considered “off message” in the national narrative.

The dominant racial message today attributes black failure—academic, occupational and even moral—to an all-purpose invisible villain: “institutional racism.” Those who shake their fists and proclaim that white America must change before blacks can achieve anything are embracing a version of white supremacy clothed as protest. The debilitating effects of this attitude are exacerbated by liberals’ “white guilt.” Since the time of “race norming” and the promotion of Ebonics as a separate national language in the 1960s, white liberals have approached the black community with a combination of pity, patronage and pandering.

Affirmative-action programs opened education and employment opportunities to a small group of privileged blacks who were prepared to take advantage of them. But affirmative action did little to help the impoverished black Americans who had served as the foot soldiers of the Civil Rights campaigns.

Today the affirmative-action mentality permeates elite universities, where the arguments of black “experts” are rarely challenged or debated by their white counterparts, and virtually never by their students. It’s an academic environment in which every minority gets a trophy. My heart goes out to those black students who may never be confident that their degrees and accolades were the result of merit.

There are two ways to disable people. One is by denying them an opportunity to compete. The other, more crippling, is to tell them they no longer have to compete and that every door will be opened. Such people can only wonder whether their accomplishments are real or simulated. Black Americans must refuse to surrender to incompetence, self-devaluation and self-marginalization.

Every day at my office, I pass a wall with a photograph of a group of slaves from 1861 titled “Strength.” Under that picture is the quotation: “The strongest people in the world are not those most protected: They are the ones who must struggle against adversity and obstacles and surmount them to survive.”

The women of “Hidden Figures” embodied this maxim. As Ms. Shetterly declared at her book-signing: “These are the kinds of stories that change your life. You see people doing these amazing things and you internalize it, you normalize it, and it completely changes your inner landscape and what you believe is possible.”

Mr. Woodson is president and founder of the Woodson Center.

Appeared in the Mar. 17, 2017, print edition as '‘Hidden Figures’ Is a Powerful Story of Black Achievement.'

Do you like this post?

Showing 3 reactions

posted about this on Facebook 2017-03-17 12:44:09 -0600
‘Hidden Figures’ Is a Powerful Story of Black Achievement
@TPScottsdale tweeted link to this page. 2017-03-17 12:44:04 -0600
published this page in Home 2017-03-17 12:43:58 -0600