The Thing I Like About …

Glory:  The white soldiers who change their minds.

Glory describes the story of the 54th, the first black troops in our country, who served during the Civil War.  They suffered the usual hardships of military training; they also received inferior clothing, and were obliged to use ill-fitting boots or nothing at all.  They were paid less than other soldiers.  And, of course, many around them did not think they could do as good a job as a white soldier – many others felt that they should not be allowed to try.

A group of white soldiers meet some of the 54th, and immediately pick a fight – they are verbally abusive and obviously contemptuous.  They are the material sign of the unfair discrimination and treatment of blacks that is described throughout the film.

But when the 54th is asked to take a fort that has persistently fought off all other attempts, they accept this honour proudly, knowing that it is largely a suicide mission.  They do it to prove themselves, but also to pave the way for other black troops – and blacks in general – who had not yet been given a chance.  They march to the fort past all the soldiers who will fill the breach they create.

Among those waiting soldiers is the group of white men who had earlier picked a fight with them, but now they shout out, “Give ‘em hell, 54th!”

They had changed their minds.

I don’t know if those men were real or if they were dramatic creations, but they represent something extremely important: we are all trained and taught to feel and think the way we do, but, at any time, we have the power to look at things differently – even really big things that have been the same for a very long time.

Glory is about the 54th – a part of black American history.  But it is also about white soldiers who had to readjust incredibly ingrained lessons – this is not easy, no matter how necessary it may be, and that struggle – especially in America where so many different peoples have come together – is a constant part of white American history.

The white soldiers changing their minds, and the 54th proudly accepting that respect, make Glory something more than a look at black history or white history – it becomes a look at our shared history, and how we can make changes for the better, as long as both sides are willing.

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