Why does hate exist? Why do we hate so much? Why are our lives built around so much hate? We all say things like ‘Oh I hate this so much’, but why do we say that? Why do we feel the need to hate anything? Do we use that word to make our anger known? Do we do it just for shock value? Or are just we plain ignorant? There are many schools of thought on why we hate and how it spirals out of something so little, but the real question is what can we learn from our past mistakes when dealing with hate?
Mississippi Burning is based around the crime of these three civil rights workers as well as the FBI’s investigation. While some of the film’s narrative was written for dramatic effect to what went on in 1964, the core of the piece is not lost, and it is by no means a glossy film, it is very raw. This isn’t a patronising piece of film that is made to win awards, or to make you feel better as a viewer because you may have delved into your conscious a little more when watching it. Mississippi Burning isn’t just conveying the nature of the crime against the three young men; it is also expressing the hate that surrounded every day life in Mississippi. No matter how small and insignificant hate might seem to some people, it’s a big deal to others. In the opening credits, there are two drinking fountains against a wall, and on the wall there’s two signs; one says ‘White’ the other says ‘Coloured’. Something as simple as drinking from the same fountain seemed ‘wrong’ to group of racists and bigots. From seeing that in the opening credits, you just know you are not in for a mindless film that you will forget within 10 minutes of end credits. And after seeing the opening scene of the murder, you are going to be on edge for the rest of the film.
Throughout this film you will realise that your emotions are going to be put through a shredder and by the end of it you will have nothing left. If you have a heart, a conscious and empathy you will be angry, you will be upset, you will be offended. Your blood will boil at the fact that all these crimes, racism and hate was allowed to happen, and you will also be frustrated at the fact that these narrow minded civilians thought that this behaviour was totally normal and deemed acceptable. How the hell is taking rights away from people who are just like you acceptable? Who the hell made these decisions? Why is the colour of someone’s skin so damn important? We are all in this life together, and therefore everything SHOULD be equal! We should be all allowed to vote, we should be allowed to choose which ever religion we so choose to be a part of, we should be allowed to marry who we want, and we should be allowed to be who we want to be. Racist remarks shouldn’t be made about anyone. If you have a problem with a person because of the ACTUAL person they are inside don’t bring their race and nationality into it.
I was 16 when I first saw Mississippi Burning in grade 11 History class. I had never heard of the film but I was excited at getting to watch a movie in class. The teacher, however, did warn us there would be some disturbing scenes but that they were vital to what we were learning to get some sort of understanding of what had happened in US history. Seems fair to give us that kind of warning right?; apparently not. I went to an all girls school in a very rich and snobby area, and I’d say majority of these girls lived in a fantasy that everything in life was amazing, and that real life horror just didn’t exist. I guess they were just taking classes to fill up time until they decided to get married straight out of high school. I took history class with about 90% of those kinds of girls, and within moments of the first five minutes of the film they asked for permission to leave the class as they found the film ‘too intense’. If I remember correctly one student said the film was ‘socially unacceptable’ and should not be shown to high school students. I remember seeing the students dropping like flies and leaving the class until it was just the teacher and myself left in the classroom. I remember being speechless after the film; I couldn’t believe what I had just watched and I had so many questions and so many thoughts that I just couldn’t comprehend. And what angered me so much is how the girls in my class could be so casual about dismissing this film, as if it wasn’t a vital piece to our education. People may just brand Mississippi Burning as just a movie, but it isn’t just a movie! It’s a depiction of a time in history where ignorance and hate were what people were serving on a menu of life, and you could take it or leave it.
The three men murdered for trying to bring people together and be able to have all the same rights should never be forgotten. We should never forget their cause and the fact that they died for it. We should never forget their love respect they had for everyone and we should ever forget their names. Everyone should remember James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner for being activists and for fighting for something that they sa as important and relevant to their cause.
Mississippi Burning conveys truth, substance, and depth. It isn’t just a film, it’s a window for us to look through to see only a fraction of what happened. While it only may be a fraction, it should be enough to make you feel something, and make you approach life and people a little bit better. It should make you handle your words better and most importantly it should make you question WHY?