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Think. Discuss. Act. Racism

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Remember The Titans

To use the movie “Remember the Titans” as a springboard for discussing racism and integration.

Summary

(Download Remember the Titans discussion as a PDF)

While schools have been integrated for over thirty years, racial and ethnic tensions within them still exist. “Remember the Titans,” based on the real-life story of the undefeated 1971 T.C. Williams football team in Alexandria, Virginia, shows the prejudices prevalent in that era and the determination of black head coach Herman Boone (Denzel Washington) in bringing together the first integrated high school team in the state. Together with Bill Yoast (Bill Patton), the former white Titan head coach now assisting under Boone, real integration occurs, both on and off the field.

Leader Preparation

Obtain a copy of “Remember the Titans”. Rated PG, this movie is available on VHS and DVD. If you have not seen the movie before, view it before showing it to your group. The movie should be appropriate for most junior high and senior high youth.

If the entire movie cannot be viewed, the following clip is suggested: Begin in the lunchroom at the football camp when white offensive lineman Louie Lastik sits down at the black table. Conclude with discussion between black Julius Campbell and white Gerry Bertier.

Group Building

Divide your group into small groups of four. Ask them to share any experiences they have had across racial or ethnic lines. Particular attention may want to be directed on how barriers were overcome, and what fears were involved. Decide beforehand whether the small groups should share with the large group. Total time for group building should last no more than 10-15 minutes.

Group Presentation

Introduce the movie briefly and then show the entire movie or a clip.

Group Discussion (for entire movie)

Discuss the following questions:

  • At the movie’s beginning, Dr. Day remarks to Coach Boone, “Black folks have never had anything in this city to call their own except humiliation and despair.” When have you felt humiliation and despair? What do you imagine a lifetime of humiliation and despair would look like? How does this insight change your attitude towards blacks and other minorities?
  • Would you have worked under Coach Boone as Coach Yoast did? Why or why not? What do you think motivated Coach Yoast? Was it solely a concern for the white athletes, or was there a deeper reason?
  • Coach Boone had to desegregate the school buses before leaving for football camp. He also forced black and white players to room together and get to know one another. What are some possible reasons why racial groups tend to segregate and not integrate? What steps can we take to overcome those reasons?
  • What questions would you ask someone of another race or ethnic group as a means of getting to know that person? Would an assignment such as the one Coach Boone gave to the players be difficult or easy for you to accomplish? Why?
  • Early one morning, the players ran to the Gettysburg battlefield. What do you know about Gettysburg? In one of the most profound moments in the movie, Coach Boone notes that 50,000 men died “fighting the same fight that we’re still fighting amongst ourselves today” and “If we don’t come together right now on this hallowed ground, we too will be destroyed, just like they were.” What is your reaction to these words? Are they still applicable today?
  • Before the Titan’s first game against all-white Hayfield, Coach Boone tells the team, “They don’t have to worry about race. We do. But we’re the better for it.” Why are they the better for it?
  • Gerry Bertier and Coach Yoast chose to stand up for what they believed in and embraced integration over segregation. For Bertier, his beliefs cost him his girlfriend for a time and his best friend. For Coach Yoast, it cost him entry into the high school hall of fame. Have you ever had to do something similar to what these two did? What convictions and beliefs would you stand up for regardless of the cost?
  • In the hospital room, Gerry confides to Julius about his difficulty overcoming the race issue, “I was afraid of you Julius. I only saw what I was afraid of. And now I know I was only hating my brother.” Do you see how big a role fear plays in racial tension? What steps can we take to overcome that fear and come to the point where we recognize we are brothers and sisters?

Group Discussion (for shorter movie clip)

Discuss the following questions with your group:

  • Why was Julius so upset when Louie Lastik sat down at the black table to eat lunch? Do you get angry when someone new sits down at a table occupied by you and your friends? How would a difference in race or ethnicity factor into your reaction?
  • Would you ever voluntarily sit down with and spend time with someone of another ethnic group? Why do you think Lastik, by the world’s standards a “loser,” was the most color-blind to race? What can we learn from him?
  • Rev called Lastik a blessed child in God’s family. How was this helpful to the situation? What does this say about God’s view on race and ethnicity? Can you give biblical support to back up your statement?
  • Why did Ray Budds call Lastik a “traitor”? Did you feel angry at Ray when he said that or did you agree with him? Why?
  • What questions would you ask someone of another race or ethnic group as a means of getting to know that person? Would an assignment such as the one Coach Boone gave to the players be difficult or easy for you to accomplish? Why?
  • As you saw the interaction between blacks and whites, how did you feel?
  • Did you feel that the honest exchange between Julius and Gerry at the end of practice may be an avenue towards integration? What is at risk in being honest? How do the benefits outweigh the risks?

Wrap-Up

  • This movie shows that real racial integration is not just a wishful possibility.
  • The greatest barrier to racial integration may be fear.
  • Overcoming that fear requires a determined effort and a commitment to being honest.
  • Standing up for your values and beliefs may cost you.
  • While our skin color, language, culture, etc. may be different, we are all brothers and sisters.

Tom Livingston
© 2017 CYS

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