In this globalized world, diversity and inclusion are a part of everyday life. If you live in an urbanized area, you often interact with people of different ethnicities, religious beliefs and socioeconomic backgrounds. Many movies, plays and books explore the relationships of people from different cultures, societies and backgrounds coming together in mutual understanding. But which are considered best?Here’s a look at some of the best stories about diversity and tolerance in movies, plays and books.
In 1971, the citizens of Alexandria, Virginia, saw the integration of their high schools. At the time, many were concerned how this would affect the football team at T.C. Williams High School. If you’re a fan of the film “Remember the Titans,” this story is already ringing true. While in many respects the film offers a dramatized version of the real-life events involving segregation, the friendships that grew among the Titans’ black and white players during such a tumultuous time are well documented.
In particular, the friendship of Gerry Bertier and Julius Campbell propelled one of the great defenses in high school football history. But their friendship did more than unite a team divided by skin color – it defined both young men as people of integrity and character in their understanding of equality.
In the early 1990s, Erin Gruwell was hired at Woodrow Wilson High School in Long Beach, California, as an English teacher. In 2007, the story of Erin and her class was made into the movie, “Freedom Writers.” The film, starring Hilary Swank, follows a class of high school students, many of whom have gang affiliations, who generally hate each other because they view their classmates as “others” – different and nothing like themselves.
But through education, Gruwell shows her diverse student body how they were not so different from each other. The prompt for this cross cultural understanding was education about the Holocaust. When an African-American boy has a caricature drawn of him with overly large ears and lips, Gruwell tells them this same tactic is how Hitler dehumanized the Jewish population all over Europe.
It then becomes apparent only one student in Gruwell’s entire class is even familiar about the genocide. Gruwell takes them to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and once the students take an active interest, they begin to raise money for Miep Gies, who helped hide Anne Frank and her family, to be flown to the United States to visit their class. The support and dedication Gruwell showed her students helped them better understand each other, no matter their skin color or diverse history.
Movies aren’t the only medium that promote stories of acceptance and oneness. Many plays, like “Romeo and Juliet,” speak of people from different cultures and families finding love where they least expect it.
“Les Miserables” is a similar epic play in which people from different economic backgrounds find they are more alike than once perceived. In books, there are many stories of interracial relationships, not least of which is “The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother.” In this book, James McBride tells the story of his mother, a Polish Jew, who battled racism, poverty and much more to raise her children and be with the men she loved.