“The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity.” – Viola Davis, 2015 Emmy acceptance speech
It’s no secret that I am a nerd and also want to intentionally support work staring or created by people of color. I couldn’t wait for Hidden Figures’ release and this little nerdy heart almost exploded in excitement watching black women in STEM outperform white counterparts on the big screen. I may have cried too. I quoted Viola Davis speech because I believe opportunity and access separates “us” from “them”. Oftentimes, no matter how hard we work, we’re overlooked while mediocrity is rewarded. This happens in just about every white/male space. I don’t want to pick on an easy target, but let’s look at Jennifer Lawrence. She’s good, not great but she’s the lead in about every movie, especially around the holidays. There are far better actresses of color, but they aren’t given the same opportunity.
To get back to the point I was trying to make: I am happy stories about Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Dorothy Vaughan are being told. I had never heard of these women prior to this film. I am happy that someday I can share this history about the black women who made significant contributions at NASA with my children. I don’t know if I’ll raise future mathematicians, physicists, or engineers, but whatever happens I look forward to sharing our history and accomplishments with them; to share stories of firsts; to show them heroes that look like them because representation matters. Our stories matter.