Remember the Titans

REMEMBER THE TITANS WARNS THE SUPREME COURT NOT TO RESEGREGATE AMERICA
Although the Supreme Court ruled that school segregation was unconstitutional in 1954, some 500 of the 1,500 school districts in the United States had done nothing to integrate enrollment by 1968, when the Supreme Court ruled that immediate integration was required. In 1971, Alexandria, Virginia, finally desegregated schools, and children formerly attending two other high schools were bused to formerly all-white T. C. Williams High School. All the football coaches for the white high schools had been white, yet another barrier to be overcome by blacks. In Remember the Titans, directed by Boaz Yakin, we view a remarkable true story about reconciliation between the races in Alexandria. During the film we see how initially hostile attitudes by whites toward blacks became transformed into a joyous appreciation of the virtues of having the races cooperate and learn from each other. Before the first year began at that school, Herman Boone (played by Denzel Washington) was named head football coach. Genteel Bill Yoast (played by Will Patton), a coach whose winning career made him eligible for the Virginia Hall of Fame, was thus passed over for reasons of affirmative action. At first angered at his replacement, Yoast was looking for another job when he realized that a boycott of the team by white players would jeopardize their chances for college, so he accepted Boone’s offer to stay on as defensive coach. Perhaps another reason for his decision was that he realized that there was something special about Boone. At the summer training camp, where black and white football players practiced together, a similar transformation gradually occurred among the 99 players, especially when they went to the battlefield at Gettysburg and heard a stirring speech by Boone. Called “Coach Coon” by his detractors, Boone encountered verbal brickbats and even a rock thrown through his front window. Meanwhile, the white players had to endure the wrath of rednecks, first in Alexandria and then at other schools in the football league, because they were playing on an integrated team. Clearly, whites learned more from blacks about perseverance in the face of prejudice, and the group spirit that developed is credited with inspiring a string of victories at every football game played by the T. C. Williams team with only one exception—the national championships. At the end of the film, titles tell us what happened to every prominent character in the movie, and we leave the film impressed that they enjoyed happy and successful lives because they were making history in 1971 for a town which, even today, is a model for racial integration in housing as well as schooling. For many filmviewers, Remember the Titans may seem a feel-good movie to be enjoyed primarily because teenagers overcame great odds to win football victories with the help of compassionate adults. But Remember the Titans, possibly the best film ever made on the positive results of racial integration, comes at a time when the Supreme Court has been issuing rulings that appear close to ending school integration as a goal for public education in the United States. Supreme Court justices might want to watch this film before legalizing a new American apartheid. For this reason, the Political Film Society has nominated Remember the Titans for best film of 2000 in promoting human rights and best film exposé for bringing to light facts not generally known. MH