Rodney Roe's Blog

Still Trying to Make Sense of It All

Rodney Roe

Rodney Roe
Clayton, Georgia, USA
November 22
I currently place myself among the curmudgeons of the world. Always thinking about why things are, and how they may be better, I tend to rant at times, but mostly I just look for a reasoned discourse. I have previously worked as a cotton scout, grocery bag boy, cannery worker, and am a physician. I am married, have two daughters and four granddaughters. I retired due to vision loss in 2005 after a 30 year career as a hospital pathologist. Fortunate to have a wide range of interests, life following retirement has been good.

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JANUARY 27, 2012 9:55PM

Sunset on Red Tails

Rate: 6 Flag

This past weekend we went to see Red Tails.  We actually went to see War Horse, but there was no matinee, so we settled.  Being in Southern Appalachia we expected to be the only couple in the theater.  I’m happy to say that the theater was full.  I’m also happy that there was no War Horse matinee.

If you haven’t seen Red Tails it is worth a look.  A movie about the Tuskegee Airmen, a fighter unit made up completely of black pilots, the movie is a fictitious account of a real group of men, their accomplishments, and the initial prejudice against the very existence of an Army Air Corps unit made of “Coloreds”. 

Most of the reviews have been good.  Dr. Roscoe Brown, jr., one of the Airmen, and a technical consultant to the movie production commented that the only disparaging review came from someone who obviously hadn’t seen the movie.  The reviewer thought that the fighter pilots flew escort for transport planes.  In fact, they flew escort for bombers.  That review said that the movie candy coated the conditions that black citizens lived in at the time.  It didn’t.  It documented the racism; it just didn’t dwell heavily on that issue.  The same criticism came about the movie, “The Help”.

It is true that at the time the Tuskegee Airmen were flying and dying for their country, men were being lynched, women were being raped, and there were myriad lesser injustices carried out against Black Americans.  If the movie had dwelt on those issues it is probable that the movie would never have made it to the box office and the story would not have been told.

The story flows smoothly; the individuals are shown as real men who exhibited great courage, even as they struggled with their own individual demons.  This unit existed in an era when there was still strict segregation in Tuskegee, Alabama, and much of the country, and it was made clear that in order to be accepted the Airmen had to be much better than average. 

The men who made up these fighter squadrons came from the top 10% of the student population at the Tuskegee Institute and after the war many went on to become doctors, attorneys and other prominent members of society. They also came back to be turned down for jobs because of their race.

In our area of the world the percentage of African Americans is so low that it gets rounded down to zero.  On Monday, after seeing the movie, we went to a showing of a very depressing documentary about the influence that agribusiness has over the source and quality of our food supply.  Before the movie started the only Black person I know here came in.  We exchanged a little small talk and I asked if she had seen Red Tails.  “Of course” she replied.  I asked what she thought of it.  “Judging from what my father said it was pretty accurate.”  “ …your father?”  “My father and uncle were both Tuskegee Airmen.”

Much less than 6 degrees of separation

The movie is doing very well at the box office.  It deserves to do well.  The story is exciting, uplifting, and tells a little known chapter of American history.  The story needed to be told, too, because the Tuskegee Airmen are dwindling in number and it will not be long before there are no airmen left to tell the story.


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What are the odds of talking to someone and find that their father was a member of a particular military unit? April, the friend whose father was a Tuskegee Airman, is an interesting person in many ways.
Life is full of such incredible coincidences, Rodney. All it takes is an occasion, a catalyst. Thank you for this review. Is it a box-office movie or a documentary?

About damn time the movie was made. Cool to have run into daughter/niece of a couple of the airmen.
Fusun, it is a movie. The name Red Tails came from the fact that the Airmen painted the tails of their airplanes red. The bombers and fighters rendezvoused in the air in route. The bomber pilots nick named them the "Red Tails". At the beginning upset at having the Tuskegee Airmen fly escort, they quickly wanted only the Airmen to fly with them.
The story is fictional, and the characters are composites of real Airmen.
The film about agribusiness that I saw the following day was a documentary.
Thanks for bringing this up. I'm a giant movie fan but totally out of the loop lately because of my job and kid. I'll make a point to seek the film out. BTW, what food movie was it, Food, Inc.? That one was totally depressing and horrifying.
ManhattanWhiteGirl, it was Food, Inc. It made me want to run, but there's nowhere to go. The big agribusiness companies have managed to ruin everywhere.
I believe in synchronicity...not coincidences at all. Thanks for your was excellent. Now it's on my list of must see movies! r
What do you think of The Omnivore's Dilemma?
paspartu, I haven't read the book, but I know the arguments. I think it asks the right questions and, judging from the backlash from the corporate farm industry it must have come to the right conclusions.
There are really two, somewhat overlapping, issues; safety and moral/ethical questions about the treatment of animals and farm workers.
I grew up on a subsistence farm supplemented by hunting and fishing. We were the "stoop labor" on the farm. The difference was that we reaped all of the reward rather than being paid less than minimum wage or for piece work.
Our cows and chickens provided the fertilizer for the vegetable garden, but we bought grain and hay to supplement the graze and were at the mercy of whoever produced that. It is hard to become totally self-sufficient and maintain safety and efficiency.
As an example; after I left home my father began buying the mash from a local distillery following fermentation. It was a high calory food source and the cattle loved it. As it turned out the mash was contaminated by significant levels of a banned pesticide. This resulted in a ban on milk and beef sales on any cattle fed this mix for six months.
That effectively shut down most of the dairy farms in the area. Dad had only beef cattle at the time and survived. I questioned the issue of time. The pesticide was banned because of an association of cancer through exposure. Both of my parents died of cancer. Related? Who knows?
Wonderful piece on this great movie. Haven't been to see it yet but looking forward to seeing it. My dad was a WWII vet so I enjoy movies such as this based on the real heroes who are only now being appreciated for the great sacrifices they made for all of us.

As a scientist with pesticide toxicology education turned sustainable farmer, I also was depressed somewhat by Food, Inc. and have reconsidered another educational adventure, this time a law degree concurrent with a Master's in Public Health (there are such programs). I also read Omnivore's Dilemma, an excellent read. Very practical and not so depressing.
Thanks for being our movie critic regarding Red Tails. I hope it does well and that people will pay attention to the importance of these brave souls.
Patsy K., I'm a retired pathologist, but was never much involved with the toxicology laboratory. There is a movement toward what has been termed 'locovore' agriculture here. There is a very successful farmer's market where the local farmers bring their produce in on the weekends during the growing season, and a commercial farm with its own roadside market that is hugely successful. Having ownership, operation and sales in the same area produces trust in the safety and ethics of the farm. I've thought about doing a piece on the experience that we have had here.
Rodney, I think you should do a piece on that. I am certain that many of us would love to read your article on this. Please consider doing that and pictures are always nice as well! Thanks
Thanks for your review, it was great!