Aha Moment: Gentleman's Agreement
Friday, February 22, 2013
Listener Susan Evans grew up in rural Louisiana during the 1950s and '60s. Her first year of high school was also the first year of federally enforced integration in her town — and that did not sit well with her white parents.
Susan was never comfortable with her family’s casual racism, but she had a hard time finding the courage to stand up to it. It wasn’t until years later that she came across Elia Kazan’s 1947 film Gentleman’s Agreement. It stars Gregory Peck as an undercover journalist who poses as a Jew in order to experience and expose anti-Semitism. In a romantic subplot he meets a young woman played by Dorothy McGuire — she’s a non-Jew from Darien, Connecticut, where anti-Semitism is rampant.
In a pivotal dinner scene, racist jokes are told around the table and McGuire’s character realizes her silence is part of the problem. “That is definitely the scene that woke me up,” remembers Susan. “When she suddenly realized what she had to do, that was the moment I realized what I had to do.”
(Originally aired: June 10, 2011)
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