I moved to Silver City in 2016 and now work at the Silver City Museum, where I am in close contact with much of our local history and people who care about it. One famous episode involved the Empire Zinc miners’ strike dramatized in the movie Salt of the Earth, which we sell in the museum store and is widely known to have been subversive in its time (1954, the height of McCarthyism). So of course I had to see what the fuss was about. I watched the first 40 minutes to the movie and had a strong reaction that it was incredibly “woke” for its era or even ours.
This movie addresses issues of oppression, discrimination, labor politics, intersectionality and feminism within racial struggles, and the complicated role of privileged allies in oppressed communities.
I was struck by the scene where Ramon returns from wrongful imprisonment to celebrate his son’s christening over a poker game. Ramon explained to his white guest and ally in the resistance that he was really doing a great-white-hope kind of thing with his control of strategy and that his not recognizing the portrait of Father Juarez was the equivalent of Ramon not recognizing George Washington, which would make him “one dumb Mexican.” The blond organizer submitted humbly to this privilege check. It could have been written in 2018, as our culture struggles through a national conversation about race and privilege.