I'm black. My wife is white. We saw 'Get Out.' This was our conversation afterward.

After two weekends successfully dodging spoilers, my wife and I finally had a chance to see "Get Out."

Written and directed by Jordan Peele of "Key & Peele" fame, "Get Out" tells the story of Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya), a black, 20-something photographer who accompanies his white girlfriend (Allison Williams) on a trip to meet her parents (Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener) for the first time at their family home. What should be a potentially awkward but innocuous visit becomes anything but, as Chris quickly realizes something sinister is going on.

From left to right: Keener, Whitford, Williams, Betty Gabriel, and Kaluuya.  Image via "Get Out"/Universal Pictures.


Before I go on, I should mention that I'm black, and my wife is white. We met nearly six years ago, and I was warmly welcomed into her family.

Immediately, however, "Get Out" reminded me of a pivotal moment that happened early in our relationship.

I had joined my wife's extended family for her cousin's high school graduation in eastern Kansas. Rows and rows of mostly white teenagers sat in folding chairs at the 40-yard line of the football field, while their mostly white parents waved and peered at them through zoom lenses.  As we waited for the ceremony to begin, I played a game I often play in moments of intense whiteness (folk concerts, theme trivia nights, farmer's markets, etc.). I call it "Find Another Black Person," and depending on where I am, it's much harder than it sounds.

That day in Kansas, I didn't see any other black people.

I've played this game for years without ever really thinking much about why I play it. After seeing "Get Out," it clicked: This harmless game is more than just a way to occupy my impatient mind — it's a safeguard. In a sea of white people, I look for a lifeboat. And "Get Out" reminded me that maybe I'm right to.

Logan (Lakeith Stanfield) and Chris (Kaluuya) meet at the party.  Image via "Get Out"/Universal Pictures.

"Get Out" is unsettling, suspenseful, witty in just the right places, beautifully shot, and well-acted. It's fantastic.

The rest of this story will have spoilers, so if you haven't yet seen "Get Out," get out.

As I watched the film — from its title theme, "Sikiliza Kwa Wahenga," a song in Swahili that loosely translates to "listen to the ancestors," to the tears streaming down Chris and Georgina's faces when they were in the "sunken place" — something stirred loose in me. Scenes of Chris dodging microaggressions from all sides while Rose gaslit him without abandon felt familiar — yet horrifying — on the big screen.

I'd say it couldn't have come at a better time, but to be honest, we've needed a film like this for years. It was frightening for the same reason a stadium full of white Kansan parents and their children left me looking for a familiar brown face — sure, nothing bad will happen ... but it could.

Whitford and Keener.  Image from "Get Out"/Universal Pictures.

To put it plainly, "Get Out" left me shook. I needed to talk about it immediately, and thankfully, I had a car ride home with my wife to do so.

I needed to digest what I'd just seen. "Get Out" was certainly no ordinary film. The way my heart lodged firmly in my throat when I saw the red and blue lights approach our hero in the final scene, only to be saved by his trusted black friend, his lifeboat? I saw my worst fears play out on the silver screen. It was just too real.

The sunken place is terrifying. Image from "Get Out"/Universal Pictures.

While my wife and I are an interracial couple, we're also both women, so my experience watching and reflecting on "Get Out" isn't quite the same as what Chris experienced.

I was nervous when I met my wife's white parents for many of the reasons Chris was nervous in the movie. Did they know I was black? What was I walking into? But, as a black woman, I also had the privilege of coming to my future in-laws' front door without the burden of more than 150 years of assumptions and lies about violent black masculinity, hypersexuality, and predatory behavior (especially as it pertains to white women). It doesn't mean I rang their bell without worry or fear, but as a woman dating a woman, I know I didn't shoulder the burden of history as black men in heterosexual interracial relationships do, and I recognize that.

Chris (Kaluuya) and Rose (Williams) get comfy.  Image from "Get Out"/Universal Pictures.

When we got in the car, I turned to my wife. I knew we'd watched "Get Out" differently. How could we not?

I needed to know if in watching the film, she saw me. Not just a character in a horror film, but me, her wife, who faces fear, isolation, and anxiety about racism every single day.

We discussed the film in-depth the whole way home, but there was one part of our conversation that stood out to me because, in that moment, something clicked — for both of us:

Me: "When do you think about being white?"
Her: "When racist stuff happens."
Me: "What do you think when racist stuff happens?"
Her: "I feel bad."
Me: "You feel bad for whom?"
Her: "For whom? The victims of racism. I feel guilty."
Me: "You feel guilty after racist things happen. Did you feel guilty after watching the movie?"
Her: "Yeah, maybe a little. Yeah. It's so extreme though, you know?"
Me: "Yeah."
Her: "It kind of got out of the range of like, 'realistic racism,' I guess. Once we got into brain transplants, we're obviously outside of a realm. I feel like I felt more guilty when they were doing other stuff, the minor stuff ... that turned out to be major."








That right there — the conclusion she drew — is an important one.

Whether we're talking about Hollywood horror or real life, racism is never just small stuff. It may start with small things, like being followed around a store, having your hair stroked by strangers, or people assuming you grew up in poverty. Before long, it becomes voter suppression, subpar medical care, limited economic opportunities, and poor public schools. One racist misdeed begets another, and it all starts "innocently" enough.

Chris (Kaluuya) greets guests during the party.  Image from "Get Out"/Universal Pictures.

Punishing experiments on black soldiers like the Buffalo Soldier bicycle mission, the Tuskegee syphilis trials, the stripping of cells from Henrietta Lacks — these things don't happen all at once. They happen when a group of people is not seen as fully human by society. That's when these small things cross into what my wife called the "realm of the impossible" — a realm that black people in particular know from history is actually very possible.

That's the frightening reality I grappled with while watching "Get Out," and, while it didn't leave me screaming in the theater, it definitely keeps me up at night.

I adore my wife, and I know the feeling is mutual. But I was black long before I met her, so even as our families blend, my blackness won't.

My blackness is non-negotiable. It's not a hobby or a casual interest. I won't get bored with it one day and shove my blackness in the attic. It's here. Always. It's with me at work, at home, when I'm driving, and when I'm in a crowded football stadium watching a high school graduation.

Thankfully, my wife recognizes and appreciates that. But even on her best day, she won't know what it's like to feel so out of place, to look out into that sea of white faces and need a lifeboat. She can't. No white person can. But in that theater, for 103 minutes, a surprising and innovative movie helped her get a little closer to understanding what that's like. That's more important to me than she'll ever know.

True

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Photo by Adelin Preda on Unsplash

A multinational study found that bystanders intervene in 9 out of 10 public conflicts.

The recent news report of a woman on a Philadelphia train being raped while onlookers did nothing to stop it was shocking and horrible, without question. It also got people discussing the infamous "bystander effect," which has led people to believe—somewhat erroneously, as it turns out—that people aren't likely to intervene when they see someone being attacked in public. Stories like this uninterrupted train assault combined with a belief that bystanders rarely step in can easily lead people to feel like everything and everyone is horrible.

But according to the most recent research on the subject, the Philadelphia incident appears to be the exception, not the rule. A 2019 multinational study found that at least one bystander (but usually more) will actually intervene in 9 out of 10 public conflicts.

The idea that people in groups aren't likely to intervene stems largely from research on the 1964 story of Kitty Genovese, a 28-year-old woman who was stabbed to death outside her apartment in New York, while dozens of onlookers in surrounding apartment buildings allegedly did nothing. However, further research has called the number of witnesses into question, and it appears that several did, in fact, call the police. Someone reportedly shouted out their window and scared the attacker away for a few minutes, and someone did rush to Genovese's aid after the second attack.

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