The most important part of 'Rogue One' was an unexpected and subtle one.

Stop me if this sounds familiar.

Women are usually objectified and sexualized in major motion pictures.

People of color are usually the villains, terrorists, drug dealers, and criminals in major motion pictures.


Films usually consist of white men making all the decisions.

Historically, in movies it’s been the white guy calling the shots, faltering briefly, recognizing his wrongs, and eventually saving the day while teasing a sequel dependent on box office returns. Or sometimes, if there's a female lead, she’ll need strong males to help her see the way.

J.J. Abrams was happy to break this trend in last year's "Star Wars" installment, “The Force Awakens."

John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, and Oscar Isaac. Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images.

In an interview at Comic-Con last year, when asked about the diversity in "The Force Awakens," Abrams said, "It’s important that fans see people who look like themselves in films."

Legendary franchises like “Ghostbusters” and “Star Wars” have taken huge steps forward not just in gender-neutral and colorblind casting, but in offering the spotlight to women and people of color.

That breaks barriers in Hollywood and proves it’s OK to not follow the homogenous checklist that has permeated Hollywood for decades.

“Rogue One” broke further from this tired formula and gave us new hope.

Slight spoiler alert. There's a moment in the film when the main cast of “good guys” is traveling, at hyperspace, in a beat-up ship that just barely made it out unscathed after witnessing a catastrophic event. As they barrel their way to an imperial base on Planet Eadu, the camera slowly pans across to show the newly formed team. The face of the resistance is not unlike the face of those struggling for equality today. The richness of the diversity is a palpable jolt of hope for all minorities everywhere.

Image courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures.

A main cast of people of color and a woman leading the way is a powerful scene to see.

Jyn Erso, played by Felicity Jones, leads the whole movement, with a team consisting of Cassian Andor (played by Mexican actor Diego Luna), Chirrut Imwe, the blind warrior (played by Chinese legend Donnie Yen), Bodhi Rook (played by Riz Ahmed, who is of Pakistani and Indian descent), and Baze Malbus (played by Chinese actor Jiang Wen) after leaving a meeting with another main character, Saw Gerrera (played by African-American Forest Whitaker).

There's no sexual tension to exploit. There are no stereotypes, drug deals, racist themes, religious tropes, or anything else that we’ve come to expect from Hollywood over the last 100 years since “Birth of a Nation” came out.  

Forest Whitaker as Saw Gerrera. Image courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures.

But why is this important?

It’s important because like the "Ghostbusters" casting inspiring little girls, it does innumerable wonders for children of color. They see their races and ethnicities finally represented in Hollywood, and not in a negative light.

It's important because it shows we belong, even despite the adversity that women and minorities face.

Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso. Image courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures.

It’s important because it shows that a woman doesn’t need to be placed in a metal bikini to appeal to a target demographic, spawning thousands of horrid Halloween costumes.

The diverse cast in "Rogue One" shows that despite the challenges women and minorities face on the regular — and, as of Jan. 20, 2017, are likely to face even more often — that we can make strides and show the world, as we’ve tried to do since the beginning of recorded time, that we belong, and that we can also do what the typical white hero has done on the silver screen.

It shows that we’re on the right path but still have a ways to go.

Jiang Wen and Donnie Yen. Image courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures.

There's progress being made outside film franchises too. The British Academy of Film and Television Arts (the U.K.'s version of the Oscars) recently announced that as of 2019, films will not be eligible for any awards unless they're diverse and inclusive in front of and behind the camera. It may not be progress at the speed of light, but that clunky, beat-up ship will get there eventually.

"Rogue One" is billed as the prequel to "A New Hope,"  but for millions of minorities watching it on the big screen, this is their new hope — not just on the big screen, but in the real world we're living in.

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On an old episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in July 1992, Oprah put her audience through a social experiment that puts racism in a new light. Despite being nearly two decades old, it's as relevant today as ever.

She split the audience members into two groups based on their eye color. Those with brown eyes were given preferential treatment by getting to cut the line and given refreshments while they waited to be seated. Those with blue eyes were made to put on a green collar and wait in a crowd for two hours.

Staff were instructed to be extra polite to brown-eyed people and to discriminate against blue-eyed people. Her guest for that day's show was diversity expert Jane Elliott, who helped set up the experiment and played along, explaining that brown-eyed people were smarter than blue-eyed people.

Watch the video to see how this experiment plays out.

Oprah's Social Experiment on Her Audience www.youtube.com

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Cadbury has removed the words from its Dairy Milk chocolate bars in the U.K. to draw attention to a serious issue, senior loneliness.

On September 4, Cadbury released the limited-edition candy bars in supermarkets and for every one sold, the candy giant will donate 30p (37 cents) to Age UK, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for the elderly.

Cadbury was prompted to help the organization after it was revealed that 225,000 elderly people in the UK often go an entire week without speaking to another person.

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Well Being

Young people today are facing what seems to be greater exposure to complex issues like mental health, bullying, and youth violence. As a result, teachers are required to be well-versed in far more than school curriculum to ensure students are prepared to face the world inside and outside of the classroom. Acting as more than teachers, but also mentors, counselors, and cheerleaders, they must be equipped with practical and relevant resources to help their students navigate some of the more complicated social issues – though access to such tools isn't always guaranteed.

Take Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, for example, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years, and as a teacher for seven. Entering the profession, she didn't anticipate how much influence a student's home life could affect her classroom, including "students who lived in foster homes" and "lacked parental support."

Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience, says it can be difficult to create engaging course work that's applicable to the challenges students face. "I think that sometimes, teachers don't know where to begin. Teachers are always looking for ways to make learning in their classrooms more relevant."

So what resources do teachers turn to in an increasingly fractured world? "Joining a professional learning network that supports and challenges thinking is one of the most impactful things that a teacher can do to support their own learning," Anglemyer says.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience.

A new program for teachers that offers this network along with other resources is the WE Teachers Program, an initiative developed by Walgreens in partnership with ME to WE and Mental Health America. WE Teachers provides tools and resources, at no cost to teachers, looking for guidance around the social issues related to poverty, youth violence, mental health, bullying, and diversity and inclusion. Through online modules and trainings as well as a digital community, these resources help them address the critical issues their students face.

Jessica Mauritzen, a high school Spanish teacher, credits a network of support for providing her with new opportunities to enrich the learning experience for her students. "This past year was a year of awakening for me and through support… I realized that I was able to teach in a way that built up our community, our school, and our students, and supported them to become young leaders," she says.

With the new WE Teachers program, teachers can learn to identify the tough issues affecting their students, secure the tools needed to address them in a supportive manner, and help students become more socially-conscious, compassionate, and engaged citizens.

It's a potentially life-saving experience for students, and in turn, "a great gift for teachers," says Dr. Sanderlin.

"I wish I had the WE Teachers program when I was a teacher because it provides the online training and resources teachers need to begin to grapple with these critical social issues that plague our students every day," she adds.

In addition to the WE Teachers curriculum, the program features a WE Teachers Award to honor educators who go above and beyond in their classrooms. At least 500 teachers will be recognized and each will receive a $500 Walgreens gift card, which is the average amount teachers spend out-of-pocket on supplies annually. Teachers can be nominated or apply themselves. To learn more about the awards and how to nominate an amazing teacher, or sign up for access to the teacher resources available through WE Teachers, visit walgreens.com/metowe.

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One of the major differences between women and men is that women are often judged based on their looks rather than their character or abilities.

"Men as well as women tend to establish the worth of individual women primarily by the way their body looks, research shows. We do not do this when we evaluate men," Naomi Ellemers Ph.D. wrote in Psychology Today.

Dr. Ellers believes that this tendency to judge a woman solely on her looks causes them to be seen as an object rather than a person.

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Culture