This film embodies the pursuit of endurance. It is based on the true tale of Carl Brashear, who overcame racial discrimination and job protectionism in the U. S. Navy, to go on to lead a long career. It is a tale with a happy ending in many respects, but it is unfortunately the exception to the rule in the continuing saga of unequal opportunity for African Americans in the U. S. —despite myriad rules and regulations. Some purport that job protectionism inhibits equal opportunity, but more recent research suggests that, whether laws are in place or not, some form of racial discrimination will almost always seep through.
This argument is explored in the Stanford Law Review by Julie C. Suk, in her Abstract to "Discrimination At Will: Job Security Protections And Equal Employment Opportunity In Conflict”: Scholars and advocates of employment discrimination law should be aware of the ways in which both employment at will and job security protections can function in different contexts to exacerbate racial inequalities in employment. Such awareness should encourage the development of a broader perspective on equal employment opportunity that moves beyond the limited set of problems that are identified by the litigation of employment discrimination cases.
In other words, regardless of how our organizations are regulated, racial discrimination seems to find a way through. Indeed, even after President Truman integrated the military services, racism persisted—during the draft, and into the all-volunteer era. Immediately prior to Order 9981, segregation was lawful—and afterward, it was the unspoken law. In “President Truman Championed Military Integration”, Jim Garamone contends, that after the Order was passed, “Through the next four years, Truman battled with military and civilian leaders to ensure they carried out Executive Order 9981.
” Any continued racist imbalances, therefore, might be explained as the result of underlying prejudices always exploiting some weakness in the imposed system. This would suggest that equal opportunity cannot be regulated: at least not in the short-term. Perhaps, it must somehow be seeded at the deeper source of the problem, rather than trying to mask the symptoms with haste--but it could still be true that equal opportunity laws might put us in the right direction, whereby over the long-term, we eventually become fully integrated, by working together to get along.
In any case, it is possible that in time, just as Master Chief Billy Sunday has a change of heart over Brashear's worthiness to serve, more military personnel will eventually come to renounce racism everywhere, having finally served together. In Men Of Honor, Carl Brashear's determination is single-minded, and his outstanding endurance appears to be his key to success, while attempting to overthrow the shackles of Navy discrimination. In perhaps one of the most profound scenes in the movie, Brashear refuses to return to the surface until he's finished assembling his unit.
His superior, Sunday, has ordered his tools be scattered over the water-bed, leaving Brashear scrambling about in the dark cold depths, determined to endure—unwilling to allow racism to rule his destiny. If Sunday were to give Brashear a fair shake, the young diver would deserve a medal—but instead, the Master Chief is pressured by his own superior Pappy, to carry out the order, of sabotaging Brashear, so he will fail. From the start, Sunday makes the road hard for Brashear, partly because he feels pressured by the traditional racism of the military—and partly because he refuses to give Brashear any breaks.
Sunday could make life easier on Brashear by treating him equally, but the system he himself grew up in did not account for such equality. Eventually, however, Sunday snaps, and sides with Brashear, ordering him to be pulled back up to the surface, for the sake of his life—and at the loss of Sunday's job. This likely would have sent a signal to his underlings that racism was wrong, so Sunday did his part in spreading the message of equal opportunity. The other sailors would have begun to feel more comfortable with supporting equality—instead of always tearing it down.
Some other theories of bias commonly cited support the idea of not being able to regulate prejudice. Proponents of Dollard's Frustration-Aggression Theory could argue that white racism is a form of scape-goating, whereby racist white Americans have grown aggressive due to their failing imperialism, causing them to seek a substitute target in African -Americans. In Totalitarian or Authoritarian Personality, Theodor Adorno explores prejudiced people, devising a template to overlay the racist mind. Some of the traits echo characters in Men Of Honour.
Both theories can be applied to the movie's cast. Mr. Pappy epitomizes Adorno's definition of conformism, as he conforms to more conservative values. Master Chief Billy Sunday is prejudiced by his unquestioning obedience to his superiors and the system—before he changes his thinking. Captain Hanks is a classic frustrated-aggressive Dollar type-set, for Sunday directly disobeys his orders—and so Hanks picks on the more helpless Brashear. Another theory of prejudice, Robert Merton's typology set, also fits in well with the biased bents of the movie's characters.
It explains each of them, as one of the four possible states of prejudice / non-prejudice one can exist in. Master Chief Billy Sunday best suits the non-prejudiced discriminator, for playing along with Pappy—while naturally feeling sympathy for Brashear. Mrs. Gwen Sunday fits the non-prejudiced, non-discriminator, for she is even willing to take Sunday back despite his alcoholism, as long as he changes his ways. Captain “Pappy” plays well as the prejudiced, discriminator, because he acts out of bias—which runs deep within him.
It is almost as if he were more alone for the extreme nature of his prejudice, so that we feel his fear in a later scene, when he briefly second-guesses the purity of Sunday's racism. Seaman Snowhill is another unprejudiced non-discriminator, for he also sees Brashear as an equal—and he easily relates to his outcast status. Captain Hanks is the prejudiced discriminator until the end of the movie, when he is forced to be non-discriminate in welcoming Brashear back into the Navy.
Petty Officer Rourke is the prejudiced non-discriminator until the moment he says “I'm not dying” and bails out from a precariously perched underwater ship—leaving behind his friends who need him, revealing his true cowardice—and how quickly he will discriminate against close ones, instead of risking his life to save them. Most of the characters demonstrate change over the course of the story, for many of them become less or more discriminatory toward the end—but Sunday seems to change the most, evolving from full discriminator to non-discriminator.
Men Of Honor shows that individuals must out-endure racism, until the right amount of legislation and political will mixes together to free the future of prejudice. The most important intervention, however, is probably through investment in education—as regulating people's behavior often seems to backfire, as all will manage to find outlets for their bias. But the Brashears of the world will always refuse to give in, denying their superiors the pleasure of beating them—giving inspiration to all those minorities who look for leaders to spark attitudes of defiance through endurance.
Brashear could have given up, but then he would have lost respect for himself. The opportunity blockages that Brashear faces match Suk's theory, where prejudice cannot be regulated, for although Brashear climbs the ranks under law and order—he continually faces new biased agendas that try to thwart him. Likewise, for many African-Americans facing such bigotry in their careers, it can be seen that it is primarily the ability of one to out-endure racism--that determines the heroes in the end Works Cited Garamone, Jim.
“President Truman Championed Military Integration”. American Forces Press Service. Washington, July 23, 2008 http://www. defenselink. mil/news/newsarticle. aspx? id=50561 Julie C Suk. "Discrimination At Will: Job Security Protections And Equal Employment Opportunity In Conflict. " Stanford Law Review 60. 1 (2007): 73-113. Alumni -ABI/INFORM Global. ProQuest. 2 Apr. 2009 <http://www. proquest. com/> Men Of Honor. Dir. George Tillman Jr. . Perf. Robert De Niro, Cuba Gooding Jr. , Charlize Theron. Fox 2000 Pictures, 2000.