The movie is an incredible piece of cinema. Visually, for its acting, and for its incredibly engaging and entertaining manner of storytelling, it hits the ball out of the park, IMHO. The book tells an even more sweeping and intricate version of the familiar saga, and therefore legitimately qualifies (again, IMHO) as a truly great read.
And yet... what racist screeds are both movie and book! Every line of dialogue spoken by or in reference to the African-American characters reflects and promotes the belief that they are at best loyal sub-humans who know their place (which is unquestioningly supporting their white masters without expectation of pay), and at worst "uppity," "insolent" fools who threaten the foundation of all that is wholesome and good in this country by crazily imagining themselves to be equal to whites in intellect, ability, or entitlement to rights such as voting or holding office.
Thanks to the Civil Rights movement of the 1960's, with its speeches by eloquent leaders such as MLK Jr., its participation by millions in peaceful protests in the face of ugly brutality, and its other acts of undeniable courage and eloquence, it became impossible for any well-informed person who was not evil-minded or ill-intentioned to NOT question the belief in white supremacy on which they may or may not have been raised. Or so I used to think. I am white and have always lived in the North; I am no historian of the South; and, yes, I based this optimistic opinion mostly on what I saw on TV and what I heard from the white Southerners with whom I went to school and camp (in the North). I knew I was probably being somewhat naive. But it always seemed to me that in the post-Civil Rights era in which I grew up, openly and publicly expressing white supremacist beliefs had become less acceptable to more of the mainstream population than it used to be.
Yes, we live in a nation that elected an African-American President. (I can never say that without feeling proud of us, and hopeful.) But fear shifts people's priorities. Perhaps, given the spiraling of the economy under a Republican administration at the time, voters in 2008 simply felt more fearful of "more of the same" than of "angry" and "entitled" African-Americans getting "uppity" and "insolent."
In other words, perhaps the pernicious beliefs expressed in Gone with the Wind and openly held in the pre-Civil Rights era never really evolved. Perhaps they remain entrenched in the South and in towns and counties all over this country that have never experienced true integration (and the exposure it brings to the reality that we are all equally and similarly human).
So what do we do about it?
Condemning others as racist is not a solution. It may make us feel superior, but when we choose to be contemptuous of others rather than to look for ways to win their hearts and minds, we are choosing to be utterly ineffective.
I think true integration is a great engine for evolution of beliefs. As I said, IMHO it brings exposure to the reality that we are all equally and similarly human. But, unfortunately, that is really at the essence of what white supremacists and many other racists resist most. (In GWTW, the most outrageous aspiration attributed to African-Americans is the desire to mix with whites as equals... which, the whites fear, can only lead to mixed marriages, God forbid!)
So how to bring about more integration? More busing? More scholarships to better integrate universities in homogeneous regions?
I'm not sure. I'm not even sure those with greater knowledge and experience than I have would agree it is a good solution.
But I know one thing. I want to be part of a discussion that spitballs initiatives for a more enlightened and less violent world and then works to develop those with potential, rather than one that stays stuck in outraged contempt.