Monday, June 13, 2011

The Help



I just finished the novel The Help by Kathryn Stockett. The book recounts the lives of maids taking care of white families during the early part of the 1960's in Jackson, Mississippi. Without giving away the plot, and I do think you would enjoy this book, it left me pondering so many issues of race, not only in the South, but also here in the West, and all over the world for that matter. How things have changed so much since I was a small girl and my father went to my elementary school to insist I not play with the little black boy in my class. I guess it was expected that the teachers would just keep us apart during recess. The year was 1958. It feels as though it was another lifetime, another world.

I have often wondered if that little boy might have grown up to be my friend's brother - who himself turned out to be a well-respected judge, and also the class president of my high school. (I don't remember the name of the little boy on the playground.)

The shame I feel for my father's prejudice is coupled with understanding the fear people had during those early years of civil rights. Fear of the unknown. Fear of giving up an established stratification that exists to this day. It does not make it right, however. Not in any stretch of the imagination does it make it right.

My daughters were raised to not look at color, sexual preference, or socioeconomic strata - but what of  other prejudices? I cannot always say that I was equitable about everything and everyone. I've looked back and realized I carried many outdated and stupid ideas at differing times throughout my life. In some of those instances it was my daughters that set me straight. I love that they feel free to express those values, unlike the maids and early civil rights workers in Jackson all those years ago.

It's easy to hold negative ideas about people that are different from ourselves. It is only when we see people as absolute equals - sparks of the same divine energy - that all of it disappears.

We're just role playing here in Earth School, helping each other to evolve.

The movie comes out in August:



21 comments:

Brian Miller said...

this is certainly a topic that rest heavy with me, i think in many ways it still exists on some level but has as much to do with station in life as it does a race. i know racism still exists, just saying the scope has expanded...thanks for the hit on this...

Kala said...

This book is on my book club's list for next month, looking forward to reading it:) Interestingly, as someone from a different culture living in the US, I haven't run across too much racism. Deep down, we all have the same small issues, e.g., problems with our families, food habits, teenager problems, etc. It is the bigger ones, religious, cultural, moral that stymy us all from time to time:) And all of it is based on fear!

luksky said...

Ya know, I used to always think it was a race thing, but I have come to realize that it's not about race at all. It's about class and social status. Take Oprah Winfrey for example..If she were to walk into a restaurant she would get preferred treatment over an ordinary person like me. See what I am saying..she's black and I'm white but because of who she is..her fame and fortune earn her status. At least I don't think anyone can play the race card nowadays...Obama proved that one. :-)

Nancy said...

I think you are all right about the changes from race to economics. Maybe that is our next hurdle?

T said...

Great post. I grew up in venezuela, where racism was more toward the indigenous people, not the black/white thing. I remember being appalled when we returned to the U.S. and found that public bathrooms were segregated.

California Girl said...

I've heard good things about that book.

My dad was super prejudiced too. He grew up in rural Southern Illinois and his mother was prejudiced etc. I don't think his father was. He was college educated & very gentle. My grandparents were born in the 1870s so you can imagine what they handed down. But Samuel Clemens was born in 1835 (I think) and look how he turned out!

Grandmother said...

Great post! Thanks for your spin, book review and the trailer for the movie. My daughter married a Trinidadian and I have two bi-racial, bi-cultural grandchildren. Given my dreams for them, this has made racism a very personal issue. I absolutely love your last two sentences and will post them to my FB page and sing your praises. Thanks.

DJan said...

Just put the book on my list of new ones to get. I have heard of this one a couple of times now, it's time.

Pat said...

My sister-in-law recommended this book to me when it first came out a couple of years ago. I've been wanting to read it, but the list of holds is so long at the library! Now everyone wants to read it, since it's going to be a movie!

As far as prejudices go, EVERYONE has some kind of prejudice, but maybe not to an extreme. (Or so I am told.) My father was a wonderful man, but he disliked the blacks. This stemmed from his experience from working in the city. I, myself, didn't have any experience with blacks until I went to work. It's funny that in my family, out of the six siblings, I can honestly say that three are prejudiced (against blacks) and three are not. I am not.

Kathy's Klothesline said...

As you know, three of my grandchildren are black. Our families are in Georgia and just scratch their heads and wonder why my son could not have found some white babies to adopt. I realize that our parents came from a different time and can overlook them. My sister-in-law is a different matter, though. She should know better than to voice some of the things she has said. She is a deaconess in the Baptist church. Her fine example is one of the reasons we don't attend church.

Hilary said...

I adored the book...can't wait to see the movie.

Reya Mellicker said...

Whoa! We ARE on a wavelength today. I love being in the same vibration Nancy. Very cool.

Linda said...

I read the book when it first came out and found it very thought-provoking. I look forward to seeing the movie.

Diana Cohen said...

BEAUTIFUL!!! Thank you so much for sharing!

Jill of All Trades said...

I enjoyed the read of this book and I use the term loosely here but it was a good read and I knew they would make a movie of it.

Mila said...

It's been awhile since I read the book. I like the relationship between "the help" and the children. The passage about one of the characters not being invited to the wedding after raising him all those years still stays with me.

Hilary said...

"It is only when we see people as absolute equals - sparks of the same divine energy - that all of it disappears." Very well said.

Like DJan, I've heard positive reports about this book more than once. It's time.

Rob-bear said...

Such a sad situation. Not really up to commenting additionally.

Don't think I'd go to the movie. I can't handle dramatic tension these days. The trailer was upsetting enough.

Amanda said...

what a wise comment, nancy - we're all here in earth school helping each other to evolve. a good thing to remind ourselves of daily.

Midlife Jobhunter said...

I didn't realize a movie was made. I read the book. A friend, who grew up in Jackson, told me it just was the way it was. I don't understand that. How could anyone think treating others with such disrespect was okay?

Recently watched a Freedom Riders documentary on PBS. Always amazes me what I didn't know about when I grew up. Isolated in Minnesota, I suppose.

gayle said...

I will have to check this book out this summer! Thanks!