Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Help - Ashamed or not?

OK I am a little conflicted.  Have you read the book The Help or will you see the movie?  If you don't know what it is about, the book basically is told from the point of view of "the help" during the civil rights movement in Alabama.  The black women who took care of the white families and the way in which they were treated.  The book is well written and extremely entertaining and it teaches a lesson without being preachy.  With that said, here is my issue...

I grew up in North Carolina.  We had help.  Not like my mother did.  She had full-time, every day but Sunday help in her house.  Our "help" came 3 days a week.  I never thought of Alberta as "help".  She was part of the family.  Now I know that in the 80's it was completely different than it was in the 60's (when the book was based) but I am not sure that I can stomach so many people speaking so badly about something that is not their history.  For better or for worse, this was our history. 

I may not agree with the way that people were treated and it disgusted me, when reading the book, how so many southern white people treated black people as beneath them.  But and this is a controversial but, they did not know any better.  This does not make them ignorant or stupid, it makes them cocooned and small town.  When you never leave your home and you stay in your small southern town, things do not change.  Ever!  Of course there was prejudice and of course there was mistreatment, and I do not condone that, but not every situation was an awful one. 

My mother was practically raised by Willie Mae and loved her with all her heart.  Willie Mae sat in the front seat of the car and ate in the kitchen (at the table with the children).  She received bonuses, days off and was able to bring her children to work as needed.  Yes, she was treated differently but my grandparents loved her and depended on her.  They were a product of their history and their environment.

I watched Regis and Kelly the other day and Kelly had some derogatory statement about the South when talking about the book and the movie.  It just rubbed me the wrong way.  Yes, there are stupid, mean ignorant people in the South but there are those people everywhere.  It does not mean that we are all like that.  Plus, not every situation was like what was depicted in the book.  That's why it is called fiction people. 

As I step down off of my soapbox (and I will) just note.  Some of the best people I know (including my parents) were raised by these wonderful women.  Obviously they did something right as did the ones that hired them.  The South is the South.  We cannot go back and change what was in the past but at some point you have to accept that they happened and that not every person who lived during this time was a mean white bitch who hated all black people. 

Side note...I cried like a baby when Alberta died.  She was the most motherly, warm, gracious, beautiful person I knew and she had a hand in helping me become who I am.  I would not change that for anything. 


froggy said...

Born and raised in Canada. But - Joy, Babble On, had an interesting discussion on this book and one of the people she reads... back in June maybe? If you don't have Joy's link she can be found on David's page.

Tivo Mom said...

I actually commented on her page when she was writing about it Frogs. I enjoyed that discussion. The thing today was because of the Regis and Kelly thing.

David Dust said...

Oh Honey -

If I avoided every movie/TV show that had a negative portrayal of gay people over the years, I'd only be able to watch the radio :)

Just because you are Southern, it doesn't mean you should feel like you have to apologize and/or make excuses for what some fellow Southerners did in the past. That had absolutely nothing to do with you.

You also don't have to apologize because your family happened to employ people of color in the past. As far as you know, nobody in your family did anything dishonest, immoral or illegal - and the situation seemed like it was beneficial for everyone.

If it was a book you enjoyed, then watch it. Fuck Kelly Ripa.


Tivo Mom said...

Thank you Yoda (or David Dust). I needed that...