The Help.

Last Sunday my aunt took the kids to the park for a couple of hours. She missed Asa’s birthday so she took them to play and eat cupcakes together instead. She also had a present for me: The Help by Kathryn Stockett.

When I asked for book suggestions a few months ago, many many people suggested The Help. And I knew the second I heard about the book I wanted to read it–the story of black maids serving white women in Mississippi during the 60’s. Living in the South is a funny thing. I love Southern culture, I love books by Southern authors. I even love Gone with the Wind. But slavery? Lack of civil rights? Segregation? I cannot even understand it. How did these white Southerners think this was ok? What kind of brainwashing was going on for generations to think this was normal?

This post is not remotely going to be about that big topic.

I was just so enthralled with this story. And the thing that pushed me through the book even moreso than the story is that the author, a white woman from Mississippi wrote it! So, I had to know “who” she was in the story! It’s just fascinating to me to think that this whole scenario–white women having maids and treating them like less than human while those same maids were raising their children–was going on just before I was born!

My dad grew up in Macon, GA and he tells me stories about how segregated they were. And how normal it was for the white kids to be mean to the black kids (and vice versa). Mama moved from Minnesota to Georgia when she was in High School and she said they had just integrated the school that year. She remembers the buses driving into the parking lot.

It’s like when I saw Remember the Titans. That movie was set in like 1972. My parents were married in 1974. How in the world has our mentality gone from burning a black coach’s home to electing a black President? What made people’s hearts change? Because racism is a moral heart issue–not just a cultural norm.

I’m not suggesting that there are no race issues and that everyone in the whole country looks at each other based on their heart and not their skin. I know that’s not the case. And I know there are crazies out there who still say and do asinine things. But good grief, my kids don’t know there is such a thing as racism. I think Lydia was the only white kid in our old neighborhood. To her, kids are just different colors and shapes. And there is no talk or news about people not being allowed to sit down at a table at the mall, or use a public bathroom. There are no signs on the doors that tell who can go where.

Are there other social injustices that will be gone by the time they are grown? Is it possible that our children will read books about hungry children and wonder how that could have ever been? Or women who are not allowed to have a career? Or people persecuted for their religious convictions?

Sometimes I am so pessimistic when it comes to where our world is going. It seems like we just wade in sin and hate and evil. But then, reading this book, it reminded me of the huge strides that were made in a short time. And the wrongs we’ve seen righted. And even just the swell of support I’ve seen in the last few years for the church to take care of hungry, exploited and poverty-stricken children. It feels like maybe God is doing something. Or rather, we are letting God do something with us. Maybe there will be a turning of the tide and we’ll see some of God’s kingdom “on earth as it is in Heaven”.

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And you know I can’t do a post about social injustice without pointing you to Compassion, World Vision or Samaritan’s Purse. Help change hearts and lives by righting the wrong of poverty in our world!

{I feel like I have to add something: I am white. I do not know what it is to be black. I read once that “White people look at race like a sauce–they take as little or as much as they want. Black people see race as a marinade–it runs in and out of everything.” I recognize my naivete–and my “sauce”. And I apologize if you hear pessimism or flippancy. That is not my intent.}

Comments

  1. This -> ” Is it possible that our children will read books about hungry children and wonder how that could have ever been?”
    gave me chills. I hope and pray this is the case!!

  2. Stephanie says:

    I LOVED that book, too. It prompted me to think about a lot of these things as well. I think as white children who grew up after segregation, we don’t have a complete understanding of the depth of racism, and when racially-motivated things occur today, we scratch our heads and wonder “why and how?” Reading this book helped me become more aware of my own prejudices, even though it was a work of fiction. I think any book that makes you think and examine yourself is a good read! I’m glad you liked it, too.

  3. I liked the book. It reminded me of the days when I was a girl. I’m not old enough to remember these days, but I remember my parents and grandparents talking about it as if it were normal. We always had a black maid, but she wasn’t treated this way, at least not the way I remember it. But I liked the core of the issue, we are all the same. We just don’t take the time to find out. Very interesting. Lisa~

  4. I was a child of the 60’s with a black maid. I loved her so much. Her name was Hattie Bell Ross. My stepfather was a very prejudiced man and thrived on having people under his authority. We were included in that ruling.
    I never thought of her as anything except a wonderful person who helped us out. I wonder what she thought of us?
    I wonder where she is, or if she is still alive. I am going to read that book.

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