Southern Royalty: A Shady Past

     Today I did two things: I got my hair cut (a lot of my hair cut), and I saw The Help.  The haircut seemed like a pretty big deal until I saw the movie.  The Help was a touching film about black women who served as maids in white households in Jackson, Mississippi in the mid-nineteen hundreds.  It was harrowing.  Seeing the manner in which these white women treated their “help” was detestable.  I had a hard time really believing that things of that nature could ever happen.  I was then reminded of the world in which I live.
     Certainly people from my small town do not blatantly talk down to African Americans as the characters in the movie did.  However, there is racism that is very present in my rural community.  I can not count how many times I have heard my Nana refer to someone as “that colored boy.”  Further, I come from an area where people from the older generation assume that any piece of garbage (by garbage I mean old things: clothes, toys, books) that they are looking to get rid of, would be a gift to “a colored person.”  Got an old christmas tree with a whole row of lights missing?  “Oh I’ll give that to the colored woman down the street…she would love to have that.”  Rudyard Kipling talked about “the white man’s burden.”  Sometimes I truly believe that some of these people believe that, as a Caucasian person, it is their burden to teach and civilize the African American race.  These people are by no means BAD people.  Quite the opposite, they are philanthropists and overall kind, generous people.  However, they are such a product of their surroundings and their generation that they can not see the wrong in their assumptions.  I think racism can be marked by both disdain for people who belong to races other than your own as well as a blindness for the fact that there are different races present in our community.  Harmony within a group or population comes when people recognize each other’s cultural differences, and celebrate the diversity that all races, classes, genders, socioeconomic groups, and people bring to the equation.
      The protagonist in the film reminded me of myself to a certain extent.  She really was passionate, and she sought equality at all costs.  I do not consider myself to be an activist, but rather a proponent for what I believe is right.  I once ended a good relationship because my boyfriend referred to one of my best friends as a faggot.  I can not even begin to speak about how much I detest hatred towards any group of people.  I think that hatred is fueled by ignorance.  Racial, cultural, and sexual ignorance are inexcusable in my book, and I can not and will not surround myself with that kind of ignorance.
     The Help really charged me to take a look at the way I view racism.  It made my heart hurt for people who will never know the same kind of racial tolerance that I know.  After seeing the movie, my mother told me about two black women who were housekeepers in her own house growing up.  She talked about how some of her friends had black maids who were not even allowed to eat at the same table as their family.  She also told me about how my Grandmother had welcomed these women in her home and at her table in a time where that practice was virtually unheard of.
   I highly recommend The Help.  It will open your eyes to a time that you may not even have known existed.  Perhaps you are well aware of its existence; perhaps you’re still living in that world.  Whatever the case may be, it offers a valuable look at the human condition and the unnecessary racism that is very much a part of Southern America’s past and present.

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