I have a bright, critical thinking, soon to be 18-year-old son. He is opinionated and actually quite adroit at debating his positions. When I asked him about “The Help,” Hollywood’s new film about life, relationships, and race in the late ’50’s and early ’60’s which takes place in Jackson, Mississippi, his retort was clear and emphatic.
“I didn’t like it. I can’t stand those Chicken George movies. They just make me mad!”
I sat frozen for a minute. I fully understand his dilemma. My son is aware, like so many middle class kids, white and black, of the concept of a post racial world. Yet, he reads, studies, and understands sociology, which means that he knows that we are not there yet.
There were several moments in the film when I was also angered. As I watched the film’s depiction of the exploitation of African-Americans in Mississippi, I found myself crying at times. Truth is a powerful force! I watched African-American women cement loving maternal relationships with small white children, prompting one small child in the movie to tell her biological mother; “she is more my mommy than you.” I watched them instruct European-American women on how to cook, clean, and care for their families and homes. Perhaps, most importantly, I watched their consummate lessons of faith, dignity, and perseverance in the face of inhumane treatment.
My son and I do agree on a couple of take away lessons. First, progress can only be rooted in an acknowledgment of these institutional obstructions that unfortunately still existed in my lifetime. Also, we must extract and rely on the lessons of faith, dignity, courage, and perseverance depicted in “The Help,” along with the countless stories told and heard at family reunions or holidays. These lessons are pillars and foundations of strength as we move forward in pursuit of change.
We also agree on a second premise. The world is now full of “Skitters,” European-American people who are mindful of the historical injustices of the black/white experience. People who would like to enhance and build upon our commonalities instead of our differences. People who are willing to go to extraordinary lengths to work towards what is right and just. These are the people like Skitter in “The Help, who refused to accept the status quo because of the obvious lack of humanity upon which her society was premised.
With these 2 very distinct lessons, our young people, black and white alike, will be well equipped in their quest for a more just, fair, and egalitarian society.
So……..maybe, “The Help” really can help!
Read, learn, and share…..Have a Family Meeting!
C. Randolph Keller
2011 All Rights Reserved