I Don't Need Kathryn Stockett's 'Help'
2 years ago
New film based on the popular novel 'The Help' is just another version of the same old racial tropes.
I’ve been around for the better part of three decades, and not ONCE has a white person provided me with some sort of salvation. I feel shortchanged. There was no teacher who saw something in me, no employer who defended my rights and no white family who kindly took me into their home. To be fair, I have never performed any seemingly magical act of humanity for the benefit of any white folks. I never showed up on anyone’s doorstep barely able to form a sentence, yet somehow capable of transforming lives, saving marriages and instilling hope in the hearts of good meaning pale people.
So, I guess my meditations and narratives on race would be less than compelling for the many readers who made Kathryn Stockett’s The Help a best-seller-turned-film. To be fair, I was in no way, shape or form inspired to read the tale of Miss Skeeter Pheelan, a young white writer who manages to shake up the lives of two black maids by collaborating with them on a book with a Civil Rights Era backdrop. Why would I need to? I’ve had far more than my desired share of exposure to the ‘white savior meets downtrodden blacks and everyone is transformed’ trope.
While many black women have and still do work as maids for white households, this is not so important a relationship between the two races that we need to continue revisiting it over and over again. Perhaps a contemporary tale of a black woman doing housework in an era where this may be frowned upon by peers attitudes would be somewhat interesting. I still don’t think I’d like to see it. But the 1960’s again? Heavens, no.
There is so much that is uncomfortable surrounding the black domestic worker. We first took this work on during our enslavement and in many instances, it was a continuation of the relationships we had with whites on the plantation. We nurtured the children of others, while not having the resources to spend the same amount of time with our own. We endured undignified treatment and coddled employers who seemed largely unable or unwilling to complete basic adult tasks on their own. I give respect to the women who did this work with their heads held high, but this is the last place I want to go to for entertainment.