Monday, September 13, 2010

The Help

Before we married, Doug and I flew to California so I could meet his family. And Sybil, the black Louisianan who helped raise him. She sat between us, took our hands and said, "Now what ya'll did to get each other ya'll keep doing to keep each other." Sybil loved Doug and Doug loved

Some months back, Jessica called to tell me about a book she was reading. It was about black women raising white children in the South and the complexities of these relationships. Jessica was thinking of Doug's and Sybil's bond, as well as his other nanny, Rose, as she read the story and wanted me to experience it.

I guess Sybil was more like Aibileen and I have met a few Minnys in my day. Rose was no certainly no stranger to the treatment that the "domestics" in the book endured by families before the Bells. Sybil was one of the family at the Bell household, at least that is how they saw it. She has passed so I can't ask her about how she saw it.

The book weaves the cruelties blacks lived with in a white ruled Southern world in the story beautifully. The book seems timely and strong feelings about my experiences about race come to the surface.

"You ain't nothing but a n___a lover." In 3rd grade, Ike Smith was my best friend. He was by far the most amusing...and the most motivated. After hearing about Ike for weeks, I got to introduce him to Daddy at school during Halloween. Later Dad asked me why I never mentioned Ike was black.

3 years later, my education about whites and blacks relations would begin. That's when the Duval County School Board and NAACP decided to integrate schools with bussing. Our school was locked up and barbed wired like a prison and my ignorance about racial tension was removed. A couple of years later my parents would buy a house in a more racially even school zone. There I learned blacks could hate just as cruelly as whites - with every pound of their fists onto my head because a white girl needed to be made an example. Later, the middle school would be closed due to threat of racial rioting by 8th graders and I refused to attend school there. We moved.

By high school, Frieda and Eva were among my best friends and my black teachers had great influence on me. We would deal with passive racism (Eva's dad wouldn't be home when a white child was in his house, My parents having to grow to accepting then loving Eva as any other) and the aggressive racism of neighbors, school mates and extended family. Poor Eva was even my bridesmaid when I married into a family with no love for black people!

Ramona once said I "collect black people". Karen has lamented about my being "color blind" because it blinds me to more of the racism that goes on. Kim and I didn't have to pretend about what's what while dealing with the white do-gooders at the preschool. As Aibileen hoped in the civil rights charged era novel, at least in my life, friendships with women of color have more to with what is inside rather than what is outside.

Minny had a word for the white upper class without a clue; fool. I hope to not be one. For as many blacks that have loved me, many never will. Because of history, their history, much like that told of those in "The Help." I am not black and will not know what it is like to be black any more than I can know what it is like to be a man. A story like this does deepen my understanding.

I have heard the statement above more than once. And not one time did it hurt.

"Why don't you just go ahead and call him n__ger." Incredulously, a white liberal acquaintance forwarded this rant to those she knew who were critical of President Obama. What a friggin fool.

I have lived almost 5 decades. I didn't know you were supposed to catagorize people by color as a child. I did not cave to pressures from either race as a teen. I have befriended, work with and for, raised money for, sponsored and educated people my whole life...some of them white and some of them black. I have advocated for blacks in my community. I have helped reverse racial prejudice in my family and am proud that my daughter sees people like I do.

And I have about as much patience for fools as Minny does. That friggin fool Kristen cries over the plight of the children of Haiti (while denouncing my politics as racist), yet she hasn't once got her Chomsky loving, liberal white ass in the car, drove over to local black church and donated her farm fresh goods or helped a black child with literacy or a job. That fool that married into the family that equates being a Southerner with bigotry must think Rodney King took his beating in Los Angeles located in Georgia and credits a cracker with nicknaming Latinos "beaners", his California being so pristine and all. That fool brother-in-law of mine didn't pass on his idiot hateful ways to his kids after all, thank God. Those white fools pulling the D lever in the voting booth can keep believing they are better to blacks than those racist-R pulling-Tea Partiers, all while never having attended the birth, wedding or funeral of a black they call friend (and the help will tell you, if you pay 'em, they ain't your friend).

Hearing the statement above makes my blood boil. Really, we are now using racial slurs to attack political opponents? I have a pretty good idea what racism is because I have lived with it all my life. I know blacks know what racism is. It's thinking black people have different diseases than you. It's beating a boy blind because he is black...and it is beating a girl senseless because she is white. It is arresting "integrationists" because they work for racial equality. It is hanging a man because he wants the same education, employment and life opportunities as others. If you've been letting the politicians, academics and journalists tell you what racism is and who the racists are, the "domestics" in The Help can clue you in.

Law, what I wouldn't give for Ms. Rose, Ms. Sybil, Ms. Aibileen and Ms. Minny to see a man of mixed race elected President...despite his sorry ass.

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