Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Book Review THE HELP

      I recently finished another good book titled The Help, by Kathryn Stockett. This one was not a Christian book and there were no references to anything Christian. It was a study of black/white relationships in the days when many families employed black maids to help with the housework and to raise their children.   References were made to the Civil Rights movement in the United States and to the assassination of President Kennedy, so that sets it in the late 1950's.  Dr. Martin Luther King was a prominent figure, too.

      High society was prevalent among the white ladies. Mistreatment of the black help was noted, but so were some good things that happened to them. It depended on the family as to how they related to their maids.  Most of the whites considered the black people "dirty" and "diseased". They did not want the maids using their toilets (but they handled all their food, so I saw some discrepancies in their thoughts).

      The book was set in Jackson, Mississippi.  However, I saw a lot of the same prejudice in Dallas, Texas, while I was growing up in the forties and fifties.

       When slavery was abolished, the black people were not really freed; they were not treated as equals. White parents often did not want their children associating with black children. Blacks were treated badly by those in authority. They were not allowed to drink from fountains that whites used.  I remember getting on buses in Dallas where a sign clearly marked the back for the "coloreds" while white people sat in the front.

       We did not have a maid. My parents and grandparents lived together until I was out of high school, so the housework and child-raising was done by my mother and grandmother. They worked as a team to cook, clean, and do everything else. Our family did not have "old money" like the people in the book I read. My father worked as a carpenter and my grandfather was a bricklayer, and they worked hard to provide for our family. My mother cooked three big meals a day. Relatives showed up regularly and often stayed for the meals, because they knew there was good food at our house.

       At one point in my life, we lived in a different town and I attended a school with children of other races. Most of the children were Mexican, but there were a few blacks. I distinctly remember my grandmother getting me ready for school, putting some coins in a handkerchief, and tying up the corner so the money would not fall out. She then put the handkerchief in my hand and said, "There. Now, don't you let them dirty Niggers and Mexicans get your lunch money." That is indelible in my memory. I was very young, and I immediately feared people who were "different" from me, because of my grandmother's comment.

       People have learned a lot through the years. We still see some prejudice, but we also see many good friendships between people of different races. Just recently we heard of a white coach giving one of his kidneys to a  black basketball player in order to prolong his life. Children now learn in desegregated schools where young minds are all given the same opportunities to learn and grow together.

       Bias is probably still alive and well, but it is not as evident as it was back in the days when I was a child in school. People are realizing that God made us all and people are people. I hope everyone realizes that, and I hope that all children are given the same chance to realize their dreams, based on their hopes and intellect, not on the color of their skin.

       In this book, one of the white ladies determines to make a difference. She interviews the black maids and writes a book about how they are treated. It is a book that will hold your interest until the very last page.

No comments:

Post a Comment