Hey everybody. How about that last post. A little on the sad side, right? How about I incite a small case of anger against me, hm? I am nothing if not an Equal Opportunity Emotion Conveyor.
And, yes, I would like that on a business card, thank you.
Before I start, it should go without saying that the opinions I share here are mine. I can say that because I represent no one – company, organization, group, even ethnicity – but myself. My only ads are for books, and I don’t see a dime of revenue. No one is paying me to say this. I endorse D.Marie L to the L to the C. S’alright? S’alright.
By now, everyone (I’m hoping) has read a little book called The Help. (I have! I have!). If you follow me here, you know I loved the book. LOVED. I want to make kissey faces with it through paned glass. I even intend to go against my No Movie Of A Book policy and catch the movie.
Now. About that movie. This is the only thing I’ll say about it because I haven’t seen it. To form an opinion of it without doing so would be ignorant on my part. That said, there is one glaring thing I don’t like in the promotion of this movie. It seems… happy? I mean there were funny moments in the book. Sure. But nowhere can you put the words “South”, “Deep South”, “black people”, “maids”, and “civil rights”, in any combination, and hope to get a tee-hee. For this misleading advertisement, I’m calling shenanigans against the movie company. Not the book. Not the author. Not the actors, actresses, grip, producer, or extras.
Does this depiction of shiny, happy people dissuade me from paying my good money to see it? No. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the Oscar I hope Viola Davis wins. Sight unseen. That woman is a force on the silver screen and (from what I’ve heard) Broadway stage.
Why am I mentioning The Help yet again on this site? Glad you asked. Along with criticism on whether or not The Help is worth watching, let alone the celluloid it’s printed on, there have been a number of critics – black people – openly panning the creation of both the book and movie. Things like:
- White author, shame on her;
- Knows nothing of the black experience;
- Trivializing black maids and civil rights movement.
I won’t link to these comments. They are everywhere. Don’t believe me? Google The Help, or The Help Movie.
I’ve read so much about how this white woman and her white filmmaker friend have some nerve acting as though white people are the savior for blacks, I’ve been embarrassed. Not because a difference of opinion is occurring, but because there is this nasty perception that this difference of opinion – primarily voiced among black people – speaks for the race as a whole. It’s got me questioning myself. Maybe I’m not black enough. I’ve been calling my mother, apologizing that I’ve lied to her all these years; that I’ve finally come up with an explanation as to why I like Duran Duran and Christopher Cross and The Bengals.
There. I said it. I can no longer live like this. I’m sorry, my friends. I’ve been lying to you all this time. That photo? On my About and Home page? Lies. Photos I copied and pasted of some girl I found on Flickr. I must come clean.
Are you done laughing yet?
So. I’m black. Obviously. But I’m starting to feel like I must not be black enough. This is not a new feeling for me. I have hardly ever been welcomed by the black race except by the ones that share my blood. I’m honestly shocked my husband is black. No joke. As far back as I can remember, I’ve never been seen as black enough. Sure, there are my obvious traits lying primarily in skin color. My features may be a bit questionable, but it’s all melanin, I assure you. I’ve never denied who I am. Never tried to be something I’m not. I can’t. Even if I tried, I’m sure I would be reminded. Thirty-plus years into my life, I’ve stopped asking why. I’m perfectly fine being the only black person among my group of friends. Copacetic on having to explain our physical and ethnic differences. Thrilled that I’m even asked or that people care to wonder.
All these things have no bearing on why I loved The Help, or why I don’t understand how Kathryn Stockett is receiving so much flak, or why, oh why, this piece of fiction is being taken as a throwback for the whole of African-Americans to the time of Mammy and black face. But it is why I may never be black enough. I have never been able to see racism where the majority of blacks have so easily pointed it out. I’m not talking calling the President “boy” or “tar baby“. I don’t say “easily” to emphasize its glaring obviousness. I say “easily” because I’m always playing Where’s Waldo where others are playing Yahtzee! I always need to see the haystack before I can point out the needle.
Maybe I read the book differently than others. Let me think. I never once read a word forcing me to visualize Shuck, or his play cousin, Jive. I never bristled at the dialogue. Never thought Skeeter, her family, or the white race, was depicted as a savior. Never even thought I was looking at a caricature of maids. And I’m not being purposefully obtuse. If these things were ever thrown in my face, the internal buzzer in my subconscious wouldn’t have allowed me to move any further in reading. With all the backlash I’ve seen, I’m starting to think I’m missing something. No sarcasm intended. Really. What am I missing?
Kathryn Stockett. White woman of privilege, from Mississippi, has a black maid. Loves this black maid. Realizes not only that it’s totally jacked that this is a necessary means of employment for black women in the South (as it is the only option in most cases), but that her people – WHITE PEOPLE – suck. They’re racist. They’re lazy. They think they’re saving black people when they can’t even save themselves. They’re terrible, terrible people. She writes a fictional (I can’t stress this enough) story of her experiences. Then she makes all the white people in her book the supporting characters around these strong black women who weather insurmountable odds, clean other peoples’ houses, raise other peoples’ children, and still, at the end of the day, have it in them to love. My God. I don’t know how I made it through.
Okay, THAT was sarcasm.
Kidding aside: It was a novel. Novel equals “work of fiction”. It was not a history lesson. Even if it were, I still fail to see how anything written was wrong, or made light of black women or the Civil Rights era. If you’re going by the movie trailer, again, BLAME HOLLYWOOD.
My mother ends up being my source of inquisition whenever I have questions regarding my blackness. Not because she, too, is black (shocker), but because she was raised smack in the middle of the Civil Rights Movement. In Cleveland. What, you may ask, was so racist about Cleveland – the North – during these times? Plenty. The stories she tells me of being bused to her desegregated school, riding with black and white kids her age and, upon walking from the bus to the front doors of the school, being met by the parents of the white kids just to be pelted and beaten. This would be a typical reenactment of racism if she didn’t continue by telling me it was those same white kids, her friends, who used their bodies as human shields over the black kids, until they made it safely into the school.
My mother didn’t need a savior. She didn’t look at those white kids and go, “Why thank you, Mr. White Man. You saved us po’ black folk.” And they didn’t respond in kind with, “You’re welcome, Darkie. Now go and sin no more.” No one in this scenario saw color except the racist people standing wait outside the buses. And no one saw salvation. What was seen was people in a really terrible situation, willing to help one another. Period.
I’m not wrong for seeing this book as uplifting or inspiring, and not the black eye inferred. It’s my opinion. Others can have their own, but don’t speak for me. You’re black. I’m black. But that’s where the similarities end. I won’t apologize for liking the book, and won’t question my heritage. I’ll be the odd man out.
For the only good thing I’ve seen in terms of critique that I will link, go here.