In Perspective: Confronting our racial history with ‘The Help’

I am a post-civil rights black woman whose Southern roots have been nearly erased by world travel and an adulthood spent raising a family in Michigan. I am supposed to be offended by the movie “The Help” for its simplification of the injustices of the Jim Crow South. But I am not.

In fact, I’d argue that the scenes that seem to give us the most troublethe depiction of the genuine feelings that the maids and nannies developed for the women they worked for and the children they raised — may be the most authentic.
I was forced to face this troubling possibility in my own family. My mother and father were raised in a one-horse town near Richmond, Virginia. My father has often spoken of the humiliating, soul-breaking racism they endured, the dusty work of “chopping cotton” and the indignity of not being allowed to have jobs handling money. The women in my mother’s family were all laundresses and maids. The highest dreams they had for their daughters were for them to become teachers.

Flash forward to the 1990s. By then I was a mother myself, raising a family in Detroit. We’d make the pilgrimage south to Virginia every year to visit my folks. On one of those trips, Mom and I went to an antique shop in Norfolk, Virginia. After living in Detroit for decades, I sensed that the white woman at the cash register wasn’t exactly warm to two black women coming into her shop. Suddenly, there was a squeal, like the sound of teenagers greeting each other at the mall.

“Bobby,” the white woman gushed.

“Nancy!” Mom exclaimed, hugging the woman. “My mother-in-law worked for your family for years!”

I was embarrassed, angry and ashamed. I wanted to drag my mother out of there for shining up to the family that had essentially enslaved my father’s family. What was she thinking?

But then the women, wiping away tears, starting going through family memories, exchanging updates, telling who had died, who had had children, where they now lived. I realized with horror that I was watching a family reunion. Black women were brought into the intimate recesses of white family life. Indeed, they were sometimes the linchpin of the white family. It is inescapable that genuine, deep and lasting bonds were bound to develop. Dare I use the words “love” and “affection”?

This is dangerous territory for African-Americans to concede. If we allow that whites and blacks forged friendships and affections and even fell in love with each other in the midst of slavery and segregation, can we still villainize whites as our oppressors? This is the aspect of “The Help” that seems to make us the most uncomfortable.

Yet until we allow whites to explore their role in apartheid, until we allow a discourse about the difference between their realities and ours, we will never move closer to a collective understanding of our histories.  “The Help” is definitely imperfect. But I’m open to the dialogue it can spur and to a deeper understanding of the complicated interracial relationships that we have yet to explore.

Watch the rest of the segments from this episode.

 
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Comments

  • S L

    I really enjoyed this perspective on race in American society, as enabled by ”The Help”.  Since we don’t freely engage in this topic, I’m glad Need to Know capitalized on this movie’s success.

  • Mkclark313

    I was warmed and inspired on many levels by Ms. Cooper’s commentary tonight.  Haven’t seen the film yet, but will certainly do so soon.

  • Guest

    I graduated from high school in 1960 in South Carolina, so experienced ”The Maid” experiences daily and appreciate the confrontations that occurred in the story. It was necessary to confront the belief that white people were doing blacks a great favor by hiring them. Get Real! The people doing the favors were the black folks who worked for terribly cheap wages whether as maids or factory workers, and raised white children. Our black families paid the same for water as each white family did, but only had one tap per block for all people on the block to use. I have no clue if the education of the black kids was “equal but separate”,. I think there was probably no equity. I moved away and didn’t live through the integration years in the south, but it’s about time the social and financial inequities be confronted in a spirit of love and accomodation. I greatly appreciate the role of religion in the black and white communities when love and compassion were greatly needed.

  • Guest

    I graduated from high school in 1960 in South Carolina, so experienced ”The Maid” experiences daily and appreciate the confrontations that occurred in the story. It was necessary to confront the belief that white people were doing blacks a great favor by hiring them. Get Real! The people doing the favors were the black folks who worked for terribly cheap wages whether as maids or factory workers, and raised white children. Our black families paid the same for water as each white family did, but only had one tap per block for all people on the block to use. I have no clue if the education of the black kids was “equal but separate”,. I think there was probably no equity. I moved away and didn’t live through the integration years in the south, but it’s about time the social and financial inequities be confronted in a spirit of love and accomodation. I greatly appreciate the role of religion in the black and white communities when love and compassion were greatly needed.

  • Ontherealproductions

    “Our Shared History”, This is how you described the relationship between Negro Maids and their White Oppressors in the movie, “The Help”.
    Does voluntary and involuntary draw distinctions at all in your view. “Sharing experiences” in the context of slavery and the Jim Crow that followed appears quintessentially oxymoronic and quite frankly, silly. It seems improbable if not impossible, that un-indoctrinated Southern Slaves romanticized and dismissed the atrocities committed against them by way of embracing “kum -by- ya” notions of racism. Until then, I’ll wait for an enlightened Black Producer to Green Light a movie, that conjures debate on a Black Network, and gives opportunity for commentary by White Southern Plantation Progeny.
    Slaves were full time and so were their Oppressors. Are you intimating alternating roles between oppressors and slaves? You did say shared didn’t you?
    How was this context honestly viewed through the eyes of each? Physically, emotionally, psychologically and economically, there is something wrong with this concept of shared experiences, especially Negro Maids locked into thick Jim Crow and unimaginable indignities. It takes a talented writer to romanticize that. Can’t wait for the AMPAS Awards!
    Visit the newly established MLK Monument on the National Mall and Dream backwards from 1968. If you decide to dream forward, accept that your romantic notions about “A Shared History” aka reality, is as far removed from truth as slave quarters were from the Big House. Good try…
    Were your remarks speaking more to dreams? You obviously meant “Inequitably Shared History”, or are you a fiction zealot and Historical Revisionist?
    Respectfully,
    Hal G

  • http://www.facebook.com/roz.whitney Roz Whitney

    Desiree’s comment, “Im open to the dialogue it can spur and to a
    deeper understanding of the complicated interracial relationships that we have
    yet to explore,” speaks to a point many seem to be missing. When anger
    overtakes any discussion, meaningful dialogue and the opportunity for understanding
    and growth end. Race relations’ improvement peaked with tolerance as the
    acceptable norm and now is steadily but surely descending to the once familiar
    hateful depths that promoted and condoned separation. When we had achieved a level
    of tolerance there was at least hope for acceptance. It’s time to stop the
    bickering, show compassion for each other, and move forward for the sake of all
    mankind.

  • http://www.mediumraretv.org Kevin Robinson

    When will black people step up and demand that stories like The Help either not be made or made with a better perspective?  For instance, while the maids in the story were taking care of the white children, who was taking care of their own kids?  The few men in the film were one dimensional and in one instance, an unseen black man was portrayed as an abusive, angry, brutish husband.  What kind of image is that for black men?  Couple this film with the upcoming Django Unchained starring Jamie Foxx as a freed slave makes some people wonder how far have African Americans in media come in the 21st Century.  When award season comes along, ask yourself if these kinds of portrayals should be applauded.

  • Dazz510

    I recently
    watched the movie “The Help” and was, once again, offended by the stereotypic
    caricatures of Blacks and the tired and well-worn “White man’s
    burden” aspect of the film.  I could
    also, however, appreciate that the acting, by both Black and White actors, was
    of a high caliber and that the movie had its entertaining and humorous moments.
    In short, in spite of its short comings, “The Help” communicated an
    interesting story in a very effective and emotionally engaging way. No mean
    feat for any movie these days.

    The opinions
    expressed in Ms. Cooper’s commentary of the film, however, were singularly
    offensive and without any meaningful insight other than to show, once again,
    just how twisted the logic of a well-intentioned black person can become when
    trying to navigate the mental minefield of their encounters with race relations
    in this country.

    Ms. Cooper’s
    review of “The Help” is a thinly veiled application of the “Stockholm syndrome.”  Just as kidnap victim
    sometimes, perhaps inevitably, start to sympathize with their captors, Ms.
    Cooper, and she is not alone, sympathizes and implicitly justifies the racism
    and sub-human treatment inflicted on her family growing up in the south. (A
    racism significantly absent of violence in the movie.)  

    Ms. Cooper
    begins her comments with a significant and troubling personal statement stating
    that “I am a post-civil rights black woman whose Southern roots have
    been nearly erased by world travel and adulthood spent raising a family in
    Michigan.” One can never truly “erase” their roots, no matter
    how long the live in Michigan raising a family. More importantly, just what is there
    to be erase all these years later in the “post-civil rights” area?

    Ms. Cooper
    answers that question when she refers to her parents. She states, “My
    father has often spoken of the humiliating, soul-breaking racism they
    endured, the dusty work of “chopping cotton” and the indignity of not being
    allowed to have jobs handling money. The women in my mother’s family were
    all laundresses and maids. The highest dreams they had for their daughters were
    for them to become teachers.

    Her father’s
    words of “humiliation” and “soul breaking racism” must have
    weighted heavily on a daughter, so much so that they are still resonate with
    her today. But instead of confronting the reality of racism in this country, she
    takes a page out of the movie she is reviewing and out of a host of other movie
    depictions of Blacks in this county since “Birth of a Nation” and
    focuses on the “Whites weren’t all that bad, look how the Black folks love
    them” portrayal. (See also “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”)

    One of the reviewer’s
    main point is that “The Help” accurately reflects the true friendship,
    affection and love that existed between Blacks and Whites in the South.  She states     ”If
    we allow that whites and blacks forged friendships and affections and even fell
    in love with each other in the midst of slavery and segregation, can we still
    villainize whites as our oppressors? 

    Next, the
    reviewer opines , that this “shocking” fact, 
    i.e., true love and affection between Blacks and Whites,  creates a “shared” experience, where, implicitly,
    both parties have equally valid points of views or realities. Ms. Copper writes, “… until we allow
    whites to explore their role in apartheid, until we allow a discourse about the
    difference between their realities and ours, we will never move closer to a
    collective understanding of our histories.”

    Ms. Cooper
    should not be shocked that there was affection between her mother and the
    family for which she worked.  After all,
    Black people are humans.  They love, they
    hate, they desire to raise and provide for their family in the best way they
    know how just like everyone else.

    But when Ms.
    Cooper asked “If we allow that whites and blacks forged friendships and
    affections and even fell in love with each other in the midst of slavery and
    segregation, can we still villainize whites as our oppressors?” the answer
    is a most assuredly “yes.” Although the Ms. Cooper’s phraseology
    suggest that the presence of true friendship, affection and love between Whites
    and Blacks somehow sanitizes the historical villainy and oppression by whites,
    (while also neutralizing her father’s vivid description of “soul breaking racism”
    from her childhood,) her belief in genuine affection between the races only
    further serves to condemn the oppressor.

    It is the oppressor’s
    denial of the humanity of the oppressed that condemns them the most. The fact
    that a “Negro” is hanged, or whipped, or forced to ride on the back
    of the bus or refused to allow to handle the bodily functions of going to the
    bathroom with the same dignity afforded other human beings, does not make them
    sub-human. It is the white society’s denial of another human beings humanity in
    the face of true friendship, affection and love, that would make their actions
    all the more villainess and oppressive.

    Moreover,
    when there is an extreme imbalance of power in an oppressor/oppressee
    relationship, the oppressed are the victim and there is no true “shared” reality
    because of the inequity in power.  Thus,
    no matter how much the oppressor denies it, Europeans committed genocide
    against the Native Americans when they came to this country, the Nazi committed
    genocide against the Jews during WW II and Whites have been violently and
    inhumanely racist against African-American for most of the history of this country
    and that included the era in which the movie “The Help” was set.

    If “The
    Help” truly desired to address the racism that still confronts this
    country today, it cannot hide in the warm and cuddly confines of
    “mammy” and Uncle Remus” about the fictionalized (some would say
    feigned) affection between oppressor and oppressed. Rather, any true healing
    must be anchored in the long overdue wholesale recognition that Blacks have the
    right to be human, without apology. They need not apologize to their oppressor
    to ease the oppressor’s guilty conscience or to take any other actions that
    signifies a lesser entitlement to their place in this world. If an injustice
    has occurred, it must be recognized  as such,
    by the oppressor and by the victim.

    When the
    oppressor refuses to acknowledge the injustice and its severity, then that
    society cannot more forward. When the victim of the injustice feels obliged to
    make excuses and lessen the role of the oppressor, then that society is not only
    continuing in the injustice, it is doomed to repeat it. (Can anybody say
    “Reconstruction”?)

    In the end,
    it must be remembered, that no how loudly the kidnap victim screams that
    “it is not the kidnappers fault”, the ugly truth is the victim bears
    no blame for being kidnapped. Whether making movies, reviewing movies or attempting
    to deal with “post-civil rights” race relations, it is always best to
    deal with the truth, regardless of how ugly.

    This is not ”Stockholm.”

    Gee

  • JJ

    Ms. Cooper should always remember that this “family reunion” she witnessed in the store that day is not always the case! This particular experience is relative to her Mom. My grandmother would not have thought that seeing someone from a family that she used to work for as a maid was a “family reunion!” My grandmother  would have been cordial and any tears shed would likely be from just seeing someone from that time period, and maybe even emotion from the fact that the person spoke to her in public and showed positive emotion toward her….very much unlike it was “back then.” My grandmother hated being someone else’s MAID in the confederate South….there are no warm and fuzzies attached to it at all!
    Now, being raised in Alabama and spending my adulthood in the Northeast, as well as traveling the world, I Know that I can most assuredly say that “my Southern roots” will never be “erased!” What does that even mean….?
    Of course black maids, “were brought into the intimate recesses of white family life. Indeed, they were sometimes the linchpin of the white family”…..they were the maids! And maids who were trying to keep their jobs to feed their own families I might add! The very nature of the job is intimate and the hours were long, so of course there were relationships formed! Black maids couldn’t very well show up to work and not show commitment, graciousness, and caring….and still expect to be employed!
    Last point, it is not about villanizing “whites as our oppressors.” It’s about not trying to paint a few roses over a swamp filled with mud and calling it a beautiful scenic pond!
    To all who just love and loudly applaud “The Help” please know that sniffing the Kool-Aid thoroughly should be a prerequisite before you drink.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_SAM4AVDULENBRXAXZIL3G5WLOU sandrita

    I submit that the “love” and familial bonds Ms. Cooper spoke of allowed white employers to exploit their household workers in the most egregious manner.  Memoirs of black domestic workers tell of having to work a shift of sixteen to twenty hours,  with little time or energy left over for their own children. Instead of a decent wage to buy food for their families, domestics often were given old clothes or other leftovers. Government and academic archives tell a fuller story of how black domestics were exploited pre-civil rights era. But, my point is that “love” was no substitute for a decent wage and humane working conditions.

  • Anne

    Have yet to read the book or see the movie but as a southern woman raised by, with, and around other humans who happen to have more pigment than I, all the discussion – which is a good thing – reminds me of something my father always told me – blood is the same, no matter what color the skin.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Donna-Kat/541326821 Donna Kat

    When I was growning up my mother worked and the only child giver I ever had that gave me affection and nurturing was a black woman. sidebar here: It was not until I was much older that I was aware that “black” was a variation in human coloring that was considered ‘different’ from white.  My closest friends as a child were cats and they came in the same range of colors that humans did.  Like Colbert :)  I did not see color I, I saw personality. end sidebar.  When this woman whom I loved dearly told me that she had to stop taking care of me I was heartbroken.  It was one of the big losses in my life.  The power games that may go on between adults may eventually pass on to the children but there is a time when the children are innocent and that love is pure.

  • Jean Metzger

    Watching the race riots of the ’60s repulsed me as a young white trying to figure out in my mind WHY people with darker skin were being treated like that.  It always seemed that the whites were the TAKERS and the blacks were the GIVERS.  It STILL is that way.   It needs to CHANGE.  YES IT CAN!

  • Jean Metzger

    Watching the race riots of the ’60s repulsed me as a young white trying to figure out in my mind WHY people with darker skin were being treated like that.  It always seemed that the whites were the TAKERS and the blacks were the GIVERS.  It STILL is that way.   It needs to CHANGE.  YES IT CAN!

  • Lillbet_d

    A very thoughtful commentary by Cooper. I like that she recognizes that this affection between blacks and whites muddies the waters a bit, and I’m curious to hear what she thinks that I, as a white woman born in the late 20th century, need to do to explore my role in our country’s racial history. I hope some intelligent debate comes out of this instead of more comments decrying natural human relationship as exploitation.

  • Campbellfamily

    While The Help is far from perfect, it is opening up dialogue on an extremely shameful practice that southern white women of my mother’s era participated in. I have co-workers who often state to me now that they had a black “nanny” whom they loved dearly as children and now feel deep remorse for how they were treated. There is absolutely no excuse for what happened other than ignorance and racism on the part of those who hired the domestic workers. This novel and movie at least keep the wound open so we can talk about issues that affect women. Today, domestics are still being exploited, only they’re from south of the border and from Africa.

  • Swampwytch

    C’mon people, it was a MOVIE – intended to show one facet of a multi-layered issue. There’s only so far the film industry can go in a single saga. One perspective that never seems to be examined or held accountable for much of what went on, is the religious community. Society does not create itself in a vacuum. These white families did not just independantly determine there was nothing wrong with the way they were treating the “help” and the black families did not independantly determine that they had to submit. These were social norms that were established and reinforced by the churches, which were the social hubs of every city or rural town. The churches and ministers were the trend setters; the ones who counciled their congregations as to what was appropriate and inappropriate behavior. They were also largely responsible for who got elected in the political scene. Support and encouragement came from the front of the sanctuaries on both the black and the white side of the aisle. That kind of mentality can still be seen in religion today – and when the responsibility for oppression and religiously motivated violence is finally, finally assigned to the front of the sanctuary, where it belongs, only then will we be able to move on from all of this.

  • Djahdesigns

     I dont agree completely. The loving relationsip between the Maid and child was the least expressed in the film “The Help” and I as an African American woman was not at all offended by it. I found it to be genuine and beautiful. We know what love is and will embrace it, I was not at all offended, nor was anyone who I have spoken to regarding the film. So no, it’s not some thing we are so ashamed to accept or hate to accept, we are not that simple minded~ but Let us not take away from what the true message of the movie was by focusing not on why we shouldnt feel uncomfortable about the loving relationships displayed, placing a type of  “you’ll need to get over it” emotion on it… If I had any problem with the film, it would be the ongoing Disney factor that Black people all over the world need White people to come and save them.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1040550126 Juanita Johnson

    The hardest part to accept is the fact that it isn’t all black and white.  People aren’t all villians with an agenda.  By nature, humans are multi faceted individuals who are quite capable of loving and being concerned about the people who enslaved them.  What child has desperately loved a parent that they don’t want to spend anytime around.  What parent hasn’t protected and adored a child who has brought nothing but pain into their life.  The entire racism issue exists.  There is no doubt about that. And justifiable anger exists as a result.  But people are individuals and quite capable of seeing one another as individuals.  The Jim Crow era was…and still is…a war.  But in all wars, people find a way to love the people they are supposed to hate.  

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=6826797 Inger Nemcik

    The very reason we go to movies is drink that Kool-Aid without sniffing. I want to see the space ship land with the good aliens that are here to help, and I want the dog to find his way back home, the pauper to become the prince, the girl to get the guy and Pinocchio to become a real boy. We could find hundreds of movies that show history through rose colored lenses and embellish, alter facts, clean up the dirt, and that’s what we want….need even. When I want a documentary I tune in to PBS when I want ridiculous fantasy I go to Hollywood…who’s very job is to paint those roses over muddy swamps and God Bless them for it!  Good Grief!….People, it’s a story…that is all.

  • Rhs1946

    WOW!! So many things to ponder on. I am a 65 yr old white female who grew up in the North and had no experience with a Black Community until going to college. The closest I came before that was our family hosting NYC  inner city children for summer visits ( the Fresh Air program then sponsored by the Herald Tribune) and a few city children at the 4 H Camp I attended. This was the era of civil rights, the freedom buses, freedom marches, draft riots, the Peace Corp. I opted out early by marrying young and raising a family and not living where I could have more fully participated. I never did understand WHY there was this inequality and felt it to be due to small minds of those who fueled it ( the oppressors not the oppressed). I know that oversimplifies. I did see the movie “The Help” and though I liked it, I felt that the ending would in real life have had much more severe consequences. I appreciate all this dialogue and having the perspective and experiences of others to share. 

  • Gastonian

    As a white woman ( southern bigoted family of the 50′s and 60′s)  with arab mixed American grandchildren. Iwant my gtrandchildren to understand how the bigotry works. The Help doesn’t help, the fact that those women that spoke out would have lost their jobs and had crosses burned on their lawns if not taken out and shot is the part of the story I object to. I am giving my grandchildren copies of Black LIke Me and  Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.Our job as parents and grandparents is to parse out truth from fiction. When it comes to biggotry truth is the tonic we all need.

  • Rebdebbie

    Kevin, this movie was made from a white person’s perspective. My own perspective of “this slice of the pie” of life in the segregated South is very similar.  Remember, it is a movie, it is just a slice of the pie, not the whole pie and no one is pretending that it is…I am sick and tired of having to wash all of our experiences and viewpoints to make them acceptable to the black community. Obviouosly, we all bring different experiences and perspectives to the table.  Let one white woman tell things the way she saw them–including the maids who hated their employers but learned to be civil to keep their job, as well as the maids who did develop love for the family they served. 

  • Beanieann

    Constitine saved Skeeter in many ways and Abileen saved Skeeter by giving her knowledge for the column and along with all the other maids and their knowledge and experiences for the book. Though I don’t think the book is about a white woman saving black people, I think the “Help” saved themselves and Skeeter. I have not seen the movie yet so I am unsure of how the book was translated into the movie.
    After finishing the book I literally mourned the loss of these characters and I just wanted to keep being a fly on the wall in their lives. With Minny I wanted to see her succeed, not only being away from her abusive husband, but also away from the abusive vindictive white women that tried like her husband to kill her spirit. I wanted to see Abileen become a syndicated columnist and author. I loved her for her strength, dignity, intelligence and loving heart.  I wanted to see how Skeeter took all the lessons, lost her naivitee and grew to be a stong independent woman that didn’t need to be a member of a mean girl click to feel validated.
    I know this was a novel and so many issues were not addressed and some that were, were candycoated, and I know there are a lot of Two-Piece Hilly’s still among us but as a white woman raised in a small town in Arizona, that has its own dirty stories of segregation and racism. I am glad that I did not grow up in the south with all those white folks and their idiocy.  

  • Beanieann

    Constitine saved Skeeter in many ways and Abileen saved Skeeter by giving her knowledge for the column and along with all the other maids and their knowledge and experiences for the book. Though I don’t think the book is about a white woman saving black people, I think the “Help” saved themselves and Skeeter. I have not seen the movie yet so I am unsure of how the book was translated into the movie.
    After finishing the book I literally mourned the loss of these characters and I just wanted to keep being a fly on the wall in their lives. With Minny I wanted to see her succeed, not only being away from her abusive husband, but also away from the abusive vindictive white women that tried like her husband to kill her spirit. I wanted to see Abileen become a syndicated columnist and author. I loved her for her strength, dignity, intelligence and loving heart.  I wanted to see how Skeeter took all the lessons, lost her naivitee and grew to be a stong independent woman that didn’t need to be a member of a mean girl click to feel validated.
    I know this was a novel and so many issues were not addressed and some that were, were candycoated, and I know there are a lot of Two-Piece Hilly’s still among us but as a white woman raised in a small town in Arizona, that has its own dirty stories of segregation and racism. I am glad that I did not grow up in the south with all those white folks and their idiocy.  

  • Beanieann

    Constitine saved Skeeter in many ways and Abileen saved Skeeter by giving her knowledge for the column and along with all the other maids and their knowledge and experiences for the book. Though I don’t think the book is about a white woman saving black people, I think the “Help” saved themselves and Skeeter. I have not seen the movie yet so I am unsure of how the book was translated into the movie.
    After finishing the book I literally mourned the loss of these characters and I just wanted to keep being a fly on the wall in their lives. With Minny I wanted to see her succeed, not only being away from her abusive husband, but also away from the abusive vindictive white women that tried like her husband to kill her spirit. I wanted to see Abileen become a syndicated columnist and author. I loved her for her strength, dignity, intelligence and loving heart.  I wanted to see how Skeeter took all the lessons, lost her naivitee and grew to be a stong independent woman that didn’t need to be a member of a mean girl click to feel validated.
    I know this was a novel and so many issues were not addressed and some that were, were candycoated, and I know there are a lot of Two-Piece Hilly’s still among us but as a white woman raised in a small town in Arizona, that has its own dirty stories of segregation and racism. I am glad that I did not grow up in the south with all those white folks and their idiocy.  

  • Courtney Echols

    The book was much more complete in showing repurcussions.  Abby did loose her job and Minnie’s husband was fired (in the book). 

  • JuulsK.

    “the fact that those women that spoke out would have lost their jobs and had crosses burned on their lawns if not taken out and shot is the part of the story I object to.”  So are you saying you don’t think these things really would’ve happened in the Jim Crow era South? Because you go on to say that we need to “parse truth from fiction” and that “truth is the tonic we all need.” So do believe that jobs would not really have been lost under the circumstances depicted in “the Help?” And are you saying that you think it is a fictional stretch to say that crosses would’ve been burned on lawns and people taken out and murdered? From the history of the South that I have learned, these things really did happen, and such events ARE the truth of bigotry. 

  • DaMutha1295

    I think Ms. Cooper had an interesting perspective.  Many of the bloggers reacted to her mom’s affection toward the white woman.  Please re-read the article.  Her mother DID NOT work for the white woman’s family.  Her mom said that her MOTHER-IN-LAW worked for them.  In other words, Ms. Cooper’s paternal GRANDMOTHER worked for them.  These two women could not feel as strongly (positively OR negatively) about the situation because neither of them were domestics for that family.  The feelings that most people are discussing would come from the grandmother’s point of view; not from the mother or the daughter.

    I have a very neutral opinion of the movie.  It speaks some truths while it glamorizes a toxic situation, but it’s just a movie.  However, I do realize that it is possible for people who spend lots of time together to have an affinity toward each other although they experience opposing views of that same situation.  (Sidebar:  The “day workers”, as they were called then, are not plentiful anymore, but the relationships between blacks and whites are basically the same in 2011.  That’s what we really need to be working on.  We can’t change the past, but we can re-direct the future if we participate in what’s going on around us–politically, economically, educationally, and as we raise our children.)

    I was raised in the South during the Civil Rights Era, but I realize this two-hour movie CANNOT answer all questions about domestics, their employers OR years of oppression.  All movies tell a story from particular perspectives.  Film makers who oppose this perspective should find a way to depict their opinion about the subject.  I’ll watch that one, too. 

  • alilamos

    I found Ms. Cooper’s comments on The Help surprising, as the criticism I have heard about the story has not centered on the loving relationship, but the white-washing of the true violence and oppression that maintained the apartheid system of the south, along with minimizing and nullifying the strategic resistance blacks organized to fight it.  Like Driving Ms. Daisy, movies that are made about race relations have no problem enlightening us about how much black people love whites. Maybe this is surprising to some people. Yes, black people never lost their humanity, even though they were treated worse than cattle.
    What was so horribly sick and what we apparently still do not want to discuss is that despite this love, white people still subjected black people to inhumane, humiliating laws and violent terrorism. The loss of white people’s humanity in this system is the truth we want to avoid discussing. This terrorism and constant degradation was complete and institutionalized, by which I mean, lead by the pillars of society- politicians, police, ministers, business owners and rigidly adhered to. This movie portrays catty women as the most horrible thing black people had to deal with. This was not the case. Like Driving Ms. Daisy, Hollywood neglects to show the real trauma and psychological torture that black people had to endure from an early age and on throughout their life. While this book/movie’s perspective is one of a  white woman who gains insight and warm fuzzies from the help, I don’t think you would easily find a black woman’s perspective of race relations of this time to be as heartwarming or as easy to digest.

  • justme

    Raising white children… That’s key.  This is what shaped our generations in the most profound way. 

  • justme

    Raising white children… That’s key.  This is what shaped our generations in the most profound way. 

  • justme

    How can children not learn how bigotry works?  Its all around us! My concern is to help our future generations rise above it.

  • Lisette

    I am a white woman who was loved and by a black nanny in NewOrleans in the early 60′s. My mother was indifferent to motherhood. Had it not been for her love of me in my dysfunctional family, I would not be alive and healthy today. The evil of racism has never overcome the power of love. This is the universal lesson. If we will listen and apply it, we can change our world …one person at a time.

  • Dazz510

    The movie “The Help” was a typical Hollywood “whitewash” of the brutal an denigrating treatment inflicted on Blacks during the Jim Crow era.  Ms. Cooper’s comments concerning the movie are far more troubling, even, apparently, to her editors.   The narrative that  the accompanies the video of  Ms. Cooper’s review on the website actually omits the most offensive point that Ms. Cooper makes in her argument that true “friendship affection and love” between Black and Whites militates against Whites being seen as villians or oppressors.    

    In the actual video of the review, (minutes 3:06-3:21) Ms. Cooper  compares the relationship between Blacks and Whites in the Jim Crow era to an abusive, even violent, relationship between a man and a woman, stating a follows:

                  I know these relationships were not equal.  But if deep love and affection
                  can  happen in marriage were imbalance of power , oppression and even
                  violence occur, why can’t we believe they happen between whites and
                   blacks in the Jim Crow South.

    It is startling that Ms. Cooper, a “black woman whose Southern roots have been nearly erased by world travel and an adulthood spent raising a family in Michigan” according to her own words,  has not come to realize the universal truth that if your significant other (male or female) is oppressing you by viture of an imbalance of power and is subjecting you to physical violence, THAT AIN’T FRIENDSHIP, AFFECTION OR LOVE. 

    Undaunted, Ms. Cooper attempts to impose the “battered women’s argument  on Black and White relationships in the South.  Just change the pronouns, i.e., ”me (Blacks) and my man (Whites), who beats and oppresses me, really love each other, so it’s not all his (Whites) fault and he (Whites) is  really not that bad.  Tragic, isn’t it?

    What’s more” tragic”, is that, apparently, Ms. Cooper’s editor recognized the offensivenesss of Ms. Cooper’s arguments and omited it from the website narrative that is otherwise a word for word recitation of the video of Ms. Cooper.    The last sentence in the second to last paragragh and penultimate paragragh of the narrative on the website reads as follows:

                   It is inescapable that genuine, deep and lasting bonds were bound to develop.
                   Dare I use the words “love” and “affection”?
                 
                   This is dangerous territory for African-Americans to concede. If we allow that
                   whites and blacks forged friendships and affections and even fell in love with
                   each other in the midst of slavery and segregation, can we still villainize whites
                   as our oppressors? This is the aspect of “The Help” that seems to make us the
                   most uncomfortable.

    If you follow the words of the video,however, this is the what Ms. Cooper actually said.

                 It is inescapable that genuine, deep and lasting bonds were bound to develop.
                 Dare I use the words “love” and “affection”?

                 I know these relationships were not equal. But if deep love and affection
                 can happen in marriage were imbalance of power , oppression and even
                 violence occur, why can’t we believe they happen between whites and
                 blacks in the Jim Crow South.

                This is dangerous territory for African-Americans to concede. If we allow that
                whites and blacks forged friendships and affections and even fell in love with
                each other in the midst of slavery and segregation, can we still villainize whites
                as our oppressors? This is the aspect of “The Help” that seems to make us the
                most uncomfortable.

    Thus, the true argument Ms. Cooper is making is that “we” Blacks, nee African-Americans,  should consider conceding the “dangerous territory” that our violent oppressors who have significantly greater power, were not villians,  but rather the relationship is really one of true friendship, affection and love. In other words, like a batter women, we should be accept our roles as a “battered people” and recognize that our oppressors were not really that bad because they really love us and we love them, nothwithstanding the opression and physical abuse.

    Now that would be a tragedy.

        

  • Earthquake31

    We are all slaves and we always have been. They have taken away the shackles and given you a small paycheck instead. All we are is slaves to the rich, the mega-rich and the wealthy and powerful. Everything you do supports an opulent lifestyle. It takes all of us down here to keep this floating crap game going. Everything around you is a distraction and a diversion. All your little toys are a distraction. Go into any man store and look at all the girls in the magazines. And there are lots and lots of men without magazines that have just as many women as any Hugh Heffner(which we will not have to hear from anymore shortly, amen). There is nothing going on on planet earth other than fine food, animal sex (human) expensive cars and art and homes all over the world. The artificial alpha male that is ageing still needs lots of young girls till he dies. Figure it out, you are being used to promote another mans orgasm. A stiff prick has no conscience and a stiff clit doesnt either. This is an elaborate slave colony in space and thats all its ever been. Look at a road crew fixing bridges and highways. All they are is slaves and subjects of gallows humor for the wealthy. Figure it out already. You are kept in place by a wall of paperwork and the edge of Caesars sword.

  • grey area

    I disagree with your assessment of Desiree Cooper’s message.  My reading is that she argues that race relations in the American south were not as Black and White as the Jim Crow laws that insisted upon these binary identities.  That in fact, humanness (in all its forms) prevailed in Black-white interactions, despite the realities of violence and oppression that pervaded the contexts in which Black and white women interacted.  She suggests that this humanness is what can be mined from our complicated and interwoven histories, if we have any hope of working towards better race relations in this country.