brotherpeacemaker

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Selling Old Style Racism As The Royal Treatment

Kathryn Stockett is the author of The Help. It’s a fictional story about a black woman who goes to work for a white family in post civil rights era Mississippi. Coincidentally, Ms. Stocket was born in 1969 and grew up in Jackson, Mississippi and had a black maid who took care of her white family. Although based on her childhood experiences, the story is not about her childhood or about her family’s housekeeper Demetrie.

Ms. Stockett says that even though she grew up in a town with a one to one black white ratio, she never had a black friend or a black neighbor or a black person in her school or any interaction with black people other than their maid Demetrie. The black woman went to work for her family fourteen years before Ms. Stockett was born. She actually went to work for her grandmother and stayed for more than thirty years. The only relationship with black people that Ms. Stockett experienced was the one where the white people, a complete family unit with parents and children, hire a black woman, a woman without any interactions with her own black family or community, to wait on them.

Ms. Stockett claims that her black maid was one of the closest people to her. From her perspective, their maid was treated like a queen who wanted for nothing. She adored the black maid as much as she adored her own mother. While her mother was always busy, Demetrie stood in and played games with the white children and never got cross. It was the black maid who knew to rock them when they had stomachs aches. It was Demetrie who went with the children to the doctor because Demetrie knew how to get the children to sit still for their injections and whatever procedures they needed.

Black Demetrie knew the young Ms. Stockett and her siblings better than the parents did. But on the other hand, Ms. Stockett admits to some embarrassment at her inability to truly appreciate the complex nature of the role Demetrie had to play in their lives. For more than thirty years this black woman waited on this family. Every single day that Ms. Stockett saw her only black friend the maid, the black woman would be seen wearing nothing other than her stark white maid uniform. Ms. Stockett was blissfully ignorant of the true nature of the relationship she and her family had with the hired help.

Ms. Stockett says that the maid knew the unwritten rules of acceptable and unacceptable black behavior established by the white people of Mississippi. She writes that while laws supporting segregation were erased, the rules supporting segregation were not. In order for the black maid to be accepted in certain white people circles, she had to have that white uniform. In order for black people to exist among these white people, they had best submit and accept their secondary status.

But stuck in the oblivious world of her childhood, Ms. Stockett wants to maintain her claim that Demetrie was a queen. The black maid wasn’t allowed to use the same bathroom facilities of the white people. The black woman had to use a bathroom located on the side of the house. The black woman was not allowed to use the same utensils as the white family. The black woman wasn’t allowed to wear anything but her white uniform. The black woman sacrificed a life with her own family in order to keep her job. Does Ms. Stockett honestly think that this black woman felt like she was the recipient of royal treatment as she cleaned behind white people?

Ms. Stockett and her family never saw their black housekeeper as an equal. They never appreciated her as a valued member of their family. She was the help and she was only the help. Like many black people who are admired by people in the white community, the reason white people admire these black people is because these black people are accepting their position as nothing more than the staff to white people. Unfortunately, by being the go to person for white people, Demetrie allowed Ms. Stockton and her family to develop an impression that the natural order of things was that black people are treated like royalty when they are given the privilege to wait on white people.

If someone hired Ms. Stockett’s mother to be their servant, if they forced Ms. Stockett’s mother to use an outhouse and eat with her own special set of eating utensils because she was not allowed to share the eating utensils of everyone else, I seriously doubt if Ms. Stockett would think that they were treating mom like a queen. If her mother had to surrender her identity and wear nothing but a white uniform in order to be accepted I doubt if she would mistake it for anything other than what it truly is, a not so subtle reminder that the dreams and goals of the help takes a back seat to the whims of the employer.

Back in the day black people who completely devoted themselves to their white employers or owners were called house Negroes. Some black people were more than happy to adapt to whatever life the white establishment defined as acceptable for black people. A lot of these black people were more willing to identify with the white family that would make them use the outhouse and eat off their own supper dish instead of identifying with the black community full of their peers that had to work out in the field. Some black people would embrace the subjugation of the black community.

Unfortunately, I have little doubt that if Ms. Stockett’s black friend was alive today, Demetrie would absolve her white family of anything and everything that could have been construed as poor treatment. The black maid Demetrie made her choice some time ago. More than likely there would be no hard feelings. Ms. Stockett can feel safe that there was nothing but love between her and the only black person she ever knew in her life who wasn’t allowed to use the bathroom in the house or eat off the same plates as white people but was somehow treated like a queen.  Most house Negroes were more than happy to support the subjugation of black people as long as they lived better than the general subjugated population.

Sunday, January 3, 2010 - Posted by | African Americans, Black Community, Black Culture, Black People, Life, Racism, Thoughts

21 Comments »

  1. You’ve got it all wrong. See she was treated like a queen because who but a queen would be allowed to care for white children. So she was treated like a queen in that respect. But then she WAS black so she had to abide by the rules governing any black person elevated to status of queen of the white kids.

    So, basically this white lady thinks that her maid was treated like a queen and chooses to ignore all the blatant signs of racism which kept her from having a happy life. She (Stockett) wouldn’t be happy living this same life. So why try and glorify it?

    She glorifies it because it isn’t about the black maid. It is only about how she felt with that black mammy waiting on her every need. She just assumes that any black would be happy as a clam to be able to dig into her white household and lose anything resembling a life. How pathetic.

    This is yet another example of how some white people will delude themselves by transferring their feelings onto those of some black person. White privilege anyone?

    Comment by theblacksentinel | Monday, January 4, 2010 | Reply

  2. Thanks for the feedback theblacksentinel,

    It is very telling how this woman could think the disparity that her black housekeeper tolerated was somehow offset by the fact that she enjoyed the black woman’s company so much. If the black woman did not have the luxury of saying “no” to Ms. Stockett or her siblings. Being at their beck and call, 24/7, somehow made this black woman a “queen”.

    Peace

    Comment by brotherpeacemaker | Monday, January 4, 2010 | Reply

  3. I am in the process of finishing this book, and feel that the author was writing about the Help from her personal perspective. Her perspective is from her view. We all view things our own way whether it be correct or incorrect. Her perception was her perception even though it may not have been the reality of how things indeed were. When reading the book I reasoned this and felt the character Skeeter was telling things as she saw it, then she started to ask questions and gained true perspective. She started to ask how and why questions which gave her better insight to understand her maid’s plight. Good book.

    Comment by detra | Wednesday, March 3, 2010 | Reply

    • Thanks for the feedback detra,

      I first heard of this book listening to NPR air an interview with Ms. Stockett. To hear Ms. Stockett talk, she treated their family maid like a queen even though she was relegated to using the outhouse and eating off of separate kitchen utensils in order not to contaminate the white family with her blackness. This was her perspective from her view and it was a racist one. Just like she had a perception of her treatment of the black woman in her life, I also have a perception of that treatment. While the character of Skeeter in the book may have gained perspective, Ms. Stockett’s perspective didn’t mature enough for her to regret the way she grew up treating their black maid. In fact, if the interview was any indication, she was proud of the way her family treated their black maid. It might have been a good book. But I refuse to to participate in the support of such racist views.

      Peace

      Comment by brotherpeacemaker | Thursday, March 4, 2010 | Reply

  4. I am distraught over the success and popularity of this novel. I hear it’s now being turned into a movie directed by Steven Spielberg. I want to say thanks a lot to Stockett, thanks for perpetuating the stereotype of the inferior, servant, ebonics-speaking blacky at the mercy of the soulless, clueless or morally bankrupt whitey. What is wrong with America? Why is it the only books that get published about blacks have to deal with the most tired and often negative stereotypes?

    Comment by BNF | Sunday, July 4, 2010 | Reply

  5. Thanks for the feedback BNF,

    “Why is it the only books that get published about blacks have to deal with the most tired and often negative stereotypes?”

    Because such negative stereotypes helps to perpetuate the perception that black people are inferior to people from the dominant community. A lot of books don’t get published unless there is a clear chance for financial success. And publishers know that most people who buy books are from the white community and would prefer to have their black characters intellectually, spiritually, or emotionally damaged. And when black people know their place and actually participate in their own subjugation, that’s even better.

    Peace

    Comment by brotherpeacemaker | Sunday, July 4, 2010 | Reply

  6. I think you are missing her point entirely and the heart of this beautiful(and sometimes hilarious) book…despite the raging world of racism around her, Ms. Sackett, and or the cared for character in her book…Mae Mobley, she loved her Demetrie (as we love the characters Abilene and even Winny). Why? Because they genuinely loved and were tender to them (Mae Mobely and probably Ms. Stockett) when they couldn’t even get a grunt from their own mother. The truth is the narcissistic birth mothers missed their opportunities to love their girls and their maids (Abilene and Demetrie) actually had a genuine love for them. The book is about love and you missed it. No one cares about the context of race when you are a baby and your mother neglects loving you. Wake up and get off your condeming horse. The book is about an unusual and magnificent love. If my mother were like any of these characters I would be in heaven to have the tender caring and reassurance that I am “pretty” or “Smart” or “kind” or “good” if given to me by Abilene, Winny or Demetrie. Love is not a color. And I am white and 50 and from New York. What I connected to was that Abilene and Winny were committed to living within the narrow choices of our ever-changing and screwed-up society yet chose to love despite their hurt and pain and disappointment in our stupidity. This book celebrates their challenges and choices and character. How about that? Character being applauded today. Hmmmm…..thank you for considering my comments.

    Comment by debbie | Monday, July 19, 2010 | Reply

    • Thanks for the feedback Debbie,

      But obviously you missed the point. Racial discrimination by a little white girl and her family against their maid cannot be trumped out of some perception of love. If these people truly loved their maid they would have treated her like family instead of like the second class citizen that she was to them. It doesn’t matter how well the black maid treated the girls or how narcissistic the birth mother was. The mother was still treated like a human and the maid was treated like a substandard human outcast. Talk about love is sweet and may soften the hurt of the discrimination. But it is only talk. Actions speak much louder. And there is little doubt that the maid in that book as well as the maid in Ms. Stockett’s past was discriminated against.

      You wrote, ”No one cares about the context of race when you are a baby and your mother neglects loving you. Wake up and get off your condeming horse.”

      Why don’t you wake the hell up and get off your condemning horse? You want to come here and act as if I’m doing wrong while you give somebody who’s an admitted racist, from a family of racists, a pass. Why don’t you practice what you preach?

      No one cares about the context of race? That’s just more of your delusion. Obviously I care. And I’m far from the only one. Obviously there are people who care about how so many people, like yourself, condone acts of racism against black people simply because some perpetrator like Ms. Stockett writes a book about loving a servant that gave Ms. Stockett’s character the attention she craved from her mother.

      No one who cares about racial equality and integrity cares about talk of some lame concept of love when it is easily refuted by actions of blatant racial discrimination. You are white and fifty. You can probably relate to Ms. Stockett and believe that this form of racism isn’t really all that bad. You can probably relate to loving black people who weren’t allowed to use the same commode as white people. I would think, as a human being, if you truly loved another human being then you would treat them as human.

      I think if there was some kind of embarrassment or some kind of regret on Ms. Stockett’s part for the treatment of their black maid I would be more inclined to “get off [my] condemning horse”. But alas, that is not the case here. The years of racism that the Stockett family practiced is just a sidebar in a story about the relationship of a white girl and her black maid.

      Peace

      Comment by brotherpeacemaker | Monday, July 19, 2010 | Reply

  7. You took an awfully long time to say you didn’t like the book. Quit the whining about color. The article comes off sounding like jealousy of an attractive white woman who is successful. Since you’re neither, just make the most of what you have/are.

    Comment by yalen | Tuesday, August 17, 2010 | Reply

    • Thanks for the feedback yalen,

      But your comment sounds like you’re jealous of me, an attractive black man who is successful in his own right. Since you’re neither, why don’t you quit whining about the racism from white people towards black people? Just make the most of what you are and your inheritance; a history of racism.

      Peace

      Comment by brotherpeacemaker | Tuesday, August 17, 2010 | Reply

  8. Dear brother”peace”maker,

    Did you read this book? Because I just finished it. And your comments don’t reflect the book at all. You seem to have an issue with a white woman writing a book about black people. But I don’t think you read the book at all.

    If I am wrong, and you did read it, then I would be very happy to hear what you thought about what Minny did to Miss Hilly, about the gift the church gave to Miss Skeeter, and especially what you thought about the ending of the book.

    If you didn’t read this book, then please respect your readers and refrain from discussing this particular novel until you have read every word.

    Otherwise, you are simply exposing your own opinions and prejudices of whites, which has little to do with “The Help” and everything to do with your own biases.

    Again — what did you think of the book’s ending?

    Best,

    L. Jones

    Comment by L.R. Jones | Sunday, August 29, 2010 | Reply

    • Thanks for the feedback L.R. Jones,

      But exactly where in my post did you read that this was a review of Ms. Stockett’s book? I’m surprised to read in your comment that my “comments don’t reflect the book at all.” That’s not surprising. This was never intended to be a book review. It appears that you have an issue with a black man writing an article about a white woman who has an interview discussing her white family’s treatment of the black maid that took care of them when racial intolerance and blatant racial disparity was much more the norm in America.

      Personally, after hearing Ms. Stockett’s interview on NPR, I wouldn’t waste my time supporting this woman’s endeavors. I found the woman to be an unrepentant racist. That is my opinion and that is the point of my article. I don’t know what may have inspired you to read this book, and frankly I could not care less about what you do, but the idea that I need to respect my readers by not talking about the book is a bit laughable. But that comedy doesn’t compare to your assertion that I’m the one here that’s prejudice. It appears that you have your own biases that need attending.

      Lastly, you asked what did I think of the book’s ending? I think I wouldn’t bother to waste my time trying to get there.

      Peace

      Comment by brotherpeacemaker | Sunday, August 29, 2010 | Reply

  9. [Comment Deleted]

    Comment by L.R. Jones | Sunday, August 29, 2010 | Reply

    • L.R. Jones,

      I appreciate you wanting to defend Ms. Stockett’s honor from someone that you feel is as prejudiced as me. But really, I could not care less about your opinion. It’s pretty obvious you’re stuck in some delusion. I don’t know what interview you were listening to. But I reported the interview I heard the way I heard it. Unless you’re just a hardcore Ms. Stockett fan and have listened to every interview she’s ever given, you really aren’t qualified to say what I have or have not heard her say. You don’t sound very intelligent when you say that I’m trying to slander Ms. Stockett. Indeed, I do believe you’re trying to slander me.

      But like everything else about you that I’ve learned from your first comment, I really could not care any less about what you think, just like I could not care any less about reading your subsequent comment in its entirety, let alone publishing it. People like you forget that you’re a guest here and should act accordingly. Otherwise, your comment isn’t very likely to get published. One would think somebody as smart as you, somebody who could read a book, would probably figure that out by now. But then again, considering the way you read my little article and assumed it was a book review, I might be giving you just a tad more credit than you deserve.

      Peace

      Comment by brotherpeacemaker | Sunday, August 29, 2010 | Reply

  10. I just read this book and was disturbed by it. I went online to read reviews on the book that could express why I didn’t like it. On the surface, it comes across as a look-at-how-black-maids-were-treated-and-it’s-wrong but in reading the book, I felt that the character Skeeter (which I think is a stand in for the author) used this issue for her benefit…to become published. There was no equality, even during the interviews with the “help,” she was always “Miss” Skeeter. I think it was more a “Look this is wrong! and I am a white woman saying it…so it must really be wrong!” attitude. Anyway, your comments expresses why I didn’t like the book. Thanks.

    Comment by JR | Wednesday, September 8, 2010 | Reply

  11. Brotherpeacemaker,

    By putting the cover of the book at the top of the post, and including no clarifying title for the article (e.g. “NPR Interview Reveals Racist Undertones of Bestselling Author”), you give the distinct impression that you’re reviewing the book. It then becomes baffling that you haven’t even read the book.

    Comment by Chris Vandervelde | Tuesday, May 17, 2011 | Reply

    • Thanks for the feedback Chris Vadervilde,

      But I do believe the title of the article fits the content of the article. The book’s relationship to the article was clearly explained. If all you saw was the picture of the book cover and assumed that it was a book review despite a title that did not give that indication or the fact that no where in the article was it said that this was a book review, then I really must admit that I’m not at all surprised that you were so easily baffled.

      Peace

      Comment by brotherpeacemaker | Tuesday, May 17, 2011 | Reply

  12. I don’t want to beat this horse, but I stand by my quibble – and I don’t think I’m “easily baffled”.

    The title “Selling Old Style Racism As The Royal Treatment” followed immediately by a book cover seems to indicate that the BOOK is “selling old style racism”. Furthermore, the first paragraph of your commentary focuses on “The Help…a fictional story about a black woman who goes to work for a white family in post civil rights era Mississippi.”

    Maybe I’m a nincompoop, but I don’t see “[the] book’s relationship to the article… clearly explained”. I don’t see it explained at all.

    I’m not defending the book – which I’m a bit uncomfortable with for some of the same reasons you seem uncomfortable with Stockett – but I do think you should give it a read as context to your commentary on the author.

    PEACE

    Comment by Chris Vandervelde | Friday, May 20, 2011 | Reply

    • Chris Vandervelde,

      Maybe you don’t want to beat this horse, but you’re just going to do it anyway…

      It is my opinion that the book is actually selling old style racism. Anytime an author depicts instances of racial segregation and disparity and then turns around and tries to promote it as some sort of story about the loving relationship between a little white girl and her black maid, a woman who was not considered an equal human by the white family, that to me is selling racism. I hope this clears things up for you.

      Peace

      Comment by brotherpeacemaker | Friday, May 20, 2011 | Reply

  13. So you are critiquing the book without having read it. A mistake, in my opinion.

    Comment by Chris Vandervelde | Friday, May 20, 2011 | Reply

    • Chris Vandervelde,

      I really must agree with your assessment that you might really be some kind of nincompoop. Otherwise, you wouldn’t insist on calling a critique of an author who went on NPR to sell her new book about a fictional case of racial discrimination based on her true life experience of her white family’s treatment of their black maid as some kind of royal treatment as a book critique. How else can you explain your refusal to let it go and admit that you may have been mistaken about this being some book critique?

      Peace

      Comment by brotherpeacemaker | Sunday, May 22, 2011 | Reply


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