The struggle for civil rights started long before the institution of segregation.
From the first time chains were placed upon an individual because of their race, chains that shackled not only their bodies but in some cases their very minds, a battle was waged.
Many of the ideas and images about African Americans from segregation still remain, like theories and actual studies (for example, the 1994 best selling novel The Bell Curve, Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life, by the late Harvard psychologist Richard J. Herrnstein and American Enterprise Institute political scientist Charles Murray), that distort data and pass down concepts from generation to generation, claiming not just the inferiority of one race, but the superiority of another. So it’s important to speak out, because others may not be aware, or if they are, blithely dismiss the inaccuracies. That is what happened in the case of The Help.
The novel was published in 2009, and while this is 2010, protagonists with characteristics mirroring the 1852 novel Uncle Toms Cabin permeate the story. It’s also a major factor why this site was created.
It’s important that all those who state they were children when segregation occurred, but know in their hearts that they shared a bond not just of affection, but of seeing their domestic help as equals, regardless of color speak out.
It’s also crucial that readers be heard, readers who are disturbed by the depiction of characters, whether black or white, which don’t mesh with the message the novel implies, that we’re all the same regardless of color while at the same time over-exaggerating the differences, thereby negating it.
Far too many have become complacent, so that the horrors and unjust treatment during segregation have lost impact.
It’s also important that a counterposition be available when this novel is used in classrooms by instructors enthused about the imagery and stereotypical African American vernacular, and who remain convinced the book is a true “classic” that should be revered.
Whether readers agree or disagree with the novel, love or hate the characters and its themes, please let your voice be heard so that a civil discourse and exchange of opinions can begin.