Stereotypes are unproductive wherever they appear

 Below is an opinion on “The Help” set in Jackson Miss. the new movie showing at a theatre near you. This has Oscar written all over it, some folks say. I have not seen it yet but have a date with a girlfriend to do that over the weekend. I am excited to see it because from the trailer I saw it looks like a funny movie. It is about Black helpers socking it to their white mistresses.  In typical fashion it shows the white women as frivolous and shallow while black women do their dirty work.  I can’t say much more but  I can imagine what it will be about. Exploitation of black women by white women. They get to dress up and look pretty while their black maids slave away. I’ll tell you more after I’ve seen the movie.  The following article is written by a Black American woman  of substance there it should say something deeper than what we see on the surface.

Forty-eight years after Martin Luther King Jr. was accompanied by tens of thousands of black domestic workers to the National Mall in Washington to demand economic justice, it is not all that difficult to render black fictional characters with appealing attributes and praiseworthy talents. What is more difficult to accomplish is a verisimilar rendering of the white characters.

This movie deploys the standard formula. With one possible exception, the white women are remarkably unlikable, and not just because of their racism. Like the housewives portrayed in reality television shows, the housewives of Jackson treat each other, their parents and their husbands with total callousness. In short, they are bad people, therefore they are racists.

There’s a problem, though, with that message. To suggest that bad people were racist implies that good people were not.

Jim Crow segregation survived long into the 20th century because it was kept alive by white Southerners with value systems and personalities we would applaud. It’s the fallacy of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” a movie that never fails to move me but that advances a troubling falsehood: the notion that well-educated Christian whites were somehow victimized by white trash and forced to live within a social system that exploited and denigrated its black citizens, and that the privileged white upper class was somehow held hostage to these struggling individuals….


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