Friday, November 25, 2011

My Life as a Book Report: The Help

I recently finished The Help, by Kathryn Thornton. I watched the movie prior to reading the book. Unlike other books, the movie is better. This story is so powerfully told visually. The written word provides a good read, but not the rich, visual context that the movie can provide - and does so well. 

When I thought about how this book related to my life, I felt at a loss. However, I am a bit like Skeeter, the main character - the uncoventional white girl, who went to college to get an education not a husband; who notices life and thinks deeply about it; who is go against the grain, even at the cost of all she's known; who, in spite of questioning & thinking deeply, doesn't quite understand the cost.

Like Skeeter, I really wanted to get an "MRS" degree from my baccalaureate degree experience, but didn't stand a realistic chance of attaining this. Unlike Skeeter, who had career direction - desiring to be a "real journalist," I didn't - really. By the grace of God, I've attained positions that fit my skills & interests in ways that honor Him & serve others. Like Skeeter, I love thinking, observing, learning and questioning. Like Skeeter, I find people fascinating; I get irritated by injustices that I observe; I love writing. Like Skeeter, I am naive...idealistic..."innocently ignorant." Like Skeeter, I have made choices that were not 'popular.'

When I first joined MAEOPP, I heard the term "white privilege." The term was new to me - and hard for me to imagine the term describing reality. I didn't know that people still experienced prejudiced judgements or were concerned of being discriminated against - in Iowa - simply because of their skin color. To me, those things happened in the past.

Again, it may sound naive, but watching and reading The Help really helped me understand this concept and its effect. To put it simply, for Skeeter to write this book she had to endure being the outcast of Jackson's society. In itself, this would be hard when it's all you've ever known. We would call her brave. But, for 'the help' who told their stories, the penalty was much, much higher. They could lose their jobs and face closed doors when they tried to get a new one (because it's one tight group in Jackson); their husbands could lose jobs; they could be beaten, raped, or killed. White privilege provided a cushion for Skeeter that her suffering was really just a discomfort. The women whose stories were being told had no such cushion - and really, didn't even have law on their side.

If for no other reason than to have your eyes opened, read the book - or watch the movie. It's a lesson we (I) needed to see.

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