the more i'd see these fb posts and hear everyone talk about how great the book was, something in me started to rumble. maybe its just my inclination toward anti-social behavior, or maybe i started to really examine why everyone loved this book so damn much. i remembered enjoying reading it, i thought it was really well written, but best book ever?-- not by a long shot. with that being said, i want to emphasize my hesitation to 'criticize' the book itself. as a wannabe novelist, i can appreciate how extremely difficult it would be to put a book of that level together. it was entertaining, heart wrenching and just plain well-written. a page turner in a john grisham meets secret life of bees sort of way-- simple enough to follow, yet rich and complex in that it was about a subject matter i knew very little about.
as i began to wade through what was troubling me about everyone's enthusiasm about the book, i realized a few things. first off, i realized that it was a veiled way for us white women to take a stand against racism. hindsight is 20/20 and since all of us should know that treating african americans the way we did was totally and completely wrong, this is our opportunity to make it known that we would have been different. perhaps we would have been the 'skeeter' of the group. we would have known better. which is totally crap, and anyone who thinks differently is lying to themselves. or better put, in the words of my wise husband, 'i think it is odd and largely irrelevant for us to create a sense of empowerment for ourselves as it were with regard to how we would have been different…the ‘would have/should have/could have’ thought process, and discussion for that matter means absolutely nothing…unless we are simply seeking to delude ourselves. what matters is now—if our sentiments about that time can impact us now, then that is progress…if all we want to do is feign superiority over a time and people portrayed in a book we are more lost than found.'
what it comes down to is that the help is a simplistic way for us to look at racism in the past tense. it allows us to become infuriated with what once was, when the reality is, the once was is really the 'still is,' more often than not. a super duper smart blogger put it this way by comparing the help to a controversial cake she saw where there were two unicorns--the white unicorn was all pretty with rainbows fighting a black unicorn with flames all over it, 'You know why everyone is up in arms about a unicorn cake? Because it’s safe and it doesn’t mean anything. Because you can feign indignation about something as trivial as sugar and fondant. Because you get to create a distraction with a big old mess of a cake that has some “racially problematic imagery” and that right there is where your concern for and discussion of race end. Keep talking about cake in the vacuum of mostly white communities. You’ve proven the old proverb wrong. Eat your cake, people. Down it to the last crumb. Tomorrow, you can have it again. Trust me. It will still be there. The racism, that is. We can talk about race in a real way or we can talk about cake. I’m choosing the former.'
let me reiterate, i am no expert on race. in fact my experience is so incredibly limited. i am white (except when i try and be latino and everyone laughs at me), my husband is super white (if such a thing exists) and i have blond children which really seals the deal. i grew up in SLO which is like 95% white and have lived in only a handful of places, all of which boast similar statistics. the only thing i really have is the 5 formative years i spent with jon carter as my mom and i's housemate. it was then that i realized how alive racism still was, yes even in sweet little SLO. it wasn't easy for me to write this blog, i knew it would likely
piss off frustrate a lot of people. but b reminded me when he said, 'you should totally blog about it. people read your blog, we are going to have an ethiopian son. racial issues will be part of our life forever.' so with that said, i want to emphasize that i'm not faulting anyone for liking the book, i'm just trying to help myself and hopefully some of you recognize that there is a bigger issue at stake. racism is still a huge problem and i want to be held accountable for what i am doing to aid in it, not just sit around and talk about in the past tense in the 'vacuum of my white community.'