Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Twenty-First Century Help

I just got through reading "The Help" by Kathyrn Stockett. It is her first novel. This was a book club pick, but I loved the book and had a difficult time putting it down. Now I am done and find myself missing the characters. Ms. Stockett lives in New York City, but she grew up in Mississippi. Her father's family had a full-time maid like many Southerners of that era. Ms. Stockett grew up close to this maid, who died when Ms. Stockett was 16. Ms. Stockett never got to ask her what being a maid felt like. This is why she wrote the book. The focus is on several characters, but mainly a white woman and two black maids and the daring thing that they conspire to do together in Mississippi in the early 1960's.

Granted, by today's standards, this was a long time ago. But, how has "the help" really changed in this century? Many of the women who perform household and childcare services are not American. They don't have to wear a maid's uniform to be admitted to the "whites only" supermarket, but I can't help but think that the discrimination is still there. Maybe it is more subtle, or maybe I just know nice people. At this time I don't actually know anyone who has help that comes everyday. I wonder if this standard still exist for wealthy Southerners and I wonder if the help is still black, or have they moved on to Latino, Filipino, and Vietnamese household helpers? What is the discriminatory nature of "the help" and the women who employ them in the twenty-first century? Have we come very far when it comes to race relations or have we just switched ethnic backgrounds?

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