About a year ago I read this amazing book called The Help. Then I moved and the book club here chose the book as well. Last week we all went and saw the movie. My blog today is from my thoughts after reading the book and watching the movie.
I grew up differently then most southern children. I went to private school - never public school. We attended a multi-cultural church. I had friends of many different races and thought nothing of it. Children look at how they are treated first and how a person appears second. My friends were all really cool (of course) so I never really paid attention to what color they were. I remember my younger brother asking my parents why someone looked a certain way (big ears, overweight, different skin, etc.) and they would always answer that God made everyone different, inside and out. But that most people were really nice and fun to be around so we shouldn't pay attention to what they looked like. I must have had the same conversations when I was little. When I was a sophmore in high school I went to boarding school. My roommates were from all over the world. One of my dearest friends was black. I would hear stories of racism and bigotry, but it never really touched my life. I married and we moved several times before settling in a small town in NC. And then my eyes were opened a bit more to the racial tensions still very much alive in the US. My church was very mixed racially, but the rest of the town was not. And I began to come in very close contact with racism - on both sides. My thoughts before were confusion. Why can't people just get along? Why do they have to act that way? We all bleed red, don't we?
Because I am white I have never experienced racism directed towards blacks. So it's natural that I wouldn't know how it felt. I knew it existed, but wasn't ever a recipient. But in this particular town it went both ways and I experienced it for the first time.
I am saying this next part fully aware that it might offend someone or make some people mad. Bear with me. Racial issues are a very delicate issue. But I've had these thoughts swirling in my head for quite some time and I wanted to blog about it to clarify them in my own mind. You are welcome to disagree, get mad or even quit reading my blog. I will completely understand.
While in this town I was seeing a very high crime rate (over 2x the crime rate of the town I'm in now), gangs in the middle schools and people telling me that they weren't able to get jobs, apartments, etc because of their skin color. Whites would congratulate themselves on not being prejudice because they were "friends" with someone black. It was sickening to watch and I found myself getting disgusted. I was so glad when I found out that we were moving because I didn't want to turn into an ignorant, prejudiced person and yet I knew that if I stayed, at the very least, my children would grow up thinking that way of thinking was acceptable. At the most the people that I hung around with would influence my way of thinking and I would become like them, unwilling to accept the differences and experiences of others who are different from us.
Cookeville has an entirely different demographic. And there are definitely prejudiced people here. There will be anywhere you go. But it didn't seem to be the toxic environment of the previous town. I'm probably completely naive once again, but it just doesn't seem to be the same "feel" from either side.
I'm speaking from a Caucasian's point of view. I always will. But after watching this movie my eyes were really opened. I don't know how many times I've heard the comment "I don't know why they are still harping on the whole slavery thing. It's not like they remember being slaves. It's not like I had slaves." This movie really made me feel like I was there. I felt the terror at breaking a stupid law. I felt the shame of having to go to separate bathrooms. And one of the homes on the set looks very similar to mine. My home was built during that time. My mom remembers riding on a segregated bus. She remembers shopping and the store having separate bathrooms - whites & colored. It really wasn't that long ago that they were treated like trash. Now imagine if you were a parent during this time in history. Would you be raising your children differently then a parent would today? Fear and oppression can color everything we do. The pieces began to click into place. My children would be completely different people if they were living in the 60s or raised by parents who had lived then. And maybe that is why we are still dealing with racial issues. Maybe that is why some people still bring racism up. No, I might not think of your skin color when I meet you, but there are people out there who will. And they might treat you differently because of it.
It sucks! But the part that I can play is to raise my children the way that I was raised, with one exception. My children will know WHY some people are racist. They will know why some people (black, spanish, middle eastern) are being treated differently. They will know that not very long ago life was very different. But they will also know that it isn't right and their job is to remember that everyone they meet is a child of God. God sees the heart and not the color or shape of a person. Each person is to be treated with respect and Christian love.
Racism seems to stem from ignorance on both sides. We (the whites) never went through what they went through. We might have our own trials and issues, but they won't ever mirror the sorrow and injustices that they (the blacks) had to deal with. That being said - Just because you are black, white, female, gay does not mean that you can't "overcome" the obstacles thrown in your way and still become the person that you want to be. I plan to treat every person that I come in contact with equally and with Christian love. But when that feeling is not reciprocated to remember that I'm not them. I didn't grow up with them and I'll never fully know what they went through to get where they are now.