Sunday, August 21, 2011

"The Help" is a reminder we have to keep working together

A friend and I went to see "The Help" last night. Critics are probably right. It's a predictable movie, no surprises, and the ending may be just a little too happy to be realistic.

Not to worry. It still focuses on a time at least two generations know nothing about but those of us over 60 remember. The theater was full. Movie managers, no fools they, had hiked the price up from $7 last weekend to $13 this weekend. There was a disclaimer in the credits that the women in the Junior League of Jackson, Miss., in no way resemble the characters in this movie. That made my friend and me chuckle.

I used to say I never went to a segregated school, but I found out a month ago my elementary was, until I reached third grade. We didn't have many blacks. But the hispanic kids were kept separate, too. That makes me blink.
In the Southwest, the bigotry is more subtle. I remember an hispanic friend in high school I wanted to go with to a certain restaurant.

"Charlotte," she said patiently, "I can't go eat there."
"Why not?" I asked angrily.
She just shook her head. And she wouldn't go.
And she was right. They wouldn't have served her, even with the blonda chica whose father was a town leader. THEN who knows where it would go?

When I was 16, we went to Florida by car. Mother, a history teacher, and Dad planned the trip so that we stopped at the state capitol in every state and photographed it.
In one of those buildings, I saw for the first time a water fountain labled "colored water". My impulse was to go integrate that water fountain, but Mother said no, and I didn't.

I remember thinking, "I couldn't live here. I'm glad I didn't grow up here."
It was a shadow of the grue I felt years later in Dallas when hooded Ku Klux Klan members approached cars in the intersection for donations. They had the right. And I rolled up my window and locked the door. I had never seen live Klansman in regalia, either, you see. I was in my 40s.

For me, this little movie made me remember a time I never want to see this country go back to. For those younger, really unaware, maybe in some it will awaken the same determination. There is much more to do.

Only a few things in life are worth saying, Never Again.

This just happens to be one of them.

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