I am one of those folks who turn on a movie, and walk out of the room. My attention span almost doesn’t exist, and I find it hard focusing on any one thing at a particular time; watching movies especially. For reasons I really cannot explain, I got three movies from Redbox© on my way home tonight. I just got done seeing The Help, and let’s just say I have red, swollen eyes and a mild headache. No, I am not saying that I cried, but I do believe I bawled my eyes out. This has to be the first movie I have watched from start to finish without moving an inch. Yes, I actually sat through all 146 minutes of it, and that’s not including the end credits. The Help tells the story of “an aspiring author during the civil rights movement of the 1960s decides to write a book detailing the African-American maid’s point of view on the white families for which they work, and the hardships they go through on a daily basis.” Now I am no movie critic by any chance, but this movie reached out to me. I have seen several movies that deal with the Civil Rights movement, living in Jim Crow South in the 60’s, and the whole separate, but equal, yet this one stood out. It also gave me a lot to think about, which happens a lot, and brings me to this post.
I grew up in Sub-Saharan Africa where everyone looked like me. There were a few folks in interracial marriages in my family, and even at that I didn’t for one second think there was any difference between me and them. Well, other than the obvious fact that they didn’t look like everyone else, which provided a lot of material for jokes and songs the adults were never to hear about. Basically, race was never an issue. Then I went to boarding school, and I heard whispers about folks getting treated differently, because they were “metisse”. For those of you unfamiliar with the word metisse, I will explain. In post-colonial French Africa, a metisse is a person of mixed races; one parent being black and more often than not, the other parent white. I am tempted to go into a more in-depth explanation about the metisse concept, but I’ll save that for another day. Back to focus, so yeah. Other than whispers about folks getting preferential treatment because they were metisse, I never really took the race thing seriously.
Then came the big move to the US for college, and where did I end up? Good ‘ole Arkansas! A state that still has active chapters of the KKK, cities where there is still a clear divide between races, and in extreme cases high school football teams refuse to play each other because one team has black folks on it. Yup! That is where I found myself. It was quite an extreme shift. I had to learn the difference between the “real” and the “fake” smiles, places to go, and those not to go. Basically, I became aware of the fact that I was black and it was an issue. I had to come to terms with the fact that there were people who would judge me, not by the content of my brain, or by the person I am, but from the color of my skin. I do believe I adapted well, and I have to add, I made some really great friends from both sides of the race fence.
Coming back to The Help. This movie brought tears to my eyes because I could not even picture any of my grandmothers, or their mothers before them going through that. My maternal grandmother has raised a lot of kids in her lifetime. Heck! Since she had her first child some 60+ years ago, she’s been raising children ever since. As I type this, she has a one month old baby in her household. The difference between her, and the ladies in The Help, is these are all her family, and she does it out of love. To think that these ladies were treated with such spite, and sometimes total disrespect brought tears to my eyes, yet it also made me grateful for my ancestry. For all the images shown of Africa; the diseases, the famine,
the democracy, or lack thereof, I am grateful and proud to be able to call that home. We may not have had much, but we did have dignity and respect. At least my grandparents were able to choose their jobs, and not have the color of their skin dictate what their life was going to look like. They were able to walk in the streets and hold their heads high, without being scared that someone was going to call them names, or lynch them just because of the color of their skin. So next time you think about the lack of power/electricity *side eye at NEPA and SONEL*, the mosquitoes, the humidity, think about all the other blessings that the continent brought you and smile, because it could be worse. Waaaaayyyy worse ……
An now, I shall go and see if I can make it through The Hangover 2 without falling asleep. Lord knows I need a good laugh to get rid of this headache. Until next time…
xoxo Bils BeeingBils