“Most white people can’t handle the truth”

Some good reviews of The Help, a book and movie to whose existence I was alerted by Racialicious. Again (as with the Hubways), it was my good luck that a race-conscious critique of this story got to me first, before I heard, say, the NPR interview with the author and bought into it.

From Valerie Boyd at ArtsCriticATL.com, ” ‘The Help,’ a Feel-Good Movie for White People”:

Even today, it is extraordinarily difficult, if not impossible, for African-Americans to talk honestly with white people about race and racism—because, put simply, most white people can’t handle the truth. Therefore, it is utterly unbelievable that black maids in Mississippi in the early ’60s would talk honestly about race to a white woman half their age whom they are still obliged to call “Miss Skeeter.” The filmmakers reveal nothing about Skeeter that would make her any more trustworthy than any of the other white women in the film. . . . “The Help” is a fictional movie because it’s fiction; it never happened—and never would.

From the Association of Black Women Historians, “An Open Statement to Fans of The Help:

Furthermore, African American domestic workers often suffered sexual harassment as well as physical and verbal abuse in the homes of white employers. For example, a recently discovered letter written by Civil Rights activist Rosa Parks indicates that she, like many black domestic workers, lived under the threat and sometimes reality of sexual assault. The film, on the other hand, makes light of black women’s fears and vulnerabilities turning them into moments of comic relief.

From Martha Southgate on EW.com, “The Truth About the Civil Rights Era”:

Implicit in The Help and a number of other popular works that deal with the civil rights era is the notion that a white character is somehow crucial or even necessary to tell this particular tale of black liberation. What’s more, to imply that what the maids Aibileen and Minny are working against is simply a refusal on everyone’s part to believe that ”we’re all the same underneath” is to simplify the horrors of Jim Crow to a truly damaging degree.

From US Weekly: Four stars! “Spunky rising star Emma Stone scores in this big-hearted, crowd-pleasing chick flick based on the smash 2009 novel about race relations.”