the color of her skin and the help

The movie “Skin” came out a couple of years ago. It received numerous awards and most likely (and rightly so) it was buzzed about in popular media here, yet—whether due to parenthood or travel or the connect/disconnect flip switch that is part of my character—I missed it. But thank goodness, I found it.

It is the true story of Sandra Laing, who was born in 1955 to white parents in South Africa. Born to white parents who were born to white parents and yet she, the lovely Sandra, was born with hair that kinked and skin that darkened and features that made her look far more like the “help” than the white tribe she was supposed to belong to. Perhaps because it is a true story it is far more convoluted than fiction, and beyond the predictable struggles comes others one might not expect. Her story is one of unimaginable hardship and incredible strength. It exposes the contradictions and depths of love and life, of race and parenthood, the complexities of relationships within families and with society in the context of a history whose image is repeated throughout history with different faces and different tongues, different landscapes and different labels yet is remarkably the same.

Sheepishly I confess that I may well be the only person on the planet who has neither read nor seen “The Help” by Kathryn Stockett, which I’ve heard is similarly moving and important, albeit fictional. Don’t worry or exhort me in comments… I will, promise.

I often wait until the buzz slows and softens a bit before I dive into those books and movies that cause great stir. I am aware, though, of the story, and when I came across this on Maria Hinojosa’s facebook feed it resonated with me. Parallels abound.

Woke up reading The Help. What if we made the book about undocumented Latinos? What if we spoke to Mexican women who are maids and nannies? What if the Jim Crow laws were replaced by Arizona and Georgia laws that let police stop you & ask for your “papers”. What if the people who support these new laws could see themselves critically? Can they see that for The Help today nothing has changed? Would they make a movie about it, would they go see it? We need Help in this country now more than ever.


7 thoughts on “the color of her skin and the help

  1. I don’t know….I get a little cranky when I hear people say “nothing has changed.” Yes it has. We have a black president. THAT is change. I know we aren’t perfect. A lot of changes still need to happen, but we should not discount the growth we HAVE made.

    1. Yes, progress has been made, I agree. But sometimes I think that people haven’t, and that much of the change is cosmetic. Wherever I’ve lived there is always a group that is treated as though they were less. I’ve come to believe it’s one of the nasty sides of our human character.

      (Don’t get cranky, Michael… please?)

  2. I have not seen “Skin” and will definitely try to rectify that soon. As far as The Help, I may be the only person on the planet who did not like the book. Let’s just say I’m not rushing to the theater to fork over $12 to see the movie either. As Michael Ann said, yes there has been change, but Maria Hinojosa’s words ring true too. There are many others who face the same persecution and there will probably not be a Hollywood inspirational tale of their stories for some time to come. Once again, great post, Tracey!

  3. I confess I have not read or seen the movie “The Help.” I do plan to see the movie soon, though. It’s plot seems interesting and with so many predictable and silly movie plots now, this one certainly seems promising. I definitely have to check out “Skin.” It sounds like a wonderful film!

    1. I’m sure “The Help” has something that has moved so many people to rave about it… it cannot be just viral koolade. That said, we are all different and one man’s koolade is another’s champagne (oh, that was lame, forgive me!)

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