Fictionalized depiction of real events is a novel’s most powerful tool. THE HELP is one such book. On the New York Times bestseller list for 109 weeks and now as a movie, an even wider audience is informed and reminded of our most troubled history. Because the novel was an easily imagined screenplay, the movie captures the book’s essence. We laugh, we cry, and are personally humbled and saddened by what transpired in 1962 Jackson, Mississippi.
While we lament our southern past, let’s not forget the racial divide was firmly entrenched throughout our country. The lack of Jim Crow laws up north didn’t have the visibility of the segregated south but that didn’t mean we didn’t have our own form of segregation. In 1962 Albany, there was also embedded discrimination. My novel, STANDING ON THE CORNER OF LOST AND FOUND explores some of those issues. Although we may not have had a subculture of maids and nannies, racism thrived.
In my own middle-class neighborhood, a white family purchased a house for an African American family. In school, there was an underclass that wasn’t getting the new books or best teachers. The building of the Empire State Plaza displaced those living in our urban center. I ’m happy to say things have improved but we have a long way to go. It was reported last week that 47% of students at Albany High School didn’t graduate last year.
Jackson, Mississippi is back in the news this week. It is alleged that an African American man, James Craig Anderson, was beaten, robbed, and then run over by a group of white teenagers. While we may have laws now to provide full and equal protection for all our citizens, a culture of hatred still exists. When traveling down south, I was amazed at the number of Confederate flags still flying.
I’m sure the majority of people living in Jackson are outraged and sickened by this hate crime. But that’s not enough. Maybe we should look forward to a sequel of THE HELP set in 2012, with another set of brave women speaking today’s truth.