The Solace of Preparing Fried Foods and Other Quaint Remembrances from 1960s Mississippi: Thoughts on The Help
By Roxane Gay, August 17th, 2011
When my brothers and I have a particularly frustrating day rife with racial insensitivity, we’ll call and say, “Today is a Rosewood day.” Nothing more needs to be said. Rosewood, is a movie set in 1923, and tells the story of Rosewood, a deeply segregated, primarily black town in Florida. A married white woman in nearby Summer, having an affair, is beaten by her white lover. With no other way to explain the marks on her body to her husband, she cries rape and when the townsmen ask her who has done this terrible thing, the white woman, predictably, shrieks, “It was a nigger,” her voice pitched in a way that makes your skin crawl. The white men proceed to lose their minds, surrender to a mob mentality and create a lot of havoc, lynching an innocent black man and tormenting the townsfolk of Rosewood. The angry mob destroys nearly every building, house, and structure in the town. There are some heartbreaking subplots but mostly the story hinges on a little white lie, so to speak. It’s all very distressing and the injustice of what happened in Rosewood is, at times, unbearable because it is based on a true story. The first time I saw Rosewood, I turned to my friend, and said, “I don’t want to see a white person for three days.” She said, “That’s not fair.” Fortunately, it was a Friday so I locked myself in my apartment and by Monday, I was mostly ready to re-engage with the world.
If Rosewood demands a three-day window of voluntary segregation, The Help demands three weeks, maybe longer.
Roxane Gay’s writing appears or is forthcoming in Black Warrior Review, Mid-American Review, Cream City Review, Annalemma, McSweeney’s (online), and others. She is the co-editor of PANK, an assistant professor of English at Eastern Illinois University, and can be found at http://www.roxanegay.com. Her first collection, Ayiti, will be released in 2011.
Monsieur d’Nalgar: My title for this re-post is taken from a term Einstein used to explain his later modification to his own general theory of relativity. I think. Fact is (and the point is), I understand Einstein about as well as Kathryn Stockett understands 1960’s Mississippi. http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/opinion/2011/09/20119982136791118.html or http://aje.me/pZZ6jP or http://tinyurl.com/62c2bn3