August 12, 2011.
The Whiteness of memory involves a necessary a flattening of history. Often, in the white savior genre, black agency is made secondary to the opportunity of white folks to rehabilitate themselves in the eyes of history. While the Other is included, the White gaze necessitates the centrality of whiteness–and a reframing where the evils of white supremacy are a device for good white folks to show that white supremacy was an aberration and not the norm governing American social and political life. A sideshow in our own freedom struggle, Black people’s agency is muted as a mere means to the ends of the recuperative project that is Whiteness in “colorblind” America.
In my conversations with folks, especially younger, “post-racial” United Colors of Benetton types, about the intersections of race, politics, social, political, and cultural life in America there is 1) a deep avoidance of the role of institutions/structures and the impact of power on their life chances; and 2) a misunderstanding of Jim and Jane Crow as something so long ago, and just an inconvenience that was overcome by a bunch of people marching with Dr. King.
As hinted at by some of the reviews of The Help, there is an avoidance of the true depth and evil of white supremacy in segregated America and how the colorline ordered life from the cradle to the grave–where one could buy clothes (or even if a black person could try them on before purchase), walk on a sidewalk, or be buried upon dying were governed by racialized law whose primary intent was the “preservation” of “social order” through the oppression of African Americans and the false elevation of Whites.
Moreover, the laws governing Jim and Jane Crow were signals to social custom, guidelines for day to day life practices, and a normative project for how the races ought to be situated relative to one another. In black and white, when presented in stark relief, they upset the fuzzy nostalgia of the flattened history offered by the white savior genre of popular films of which The Help is apparently part of.
Read the entire article here.
Comment: It is unlikely that I will ever read Kathryn Stockett's novel, The Help, or see the movie that has just been released. I know the pathology and want to avoid it best I can. I did so for the 2004 movie called the Crash too.
The first paragraph of the article above explains why. It is brilliantly argued and succinct.