Friday, August 12, 2011

Burning Questions from the Meltingpot

Hi Meltingpot Readers,

The world really is a crazy place. Makes me question some things. Maybe you can help me with some answers.

1. These so-called race riots in London and the rest of England sound awful. But I'm having a hard time understanding the looting and lawlessness and overall destruction without any kind of clear issue to protest against. In fact, it seems to me that a British race riot sounds a whole lot like a Philly flash mob. What do you think, dear readers, is the difference?

2. Did anyone else -- especially my readers in Germany -- read about the controversy over this advertisement for chocolate cake that features a shirtless Black child in the ad? If you read the story, the bakery owner claims the child in the photo is one of his employees' children and the connection to the chocolate cake was inadvertent. Excuse me? I'm scratching my head on this one. Was this just an oversight? Are protesters being too sensitive? What do you think?

3. What about The Help? In case you haven't been following all of the heated debates about the new movie based on the bestselling book by Kathryn Stockett, here's the deal. A lot of people of color are annoyed that yet another "White" version of the Black experience is being exalted and praised. There's a very good essay explaining the discontent written by Valerie Boyd called, "A Feel Good Movie for White People." Martha Southgate also penned a great piece in Entertainment Weekly about the historical inaccuracies the movie portrays. So here's my question. Can any self-respecting Black woman go see the movie without wearing dark glasses and a big hat? What do you think? If a film by its very existence is perpetuating stereotype and myth about your own people, what's the right thing to do?

So those are my burning questions. I'm listening for your answers.

Peace and Sweet Baby Feet!


rhapsodyinbooks said...

I totally agree with every single word of the Valerie Boyd piece. I did see The Help, because I like to know what sort of revisionist racism is in vogue. On the other hand, I am sympathetic with people who say don't go, because it's not like I could stand to read Glenn Beck or anything. But still, after reading all the blogger reactions to reviews of The Help that sounded like this: "wow, I didn't know it wasn't good for blacks after the Civil War was over!," I think you just gotta know what kind of info white people are basing their ideas on! Now, it's not like they're going to learn about Emmett Till or anything from this book/movie, but it's important, in my opinion, to know that they're not, and that maybe this is the ONLY knowledge of Jim Crow they'll ever get!

Anonymous said...

You are the first person I have heard refer to the riots in England as race riots. Everybody else has called them class motivated. Others have called it opportunistic stealing as upper class citizens have been caught left and right. However, I do know that race riots have occurred in the recent past of England.

Marona said...

I feel like whenever people want to ignore historical neglect, austerity measures, youth being unable to attend university due to tuition hikes they always want to call an uprising or rebellion a race riot. If you look at actual pictures of looters they are of all colors. Not just black. Many of the youth in these riots are fed up and tired of being marginalized in society. I would encourage you to check out (a black Briton herself), and for some perspective. There was one interview of an old black West Indian where the interviewer from BBC was so disrespectful when he was trying to enlighten her about what was going on with the youth and what his own children and grandchildren had to endure.

JBH said...

I've heard the London riots referred to as race riots - but I didn't understand it either.

Coming home from work, I heard this interview with Octavia Spencer on NPR about The Help. Thought you might be interested:

Anonymous said...

I have not read "the help", but I would not let other people's opinions keep me from forming my own. I do know that Ms Stockett is from Mississippi, so maybe it just comes from her experience... Now, I am curious. Could a white person ever right a book with black characters is the question that begs to be asked!

I am not offended by what I know of "the help". I am more bothered by Fox News calling Present Obama's birthday a "Hip Hop BBQ" and yet others referring to him as "boy". I really do not what to look at things from a race prescriptive all the time, but read the comments posted after Yahoo news pieces and you see that it is still necessary.


Erin Michelle said...

This book was the bane of my grad school existence. During the first semester (class) of my program, I expressed my feelings about struggling to try to read the book to my cohort. I am one of two Blacks in my entire cohort, and my feelings about the book resignated deeply with many of my white classmates. To this day, I still can't read The Help because I can't get past the language used for the black characters. What I find interesting about this whole experience is that my mom, grandmother, and roommate (who is from Zimbabwe) have all read, recommended, and enjoyed the book. I guess I'm not as progressive as previously thought when it comes to telling stories about the Black experience.

JBH said...

Also, Martha Southgate's (Smith '82) comments on The Help were interesting.,,20516492,00.html

Marona said...

As for "The Help" (and really, is that anyway to describe the people who raised you?) I can't encourage reading a book where a white woman's characterization of a black woman involves comparing a colored woman to a COCKROACH. I'm sorry, but I feel some stories should be written by only certain people. I view it the same way as I do cultural property rights. You can't have access to everything without realizing somethings were not made for you. It doesn't mean white people can't write black characters, but I don't feel it's their job to write about our struggles. We have quite capable hands and lexicons and first hand experience to do that ourselves.

Anonymous said...

Would LOVE to get your thoughts on this:

If true, it's rather heartbreaking that an author could be so unethical. I hope the court would raise her damages!