'The Help' another reminder that we haven't come far

Kansas City StarAugust 13, 2011 

KANSAS CITY — Women from all walks of life and from all over the country are heading to theaters to see “The Help.”

The movie is based on the best-selling book of the same title. The story, set in 1962 Mississippi, explores the relationships between black maids and the women they worked for during racially divided times.

I just wrote about how much I looked forward to this movie, the lighthearted charm and inspiring courage and friendships that soothe the sting of the outrageous racism as you read along.

You need that kind of help and brightness when you’re being transported back to those bad old days — the love and laughter to keep from crying. And it’s easy to embrace the smiles when we’re so far away from the troubled past of the Old South.

Unfortunately, America keeps reminding us that we’re not so far away after all.

Recently, while getting my hair done, I heard a little white boy say he doesn’t like black girls, even though one likes him. He’s just 8 years old, yet he has his mind made up about race. It was jaw-dropping.

But I shouldn’t have been as shocked as I was, considering recent events in our country.

Just last week, Pat Buchanan referred to President Barack Obama as “your boy” during a discussion with Al Sharpton.

Even worse, U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn referred to him as a tar baby during a talk-radio show, saying, “I don’t want to be associated with him. It’s like touching a tar baby and you get it, you’re stuck.”

Of course, both Buchanan and Lamborn have denied any racist intent. I mean, if this were those bad old days, there would be no dispute. The hateful objective would be clear.

But it’s 2011. This is what Obama likes to refer to as post-racial America. We’re past the color lines, right? Our children are living Martin Luther King’s dream, aren’t they?

I wish. I long to live in an America that doesn’t judge people based on the color of their skin or who they love or worship.

Sometimes I think we’re there. I look at my diverse circle of friends and family, and I see the dream. Then I read about the Philadelphia “flash mobs,” where black youth are beating up innocent victims — often white. Similar attacks are being investigated in Milwaukee, Chicago and other big cities, too.

It’s clear that as a nation, we have a long way to go. Just ask the loved ones of James Craig Anderson. The 49-year-old auto plant worker was beaten and run over on a Sunday night in June.

Where? The same place “The Help” takes place: Jackson, Miss. The Not-So-Old South.

Why? He’s black.

Mississippi officials say two carloads of white teenagers took to the road to find and hurt a black person. They came upon Anderson in a parking lot and beat him over and over. They yelled “White Power.” A surveillance camera caught it all. (See it on cnn.com.)

When that wasn’t enough, 18-year-old Deryl Dedmon Jr., of Brandon, Miss., leader of the attack, got in his truck and ran over Anderson, killing him and driving off. Sounds like a movie, a book or history lesson from the ’50s or ’60s.

But it happened in 2011, just this summer. Yes, we have a long way to go before we become a post-racial, unified America.

And help — in the way of love, peace, faith and acceptance — is exactly what we need.

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