Are You Going to See the Movie "The Help?" It Comes to Theatres Today!

Does Racism Still Exist in the Nanny Industry Today?
Review of the book, The Help, by Kathryn Stockett

Talk about a page-turner! I have never had more trouble putting down a book than the novel The Helpby Kathryn Stockett.

Anyone who gravitates towards the passionate issues of civil rights will love this book about black domestic servants working in Jackson, Mississippi households in 1962. Domestic employees may love the novel even more for the affectionate intimacy shared by the white children and their black servants in the South during the civil rights era. But, the book has me wondering if things really have improved as much as we would hope since 1962 in the deep South.

The story is written from the perspective of three different women. Aibileen and Minny are black servants that share the narration with Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan, the white college graduate hoping to become a writer. Skeeter unintentionally becomes a civil rights activist in her attempt to become a writer. With the assistance of the black “help” she is able to write the book about working as a black domestic in the white households of Mississippi.

Although the media televises the tragic murders of black men Medgar Evers and Martin Luther King Jr. in the novel, the white community of Jackson, Mississippi seem unaware of the civil rights activism occurring in the rest of the country. By the end of the book Skeeter decides to move to New York, being shunned from the white community in her hometown.

Have things really changed since 1962 in the deep South? Of course, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlaws major forms of discrimination against blacks and women today, especially segregation. Today, it is not only politically incorrect to discriminate due to race and gender, it’s illegal. Obviously black nannies and housekeepers share the toilets, plates, and tables of their white employers today, which they did not in the novel. Black Americans employ white domestics today. Clearly black history is improving — Barack Obama has been elected President.

But, with the in-home caregiver industry highly unregulated is there really anyway we can be certain that domestic employers aren’t choosing white employees to work in their homes instead of African or Caribbean caregivers? Are parents choosing to hire white caregivers over a black nannies because they are secretly racist (even if it is illegal)? I think so, and I’ll explain why.

I currently have a white Italian-American friend and a Caribbean-American black friend looking for nanny jobs. They both have nearly identical resumes. They both have more than six-years experience at their previous jobs, in the same town, and both have stellar references. They are both using the same nanny placement agency and the same online placement websites. The Caribbean caregiver has been out of work one month longer than the white nanny. My black friend has had a total of three interviews while the white nanny candidate went on five interviews the first weekend she was unemployed. The white nanny has been offered jobs, while my black friend cannot even seem to get interviews.

I may be making a sweeping generalization. There could be many other reasons why parents are interviewing my white nanny friend and not my black nanny friend. But, my instincts, and these same nanny friends’ instincts, say this theory is what seems to be affecting who is getting interviewed and who is getting offered jobs. Although it’s illegal for agencies or parents to accept interviews or hire employees due to race, can anyone really enforce that in someone’s private home?

But, more shocking is that a parent told me that she has been asked by nanny placement agency staff, “Would you be interested in interviewing nannies from the Islands?” The parents was shocked and offended. That is illegal.

On the surface, and certainly for my friends and neighbors, diversity is much more widely accepted today than in the South in the early 1960s. There are civil rights laws and labor laws protecting the rights of every race, religion, disability, and gender today. But in a highly unregulated industry of in-home, domestic employees it’s nearly impossible to enforce these most basic rights and laws.

I am excited and cannot wait for the film based on the novel The Help with a script written by Tate Taylor and produced by Chris Columbus. I highly recommend reading this novel, and can’t wait to see the movie this weekend!

Comments

  1. A year ago when I was looking for a new position I stayed with a family that had a substandard European Au Pair, and she had a friend over often. They had asked all types of questions about my background, and then it moved on to my salary expectations. The one said, why would parents pay that why don't they hire a hispanic?I thought really, you have cared for children, and you don't get the work that goes into it. Do you really devalue children to the point of not seeing that a qualified nanny is a real asset to them and their parents.But then I look at how many parents out there have gone the cheapest route they can get away with. The care of children in homes were handed off to slaves, to barely literate immigrants, to illegal minorities paid under the table now.I look at how some of our states are wonderful about having licensing standards for childcare workers to some that are absolutely shameful. I see teachers villified by parents and politicians. There are parts of our country where education is a priority, and others where it appears to be an unneccessary waste of tax dollars.Thus when I think some people see us nannies, they see us as people who didn't have capacities or ambitions to do something else. I make that comment based on what I have seen in the dating world. A prime case in point I met a man online, we talked about all types of things, current events, politics, history, arts, science, etc. He thought I funny, intelligent, smart, cute. Then he learned I was a nanny, and that was so beneath him. He ended things abruptly. My former fiance also didn't get why I made this a career choice.Then you think about how some mothers have love hate relationships with us. Glad we are there, not getting why we wouldn't be doing something else (I honestly had that asked of me in interviews), and then resenting us if we appear to get child management better than them.Yes there perhaps is ethnic racisim in some places still our country. But there is also an occupation/career choice racism too. (if that makes sense).

  2. Absolutely going! Love the book and I'm sure the movie will be great!

  3. My favorite book ever! I just think it's the most perfect book ever! My friends here in NY metro area heard about Nanny Night Out for the movie and we tried to get a group together but it didn't work out. I WILL SEE THE MOVIE. Regarding your black friend getting less interviews and no job offers I wonder, just asking, is she legal? If she is an illegal immigrant that might be the problem.

  4. I physically could not tear myself away from this book and I'm not a big reader. I saw the movie in a screening last week. Definitely worth going to see.

  5. The writing isn't great, the story can be melodramatic, there are many side plots that don't quite resolve, the love relationship with the man and main white character is not beleiveable – BUT I LOVE IT ANYWAY! It could have gone much deeper into the characters and racism but it still gives the message that servants and nannies and all domestics have a great role in society, and we have it a lot better now!

  6. I'm Sooo excited about this movie. I completely sided with Skeeter in this book. I would've been her back then!

  7. We saw it at midnight 12:01.. It was FANTASTIC! There are a few changes in the movie, but nothing major enough to make any big impact. It was AWESOME. DONT EAT BEFOREHAND! They're sooo much good food shown in the movie that you'll make a beeline to the closest homestyle restaurant for fried chicken and pie afterwards!

  8. I saw it at 12:01 with 5 friends last night too! It's hard to imagine a better movie from the book. I really think some of this great cast will be getting Oscars for their great acting. The cast is amazing!!!! Allison Janney as Skeeter's mother; Jessica Chastain as Minny, Cicely Tyson as Skeeter's maid, Ahna O'Reilly as Aibileen's employer and Sissy Spacek as Hilly's mother. OMG it's so good. I will go again many more times! Who wants to go again with me?!

  9. Did I leave out Octavia Spencer? Super job too!

  10. Heading to the 7pm show with my friends tonight. Can not wait. Everyone is making me so excited! Please let this be as good as the book!

  11. Terrific book, I loved it so much. I can't wait to see it.

  12. Terrific book. No, not everything was written perfectly in the book but much better than I could ever do. I've read some bad movie reviews so I hope the movie does the book justice.

  13. I just saw the movie. I thought it was GREAT. Would recommend it to all and will own it on DVD. I have not read the book so I cannot compare the two. I managed not to cry during the movie, had my heart strings pulled a few times, but did cry some when chatting after the movie with a lady sitting next to me, probably in her 70's. I asked her before the movie began if she had read the book. She told me, "I lived it". I had hoped I would be able to have more discussion with her later. As the movie ended I asked her what she thought. She said "I can't stop crying". She recalled a scene in the movie that brought back memories of her childhood as "the help" was saying good bye to the little girl. This lady came from a dual working family during WWII in Philadelphia. She connected with "the maid" deeply. As time progressed her maid's husband got a high enough paying job in the factory that she could stay home with her own children. She recalled the day she was saying good-bye and how she went to give her a hug and a kiss and "the help" made eye contact with the mother and had to divert her kiss to her hand because it was inappropriate for them to have such affection between a white child and a black lady. This lady who is a retired opera singer and lived in Europe for many years said she thinks about this lady (the help) alot and how much she meant to her. Needless to say that was when I started crying with her. I was born in the north in the mid 60's and had no clue what racism was all about until I moved south about 15 years ago. Does it exist today? Yes, it does! I happen to be white and tell my family frequently they want to be thankful I wasn't born in Alabama while Dr. King was taking his stand because I probably would be marching out there with them and possibly harmed or dead because of it. Today it occurs with subtleties due to the laws and changes that have been made, yet as Stephanie indicated in her post those laws are enforced even less in this particular field of profession in private home/estates.

  14. Oh anonymous who wrote last comment why can't you share with us your name?! What an awesome, memorable experience for you! Thank you so much for sharing. I can't wait to see it tomorrow night!

  15. I saw it last night and want to share how it was wonderful. I cried. Should I read the book now or will I be disappointed after the movie?

  16. Thanks everyone for your comments you have peaked my interest in seeing this movie. I will see it this weekend and let you know if it is as good as the book.

  17. Just came out of the theatre. I LOVED THE MOVIE!!!! I cried. I lived in the south in the 60s and the clothes are spot on. You all should see it!

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