INTROSPECTION, The Board Game’s Question of the Week for August 28, 2011: Have you ever had a maid?

This week’s question from INTROSPECTION, The Board Game comes not from the game itself but from my own experiences after Jan and I went to see the new movie, “The Help.”  I went into the movie expecting it to be mostly a comedy but found much, much more.  While the movie is funny in places for sure, it took me back to my own youth in the 1950′s and mid-60′s.  While I personally have never had a maid, my mother and father did.  She was black (Negro in 1960) and her name was Mildred. She had worked for my grandparents in Oak Cliff in Dallas before she worked for mom and dad.  I am sure that she had a hand in raising us to some degree but I was too young to remember a great deal.  I do remember her coming over to our house in the early 1960′s to do the ironing and cleaning.  Now,  the amazing thing about the movie for me was the emotion that came up because I was ashamed of that time in American history when blacks were treated with such disdain and as second-class people.  Until the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 (I was 14 yo) blacks, in most cases, could not drink from the same water fountains, use the same restrooms and certainly could not eat at the same restaurants.   My father owned cafeterias in Dallas at that time, one of which was in Highland Park.  I remember the day quite clearly.  Our family was eating Sunday lunch at this location the day the new law came into effect.   An elderly black couple walked slowly down the cafeteria line.  They were dressed in their after church clothes. The gentleman was wearing a suit and top hat and he walked with a cane.   I can remember to this day the astonishment that we all felt as we sat in the dining room.  It was like, “how could they……the audacity of those people to  come to our cafeteria to eat” and would it drive away business?   We had just never seen this before.  Now, you must know also that much of “the help” either servers, cooks or table cleaning crew were also black and I was there to witness their reaction to the same event….scared but proud is how I would describe it.  Now that I think about it, the waitress staff at that time also wore the dress and cap that a maid might wear.  So, when I became teary-eyed during the movie, Jan could not quite understand….the shame that I was feeling for the arrogance of that time.  I was unwittingly a part of it by my preconceived notions about separation of the races and that, “they knew there place.”  It was like I was saying, “I’m sorry” and I apologize for that not so pretty part of our American heritage which I relived in the movie.  That is just the way things were at that time. Separate but equal was inherently unequal and I do wonder about current high rates of unemployment in the black community.  In March of this year, according to the U.S.  Bureau of Labor Statistics, black unemployment of men between the ages of 16-24 was 34.5%.  What if those numbers were white?