There is an episode of the BBC series, Miranda, where Miranda tells us that she has an awkward itch and the only way she can relieve it is to do a fast walk. It is hilarious. I have just finished reading The Help by Kathryn Stockett and must say I am experiencing a similar feeling although I don’t think a fast walk will relieve it. And it isn’t as amusing.
The Help tells the stories of black women working for white women in Jackson, Mississippi in the 60’s. It is a very touching book and draws you in very quickly. So much so I couldn’t put it down. Several times while I was reading it I felt that I recognized not so much people but some of the attitudes expressed. I have seen them in some degree or another among expat friends who have had help. I hope not, yet it is possible, that I have exhibited some of these attitudes myself.
I find this quite disturbing. The main reason being that we are all educated women who should know better and would be horrified to think that anyone might be able to tell similar tales about us. We would all say that the attitudes reflected among the white women in the book were horrid and thank goodness we all know better now. However, I am fairly certain that the maids in Singapore (for instance) would never use the toilet in any room of the house except the one designated for them. We have valid reasons for this separation such as respect for the other person’s privacy but I know it has much more to do with our convenience than theirs.
There are many examples that I could cite but won’t as I do not have the courage right now nor the inclination that I did in the past. I think it is enough for me to acknowledge that as much as we hate to admit it, prejudice still does exist in our society especially among the wealthy (and wealth is relative). There is an ‘us’ and ‘them’ mentality. We do make assertions about others that are inaccurate and unworthy of ourselves. If we were to look into the mirror what would we see? If the mirror were held up to us, would we look? And, if we did, would we recognize ourselves?
The big question for me is now that I see the mirror and have begun to pick it up, how closely will I look?