I am going to see the movie adaptation of Kathryn Stockett's novel, The Help, tonight with some old friends and some new friends. Some of the women I will meet tonight for the first time. We are going to the movie together and then go out afterwards to have some sweet iced tea or some wine or maybe something even stronger. We will talk about the movie. I don't think it will be a light conversation. We are women who can do light conversation (okay, tell me, is there a woman out there who cannot chit-chat, 'cause I sure haven't met her yet), but we mostly do real conversation. I am glad. Because tonight we will be dealing with a very weighty subject, one that we Southerners like to tiptoe around: the topic of race.
It should be an interesting evening. One that I am likely to remember for a long time. The women who are going all claim sisterhood in Christ and we are all wives and mothers, to boot, but we certainly come from a wide variety of backgrounds and traditions. Some of the women are African American and some are white. It is hard for me to fathom that 50 years ago it would not have been possible for us to attend the movie together and then go out to a restaurant afterward.
I guess that's one reason why we sometimes still tiptoe around the topic of race.
I am the Grande Dame of the group. The others are babies. Not really, but they are, by and large, younger than I am. I guess that's why The Help is especially poignant to me, because I have a personal understanding of the context of the book. Not something of which I am especially proud. It is both part of my own personal history and the culture of my upbringing.
I have lived long enough that I can remember when the Civil Rights Act was signed. I also remember all of these other embarrassing and now reprehensible things like seeing water fountains labelled colored and white and the fact that black people in my hometown were at one time not comfortable eating at certain restaurants or being seen socially with whites. While there were appropriate venues for interactions: weddings and funerals, one could not escape the fact that in the sixties and early seventies there were definite barriers between the races that existed throughout much of the South. There were even race riots in my high school when the all-black and the all-white high schools were combined into one. I remember that and more. In fact, there are plenty of things about this era that I would love to forget.
I am thankful that times have changed. No, that is an understatement. I am grateful to God for living long enough to see the dividing walls come down. But I have a stinking feeling that there is still rubble that remains under many of those walls. There is undergrowth that needs cleaning out and tearing away.
I guess that's one reason why these women and I will go out tonight and not play it safe. We will lay the cards on the table. All of them. We will look at the good and the bad. And we will be thankful that we each know the one true Repairer of the Breach, the Reconciler, and the Redeemer...even Jesus Himself! All you sisters, can I hear an Amen?!