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How Racial Segregation Affects Characters In The Help

1336 words - 6 pages

Racial segregation is the practice of isolating a group of people based on their race, class or ethnic group. This practice provides the means of maintaining the economic advantages and superior social status of the politically dominant group, and was primarily employed by white populations to maintain their dominance over African- Americans (Britannica). Racial segregation was implemented or at least encouraged, and as a result has negatively affected the lives of African-Americans as a whole. The Help written by Kathryn Stockett takes place in the early 1960’s in Jackson, Mississippi, a place where racial discrimination occurs on a large scale, and is actively practiced and ...view middle of the document...

An example from the book that displays this oppression is when Aibeleen has to ask Skeeter to get her books from the library because the laws restrict her from doing so herself, "You know colored folks ain't allowed in that library" (Stockett 179). Another representation of segregation within the city is the symbolism of “toilets and bathrooms”. Southern woman in Mississippi believed that black people carried diseases and as a result thought black maids should have separate bathrooms placed outside. This affects Aibeleen and Minny both directly and indirectly. A close friend of theirs by the name of Louvenia, sees her son Robert, get brutally beat up for accidently using a white bathroom. This displays the inferiority in which the black population was treated with, being restricted to inferior services while being subject to unfair living conditions (Shmoop).
Both woman, Aibeleen and Minny share strong views on the racial discrimination that occurs in the city and decide to take action by helping Sketeer, their white “acquaintance” in creating a novel known as The Help. The two maids play an essential role in the composition of the novel because of their involvement in recruiting the other dozen maids that were required in order for the book to be published. Aibeleen feels that the racial tension within the city will be reduced if she and the other maids reveal their perspectives on how they are treated by their white bosses (Shmoop). Their involvements in such a project however pose major threats to their lives in addition to the racial prejudice that already occurs as a result of being black. The laws that restrict interaction between white people and black people behind closed doors, which is known as integration violation places the two maids and Skeeter in anxiety and fear of getting caught. Taking all these points into account, one can clearly understand the effect that the segregated setting of Jackson, Mississippi plays on the two maids and the entire black population as a whole.

The segregated setting treats Hilly, the southern white woman who is an active member of the anti-civil rights movement much differently to that of Aibeleen or Minny. Being white, and a part of the politically and socially dominant group of people, Minny enjoys and utilizes the luxuries of power she has over her African-American maids. She says, "You cannot give these tribal people money […]. And how would we even know if they're even feeding their kids with it? They're likely to go to the local voodoo tent and get a satanic tattoo with our money" (Stockett 205). This quote reflects Hilly’s ignorant hatred and beliefs towards black people, and gives readers an effective understanding on where she and other high class woman stand in the civil rights movement. Her social status proves to have a great influence on her other white acquaintances, thus passing on the same mindset and forcing the others to impose the same negative behavior towards their...

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