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How ‘The Help’ depicts race relations

David Evans | 9/6/2011, 3:09 p.m.

Could jobs be an issue in 2011?  Would the critics of “The Help” march on Washington today and make demands of Congress as emotionally as they condemn the film?

The unemployment mountain today is no steeper than the Jim Crow mountain was for African Americans in the 1950s and 1960s. I might add that while there were wicked white racists like Birmingham’s Eugene “Bull” Connor and Dallas County, Alabama Sherriff Jim Clark in Selma, as well as those Dr. King described in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail as “ … the white moderate, who is more devoted to ‘order’ than justice …,” but there were also upper-class Southern white supporters of Dr. King such as Clifford and Virginia Durr in Montgomery and in Georgia there was the anti-segregationist columnist for the Atlanta Constitution, Ralph McGill.

No one can argue that there wasn’t an oppressive political power imbalance, but not all whites were versions of Simon Legree (the cruel slave dealer in “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”) and not all blacks were the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. or Rosa Parks.

In the black community we’ve had similar arguments before about “Roots” and “The Color Purple” that often ended in the following stalemate: The younger generation will not concede anything to the older because it “doesn’t” know what happened, and the older generation will not concede to the younger because it “does”  know what happened.

Maybe the generations should break the stalemate.

David Evans lives in Cambridge, Mass.