Guest blogger: Leah Wankum
Leah Wankum is a graduate student of mass communication at the University of Central Missouri. Leah is also the managing editor of the Muleskinner/digitalBURG, a student-run publication that covers campus news as well as news in Warrensburg and Johnson County, Missouri.
The most compelling stories are often the true ones, but occasionally I come across a story that fills me to the brim with inspiration and hope. “The Help,” a 2011 drama set in the ’60s civil rights movement, did just that. I read the book first, which is almost always better, in my opinion, but the film was also wonderful.
Set in Mississippi in the 1960s, Skeeter, played by Emma Stone, is an aspiring writer who starts documenting the experiences of black maids who go through unfathomable hardships on a day-to-day basis. Skeeter is friends with some of the women who have hired the maids who came forward to share their stories with her, which creates tension among the white community and anxiety within the black community. The white community, for the most part, was keen on keeping its social status above blacks, and blacks were treated terribly for it. If Skeeter’s novel (and the creation of it) wouldn’t catch on and instigate change for the better, members of the black community were certain it would change for the worse because of Skeeter’s and the maids’ efforts.
Things are a lot more different from 50 years ago, but that doesn’t change the story’s message. Attitudes take a long time to change, and hearts take a long time to heal. Around the time my grandmother was of age to attend college, in the early 1950s, she couldn’t attend Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri, because it was a black university only. Many colleges and universities across the nation were designated white-only or black-only, and not too long ago, at that. The thought sickens me, that people were treated so unfairly just a few years ago.
I have colleagues of all skin colors, and they’re all so smart, admirable people. I can’t be more grateful for the opportunity to live and work alongside them. But the blessing that is my college life isn’t the case everywhere. The time to tell stories of social injustice is never over, which is a sad truth but, at the same time, a remarkable opportunity to do life together, share our experiences and, hopefully, enact positive change toward a better life for all of us.
Reminders like “The Help” show me where we once were, and where I hope we never go again. I hope we never stop listening to each other, and never stop sharing our stories.