When I first moved to Louisiana in September 2002 my Husband was worried about me getting myself into trouble. I grew up in the Bay Area in California and have personally been a very open-minded and liberal person my whole life. I like everybody for who they are. He was worried about me moving to a smaller town where bigotry was still among us.
I was drawn to a beautiful home in the Historical Garden District of Alexandria. I went back to see the house 5 or 6 times. I just really liked it for some reason. Every time I went there I got a really good vibe. While I set up each visit my Real Estate Agent from Caldwell Banker, Leona Swanson, we would get to chatting. One day she brought up to me that maybe I shouldn’t be looking over in that area. Maybe I should be looking over in the Charles Park area, or some neighborhood of that sort. I asked her why, I love this beautiful neighborhood? She went on to tell me that there are surrounding neighborhoods that aren’t of our kind. She was speaking of the black neighbors surrounding that area. I immediately told her that I didn’t care one way, or another what kind of neighbors I had, just as long as I loved the house and the street it was on. Needlesstosay, we bought that house.
We lived there for two years. The neighbors were amazing and still friends to this day, even after leaving Louisiana. One of my favorite sites to see were the old couple that would ride down the street. The older man riding the bike and the elderly woman on the handlebars. It was the cutest thing that I ever saw. I just wish I had a picture of them. As happy as can be.
I started reading a new book on Saturday night, The Help by Kathryn Stockett. As I was reading today it hit me. My Husband and I were remembering our old house in Alexandria and he mentioned the bathroom out in the car port. I never even thought of it, until today. I now know why that bathroom was out there. It was for the “Help”. Wow! It really kind of slapped me in the face. My heart was pounding and I felt rather upset. I know that racism was alive and well years ago and segregation was there, but I just realized that it was happening there, at the house that I had lived in. That didn’t make me feel good.
The house had all the tell-tale signs too… separate entrance to the kitchen, back stairs from the kitchen, the laundry off the kitchen, swinging doors to the diningroom. Things like that. I was aware that the house was built for maids-n-such, just not that they actually had to use the bathroom outside. This book, The Help, helped me to understand it all if a very different way. A new realization. One that I didn’t like.
Don’t get me wrong, I am enjoying this book immensely, mostly from the point of view. It is just a new perspective for me. I would have been the person that was always getting in trouble, because I would have talked to everyone, even the blacks, had them over for dinner and invited them to gatherings. I would have been the one to get a cross burned on my front lawn probably. No one would have probably wanted to work for me. I don’t know why not, they would have loved me.
I need to find a picture of this beautiful home that I lived in Alexandria, Louisiana. When I do I will post it. 🙂
This post is beautiful, it shouldn’t matter what colour your skin is, its whats inside. I think thats why California is one of my favourite places to be, and San Francisco is so lovely, you are lucky to have grown up there. cant wait to see the pic of the house
Thank you tinkerbelle86. Have a wonderful day! 🙂
Kathleen, this is a great post. I also read “The Help” recently and very much enjoyed the book. I felt just like you did, and I’m always getting myself in trouble as we travel around the country. I cannot believe how “alive and well” racism is today. It really discusts me and I cannot keep my mouth shut!! If you want to read an excellant book about how it felt to grow up female and black in the south read “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison, it is a fantastic book. But be forewarned, it will make you cry and it will make you angry.
You are such a warm, loving women Kathleen, don’t let this world ever change that! I love you!