A best-selling novel called The Help, set in Jackson, Miss., in 1962, is about the relationships between black maids and the white families they work for. Kathryn Stockett’s first novel has been made into a movie (see review page 25) that depicts a South in which some whites were friendly and humane with blacks but many others were demeaning or worse.
While the stories of the relationships are well-done and interesting, they are also a reminder that 50 years ago, blacks were often treated as subhumans. And the book reminds us that people whose attitudes were shaped in that era are still around. Some of the people of that period, now in their 60s and 70s or even younger, continue to carry around those sentiments, even if subconsciously.
Barack Obama is the first black president in American history. Particularly after the angry Tea Party-driven, anti-Obama election of 2010, it seems likely that a number of people voted their prejudices rather than their policies or simply their dissatisfaction.