What is an example of racial discrimination or segregation in that the white women display towards their maids in The Help?
One of the most striking episodes of racism that white women display towards their maids in The Help is the incident in which Skeeter's mother, Mrs. Phelan, lets Constantine, who has worked for the family for many years, go. Constantine's daughter, Lulabelle, shows up after many years of living in the north. At that moment, Skeeter's mother is hosting a DAR event and has several white women in the house as guests. Constantine is busy serving the white women, while her daughter is acting more like a guest than like help. Lulabelle helps herself to cake and signs up to be a member of the DAR, even though the other women likely would not have accepted her. This deeply upsets Mrs. Phelan, who does not consider African-American people equals. When Mrs. Phelan orders Lulabelle out of the house, she tells Lulabelle to leave out of the back door. In response, Lulabelle spits in her face.
Mrs. Phelan explains to Skeeter, "I couldn't have that girl going around Jackson, acting white when she was colored, telling everyone she got into a DAR party" (page 363). Instead, Mrs. Phelan decides to tell Lulabelle something to hurt her—she tells Lulabelle that her mother, Constantine, sent her north because Lulabelle's complexion was too light. After Mrs. Phelan orders Lulabelle out of her house, Constantine goes to Chicago with her daughter and dies three weeks later. Mrs. Phelan tells Skeeter about African-American people, "They are not like regular people" (page 364). Constantine has served her family for years, but Mrs. Phelan still dismisses her in an instant when Constantine's daughter threatens Mrs. Phelan's sense of white superiority.
There are several instances in The Help that display the racial prejudice against blacks. Miss Hilly Holbrook in one of the bridge club conversations suggests that the whites should not use the same bathroom as the blacks. She believes that they carry different kinds of diseases; she portrays the general feeling among the majority of the whites. She suggests a special bathroom be built for the help. Miss Leefolt, the lady employing Aibileen, goes ahead to build the “colored bathroom” against her husband’s wishes.
Minny’s mother suggests it is best to use the same utensils every day, to keep them separate from others and to eat in the kitchen. These were part of the rules that she passed on to her daughter and which show the level of racist conditions at the workplace.
Another reference to racism is when Hilly sets up Skeeter with Stuart and tells her that his father is a senator who is working to prevent black students from attending school at Ole Miss.
One of the clear examples of discrimination and segregation that are presented to the reader is the whole incident of Aibileen having to use a special outside restroom built just for black people. That this toilet needs to be built in the first place is certainly one example of discrimination, but clear racism is shown when Miss Leefold realises that Mae Mobley is being taken to Aibileen's toilet to train her to not use her nappies any more. Note what Miss Leefolt says to her daughter when she realises this:
I did not raise you to use the coloured bathroom! ... This is dirty out here, Mae Mobley. You'll catch diseases! No no no!
Mae Mobley is actually smacked repeatedly for using Aibileen's bathroom. This is a major example of discrimination and racism in the book, as it shows how the white ladies still believed that blacks like Aibileen were fundamentally "dirty," and that there was danger of being "infected" by them.