In what ways is racial inequality portrayed in the movie The Help?

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jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The movie version of The Help, based on Kathryn Stockett's novel, portrays the large and small injustices of racism in Mississippi in the early 1960s. For example, Hilly Holbrook, one of the town's white socialites, embarks on a campaign to have African-American maids use separate toilet facilities, as she claims they carry different germs than the white families they toil for while being paid very low wages. Skeeter, a white woman who is different from her friends in that she sees the injustice around her, chronicles the experiences of maids such as Aibileen and Minny. The African-American maids have very little control over their lives, and they are generally treated unjustly by the women they work for, even though they raise the women's children and do most of the work around the house.

The movie also exposes how prejudice has affected Constantine, Skeeter's former beloved maid and nanny, who left while Skeeter was away at college. It turns out that Constantine had a daughter she had to send north to an orphanage, as the daughter had very light skin. This situation provoked a lot of questions in Mississippi, and when the daughter returns, she refuses to enter the house of her mother's white employer through the kitchen. In order to preserve her pride in front of her white friends, Skeeter's mother fires Constantine and forces her to leave their house, despite her long years of dedicated service. The movie is set against the backdrop of other events in the Civil Rights movement, such as the murder of Civil Rights activist Medgar Evers, which also shows the injustices that African-Americans and others were fighting against at the time.