Colored Domestic Workers

Sounds funny doesn’t it? Colored Domestic Workers would go to work from the moment you wake up to the moment you went to sleep. Doing all of the work you either are too busy to do or just don’t want to do. Basically, they are your maids. They cleaned up your mess, they made your food, cleaned your clothes, and took care of your children yet received some of the worse treatment and hardly any pay to live on. Believe it or not, this is how it was for black women in the 1960’s. They couldn’t get many jobs outside of domestic jobs so their only way to take care of their children was to care for yours and to become your maid.

In 2011, a movie titled The Help was released. The movie takes place in Jackson, Mississippi in the 1960’s. During this time period, things were still segregated and many in the south hoped to keep it that way. A young woman by the name of Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan is back home after college to gain some experience to become a published writer. When she returns home, she realizes how badly the help around Jackson are treated and decides to write a book from the point of view least expected: the view of the help. As the stories come out of these women, we find out that most of the employers treat them badly, cut their pay, and would fire them without warning. Through these women we heard horror stories but we also heard stories of maids getting the treatment they deserve and more.

It is just a movie but it is also a pretty accurate look into how it was back then. Not only were they facing challenges working for the white people and barely living, they fear being killed and beaten just for being black. If you had these fears everyday and were treated terribly, how would you get back at them without putting on a full scale resistance? You would get back in different way. In a quiet way, like maybe taking leftover food, or a forgotten piece of jewelry. There is an instance in this movie where a maid had asked for an advancement in her pay so that she could send her sons to college. Her employer said no but in a rude way. The character’s name is Yule Mae and as Yule Mae was cleaning one day, she found a forgotten ring. Yule Mae took the ring and left the house with no one the wiser.

I’m not going to give away what happens to Yule Mae but in that scene it was a perfect example as to how black domestic workers silently strike against the treatment they are given. Forced to stay silent because if they act out of line, they are either beaten or killed or both. With these silent strikes they were able to make some sort of a dent in the umbrella that is racism.

While black women no longer work as domestic workers, they are still facing the same challenges today that they did then. They face low wages, few hours, and unfair treatment. Not only do they have to deal with being black but they also have to deal with being women. For example, my aunt worked for a big name company whose name I can’t mention because it has turned into a  case. She worked under a male boss who was also white. Day after day, he would make rude comments to my aunt. He has called her a mad black woman, referred to a member on her team (who was also a black woman) as her people, he gave her more work with snarky comments like “If you can do it right.” and “You’re a woman, you can understand this.” For 5 years, my aunt endured this racism and sexism.

We think because time has passed that the days of racism and sexism are gone but if you really look into it, there hasn’t been much improvement. What we all might wonder now is will they ever change, and if so, when?

 

-Britni Thomas

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One thought on “Colored Domestic Workers

  1. This movie gives the audience a preview of what it was like to live in the Old South; it was anything but pleasant, especially for the colored people. In my research paper, I discovered that when Disneyland first opened, their portrayal of the Old South was much more appealing than what had really happened. During these times, even though the colored domestic workers took care of the white people, black people were harshly mistreated. It seems unfair that their experiences are misrepresented in popular culture. Disneyland’s portrayal of colored people made it seem like they were willing to serve people.

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