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I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free: On Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes And The Help – Part III

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Go back to Part II.

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When I went to see Rise of the Planet of the Apes, I ran into a black gay friend of mine I hadn’t seen for years, Darren, and his white partner. I had just come out Rise of the Planet of the Apes with mine. The four of us exchanged greetings and introductions, two interracial couples, and, in anticipation of this piece, I bought a ticket and joined them in line for The Help. Adam told me as we waited for the film to start that the book was so good that he had literally considered taking off work the day he started in order to finish. When the movie was over and we compared notes, my friend asked me what I thought, and I told him I thought the film was ludicrous. Adam looked slightly wounded, and without looking at me again turned to my friend and said, “Let’s get out of here.”

I followed them into the lobby and at one point Adam and I were alone when Darren realized he’d left his bag in the theater. As we stood there in what now felt like hostile silence, Adam very decidedly focused on his phone. When I asked him, “What did you think of the movie?” he shrugged without looking up and said, indifferently, “It was good.”

I left the theater despising him, myself, and The Help. I felt degraded by the whole experience, right down to the shit in the chocolate pie, and thought, “The men and women who fought in the Civil Rights Movement deserve better than a movie that goes down as easy as popcorn, and is pretty much forgotten when you hit the street.” As I walked up Broadway before catching the subway, I tried to repair my memories. I thought about my friend, Iyatunde Folayan (LaTrice Dixon), and her film My Grandmother Worked – detailing her experience one year as a nanny, and the two generations of white children her grandmother raised. I thought about the black women I’ve seen in the almost twenty years I’ve lived in New York, taking care of white children on the Upper West Side, and gossiping together in the park, the articles written about their being underpaid, underfed, dealing with sexual advances and temper tantrums from employers, even violence. I remember asking myself so many times, particularly when they became aggressive with the kids in their charge, Why would you lowball someone’s salary, abuse them, and then entrust your child to them? I wondered if the employers felt they knew these women at all, and what were the women’s private thoughts about the children they raised.

I remembered the song “Pirate Jenny” by Bertolt Brecht, and what a different timbre it took on when Nina Simone sang it:

“You people can watch while I’m scrubbing these floors
And I’m scrubbin’ the floors while you’re gawking.
Maybe once ya tip me and it makes ya feel swell
In this crummy Southern town
In this crummy old hotel
But you’ll never guess to who you’re talkin’.
No. You couldn’t ever guess to who you’re talkin’.”

How could I see myself in Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and feel completely absent from The Help? (There are no black men in The Help except for a grinning preacher, a benign soda jerk, and a husband heard over the phone.) The Help, cleverly and conveniently, gives Minny the young children in the film, while Aibileen has only a grown son who has died as a result of racist indifference. By not giving Aibileen daughters, the viewer is spared the kind of devastating scene found in Toni Morrison’sThe Bluest Eye, as the young black girl Pecola is humiliated by her mother, whom she calls Mrs. Breedlove, in front of the white girl her mother works for (and who calls Mrs. Breedlove by her first name, Polly.) Pecola accidentally tips over a pie her mother has baked for the white family. Morrison writes,

“In one gallop she was on Pecola, and with the back of her hand knocked her to the floor…’Crazy fool…my floor, mess…look what you….work…go on out….now that….my floor, my floor….my floor.’
“The little girl in pink started to cry. Mrs. Breedlove turned to her. “Hush, baby, hush. Come here. Oh, Lord, look at your dress. Polly will change it.” She went to the sink and turned up water on a fresh towel. “Pick up that wash and get on out of here, so I can get this mess cleaned up.”

Mrs. Breedlove comforts the frightened white girl, and Pecola lets herself out while taking the family’s laundry home. It’s a grotesque and horrifying scene, and anything like it in the film would shatter The Help and its romance.

When I got home, I watched Jesse Jackson, in his 1984 speech for the Democratic National Convention, address the audience with memories from his childhood:

“People say, ‘Jesse, you don’t my situation.’ I understand….They see me running for the White House, (but) they don’t see the house I’m running from…

“My mother, a working woman, so many days she went to work early, with runs in her stockings…she knew better, but she wore runs in her stockings so my brother and I could have matching socks and not be laughed at at school…at three o’clock on Thanksgiving day we couldn’t eat turkey, because Mama was preparing somebody else’s turkey at three o’clock, we had to play football to entertain ourselves, and then around 6 o’clock she would get off the bus and we would bring up the leftovers and eat our turkey, leftovers, the carcass, the cranberries; I really do understand.”

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Loving ain’t easy. James Baldwin once said, “We try to treat people like the miracles they are while protecting ourselves from the disasters they have become.” As Americans, white and black, some of us are trying to have – have succeeded in having – loving relationships, despite the brutality of the past. And sometimes we are scared, and confused, and searching, and guilt isn’t the answer, honesty is. And art, when it is authentic, when it is truthful, can lead us. When it lies, or withholds, strictly to make money or to reassure, then it betrays us.

There is love in Viola Davis’ performance, and Emma Stone’s as well, but it simply isn’t enough. This period in our history had women and men, both black and white, who were brave, many of whom lost their lives; and they, and we, deserve a whole lot better than the bullshit science-fiction found in The Help. And if there’s a choice between the unreal, pastel-colored South of the film and its paternalistic treatment of blacks, and the movie “reality” of primates who have the courage to liberate themselves, then I’ll stand with the apes.

Go back to Part II.

Max Gordon is a writer and activist. He has been published in the anthologies Inside Separate Worlds: Life Stories of Young Blacks, Jews and Latinos (University of Michigan Press, 1991), Go the Way Your Blood Beats: An Anthology of African-American Lesbian and Gay Fiction (Henry Holt, 1996) and Mixed Messages: An Anthology of Literature to Benefit Hospice and Cancer Causes. His work has also appeared on openDemocracy, Democratic Underground and Truthout, in Z Magazine, Gay Times, Sapience, and other progressive on-line and print magazines in the U.S. and internationally.

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News

82-Year-Old Black Woman Arrested and Handcuffed by Alabama Police Over $77 Unpaid Trash Bill

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Martha Menefield, an 82-year-old Black woman in Valley, Alabama, had police officers show up to her home on Sunday and arrest her for failing to pay a $77 trash bill, CBS42 reports.

Menefield told CBS42 that she thought the bill had already been paid, “but they said it hadn’t.”

“And the cuffs,” she said, her eyes swelling with tears. “They’re so heavy.”

When the officer told her not to cry, Menefield asked him, “How would you feel if they came and arrested your grandmama?”

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“I’m just happy my grandkids weren’t here to see that,” Menefield said, her voice shaking. “That would have upset them. I was so ashamed. And it’s been bothering me.”

In a post on the city’s social media account, Valley’s police chief defended the arrest.

“City of Valley Code Enforcement Officers issued Ms. Menefield a citation in August of 2022 for non-payment for trash services for the months of June, July, and August,” Chief Mike Reynolds’ statement said. “Prior to issuing the citation, Code Enforcement tried to call Ms. Menefield several times and attempted to contact her in person at her residence. When contact could not be made, a door hanger was left at her residence. The hanger contained information on the reason for the visit and a name and contact phone number for her to call. The citation advised Ms. Menefield that she was to appear in court on September 7, 2022, in reference to this case. A warrant for Failure to Pay-Trash was issued when she did not appear in court.”

Since the arrest, Menefield has been thinking about the role of God in her life.

“I’ve been questioning God a little bit,” she said. “I guess cause I’ve been so upset. I had a daycare here for eight years, and I’ve been asking the Lord. I say ‘Why did this happen to me as much as I’ve done for people, Lord? I’ve paid my tithes every Sunday. I ushered at church. I was just questioning. Something’s just not right.”

Read the full report over at CBS42.

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BREAKING NEWS

‘Another Happy Jobs Day’: Economists Thrilled With ‘Amazing’ Report as Jobs Growth Beats Expectations, Wages Increase

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The Biden economy added a whopping 263,000 jobs last month, crushing expectations of 200,000, and wages are growing as well, leading one economist to declare “another happy jobs day.”

The U.S.Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) adds that unemployment remains at a near-historic low of 3.7% in November, “and has been in a narrow range of 3.5 percent to 3.7 percent since March.”

University of Michigan School of Economics Professor Justin Wolfers exclaimed, “It’s yet ANOTHER happy jobs day. Payrolls rose +263k, well above expectations.”

“This expansion just keeps on rolling on,” added Wolfers, a senior fellow at The Brookings Institution.

RELATED: ‘This Is a Very Strong Economy’: Experts Cheer October Jobs Report – Blast Those Claiming ‘Recession’

Wolfers also takes on those who have been falsely pushing “recession” talking points.

“BTW, remember all that recession talk? It was nonsense. Bollocks. Cow dung,” he tweets. “There never was a recession. And the economy sure doesn’t look like it’s in one now. Job growth at this rate is the economy singing: ‘This is a robust expansion.'”

And he also slams the doom and gloom forecasters.

Economist David Rothschild sums up where the Biden economy is compared to the rest of the world.

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“Economy is far from perfect,” he writes, “but conditional on the worldwide pandemic and supply chain issues generated from pandemic: US economy has done *amazing* over last 2 years.”

In news alerts The New York Times reported hiring “continued to exceed expectations,” The Wall Street Journal called it “a sign of continued strength in the labor market,” and even Fox News reported it as “stronger-than-expected.” CNN referred to the jobs report as “robust” and “defying expectations.”

“America’s jobs engine kept churning in November, the Labor Department reported Friday, a show of continued demand for workers despite the Federal Reserve’s push to curb inflation by tamping down hiring, The Times reported. “The labor market has been surprisingly resilient in the face of successive interest rate increases by the Fed over the past year. Even sectors normally sensitive to borrowing costs, like construction and manufacturing, have been slow to back off the brisk pace of growth they posted coming out of the pandemic.”

The BLS also broke down unemployment numbers by demographics.

“Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rates for adult men (3.4 percent), adult women (3.3 percent), teenagers (11.3 percent), Whites (3.2 percent), Blacks (5.7 percent), Asians (2.7 percent), and Hispanics (3.9 percent) showed little or no change over the month.”

 

Image: Matt Smith Photographer / Shutterstock

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BREAKING NEWS

‘The Law Is Clear’: Appeals Court Rules Trump Handpicked Judge Should Never Have Appointed Special Master

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A three-judge panel on the conservative 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled against Donald Trump, and effectively against his hand-picked federal district court judge Aileen Cannon in the ex-president’s “special master” case.

The judges, all three conservatives, two of whom appointed to the bench by Trump himself, ruled that Judge Cannon should never have agreed to Trump’s request to appoint a “special master” to review all the items the Dept. of Justice removed from his Mar-a-Lago residence by executing a legal search warrant.

Cannon had ordered the special master to specifically review approximately 100 classified documents, and blocked the DOJ from accessing them while they were under review. That block halted its investigation into Trump’s likely illegal retention of the documents and other items – over 10,000 – he removed from the White House and was string at Mar-a-Lago.

RELATED: In Trump’s ‘Special Master’ Appeal 2 of 3 Judges Are Ones He Appointed – and Both Previously Ruled Against Him

CNN calls Thursday’s ruling “a major defeat for former President Donald Trump.” The appeals court’s ruling halts  “a third-party review of documents seized from his Mar-a-Lago estate,” and “removes a major obstacle to the Justice Department’s investigation into the mishandling of government records from Trump’s time in the White House.”

“The law is clear,” the judges wrote in their ruling Thursday, posted by NBC News’ Daniel Barnes. “We cannot write a rule that allows any subject of a search warrant to block government investigations after the execution of the warrant. Nor can we write a rule that allows only former presidents to do so. Either approach would be a radical reordering of our caselaw limiting the federal courts’ involvement in criminal investigations.”

“And both would violate bedrock separation-of-powers limitations,” they continued. “Accordingly, we agree with the government that the district court improperly exercised equitable jurisdiction, and that dismissal of the entire proceeding is required.”

READ MORE: ‘Roughing Him Up’: Judges Scorch Trump’s Attorney in Tense Hearing Over His ‘Secret’ Argument

They also wrote: “In considering these arguments, we are faced with a choice: apply our usual test; drastically expand the availability of equitable jurisdiction for every subject of a search warrant; or carve out an unprecedented exception in our law for former presidents. We choose the first option. So the case must be dismissed.”

“The district court,” meaning Judge Cannon, “improperly exercised equitable jurisdiction in this case. For that reason, we VACATE the September 5 order on appeal and REMAND with instructions for the district court to DISMISS the underlying civil action.”

 

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