The Help and Astute Student of Black Folklore and Fiction
“Minny did what?”
The true literary would understand that the surface messages shared in folklore must be taken totally in the proper context to understand the character’s true meaning. Even if the author missed it, as she reveals the stories of the maids of Jackson, Mississippi, we who understand the culture know what Minny is really doing. Miss Hilly had a phobia that Minny exploited. The point she makes is that we can use separate toilets, remain subject to the scorning of bigots and worse, but maintain the upper hand. Why? Because as maids in the households, we are left alone with the children; we feed Missy and her entire family, and we can put some real funky ‘crap’ in the mix at any time we choose.
Now as a son of the southern black family, I know without any doubt that no Christian black woman would ever violate the trust of the family she serves. I also know that at various moments of frustration she would share conjecture with her friends that many horrible acts are possible. And possible beyond reason. She might share with all who would listen (even folk like Skeeter) that 'Missy made me so mad I wanted her to think that I contaminated her world'. I feel you Minny.
I struggled to get over the obvious grossness of the act reported, but my literary sense of the true “BLACK” culture of that era tells me that either the author was ill equipped to deal with the folklore that had been shared with her; or she simply made up a poor story in her ignorance. I kept waiting for Minny to tell her pals that she would never ever do such a thing but she wanted to leave the ‘insurance’ out there since it was working so well.
I imagined the unveiling of this truth at a celebration luncheon. I hear our heroine in a rich voice and character blurting out for all to hear….”Chile, that Minny is a mess! ”