• Antara Basu

AIBILEEN CLARK

Dear Aibileen,

That day when I picked up the random book with the charming precis, I never knew that I would find you and a story that I wouldn’t know then, but would remain with me from the moment I turned the page.


I liked sentences and words with the perfect grammar, the perfect spelling, but you had me at, “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.” Maybe you’d never know, but these three words became my strange source of solace. Perhaps, the messy part of it fell in love with the part of me that had spent a long time trying not to be messy.

I know you lost Treelore, but I also know that you did not lose a son to a loading dock or an accident. You lost a son to the worthlessness of life, the worth of a mortal life that ceased to exist the moment his skin shone darker than light. You lost him to a social construct that was conditioned to love a certain shade of skin, like the Pavlovian dog. But this was conditioning that called home; the deep trenches of thought, the dark bellies of bigotry, and the potholes of prejudice.


But I also remember the love you spoke of, for all of your white children from Alton to Mae. For you were the black woman who cradled them, mothered them and raised them. You were the black woman with seventeen children you didn’t birth. And I remember the day that you left Mae Mobley, with tears in your eyes but desperate hope in your heart because you knew that you wouldn’t survive without it, because you didn’t know if you had ever been able to stop it. “That moment that comes in every white child’s life when they start believing that coloured folks are not as good as whites.” Though I may never know if you had stopped it in Mae Mobley’s, but I can tell you that you did stop that moment, in the life of all those with skin that ain’t white, and the life of all those whose skin is. You stopped it Aibileen.

And you also created, that sense of belief, of equal dignity that perhaps you couldn’t create for yourself early on.


The book you wrote, was an act of courage that I haven’t seen in a long time, and though some may never understand its true essence. You do, for it was a manifestation of each remark you ever had to brush off, each tear that you had to hide, all of the anger you had to swallow, the pride that wasn’t acceptable for you to have and the respect that you deserved. For after all it was your voice, a voice you had once buried so deep inside that when it finally raged, everything came tumbling down.


I often saw your despair which you hid with hope because even though you realised that the fights that were fought against forces large enough to consume your being are best left alone and yet, I never once saw you give up even when I wanted you to. I saw you fight with your words, and I saw you fight with your mind and above all, I saw you fight with your heart.


Thank you Aibileen Clark for being the woman who showed me that colour is beautiful, and colour is also ugly. But colour simply exists and it is the beauty and the ugly that we create.

Yours,

Someone who’d love Minny’s chocolate pie.

PS: Not the one Miss Hilly ate.