My last post was about domestic help in Lebanon; and funnily enough few days later I went to see The Help, an amazing movie on black domestic help in white suburban America in the 60’s. Their feelings and stories told by a white young lady who is aspiring to become a journalist. Very touching scenes, emotional moments and strong feelings.
Beside an amazing cast and wonderful playing, the film stroke me because it relates to a problem that still exists in Lebanon, and 50 years later, domestic help is still mistreated, disrespected and dealt with as 2nd and 3rd class citizens.
I remember one incident, a year ago, at Beirut Airport, while waiting for our help Chandra to arrive from her 2 months vacation in Nepal. All foreign help were ushered through the arrival hall by an officer and arrogantly shoved into a small room, where they would wait for their employer to pick them up. One of the girls wanted to use the toilets, she was taken by another women, who seemed to be the cleaning lady. I followed them wanting to wash my hands. The minute the cleaning lady saw me, she started shouting at the girl telling her to hurry up and leave the place for me. I replied saying it was ok, i could wait for my turn. Poor girl, she must have been waiting for a while. The cleaning lady ( of Lebanese origins) looked surprised and said: ” Madam you shouldn’t be nice to them, they don’t deserve it, they are dirty and ignorant”. Angered and shocked i replied that these people have left every thing behind to come and clean our toilets, so the least we could do is show some respect and treat them well”.
I don’t think the cleaning lady would reflect on what i said, she is limited in her thinking and probably in her world, foreign help are from a lower class and do not deserve to be treated as equals.
My wish for the future is that we teach our children that people are people, no matter where thy come from, what they do for a living and what colour skin or religious background they have. Kindness and respect are important values and should be the base of any relationship.
Meanwhile, go and watch the movie. It is a good one!