“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite."
- Nelson Mandela
Racism and discrimination has been a never ending issue that people prefer to sweep under the rug. There’s been a stereotype that all races are far more superior over African Americans. Jodi Picoult proves this stereotype to be false in her novel called Small Great Things. This novel is about an African American labor and delivery nurse named Ruth Jefferson who must deal with discrimination when she is charged with a serious crime after disobeying orders and performs CPR to save the baby of two white supremacists. Her lawyer, a white, Kennedy McQuarrie tells Ruth that her race will not help her in court. The novel follows Ruth’s life of battling with racism and discrimination to save her name and reputation.
Mandela’s quote symbolizes the idea that everyone is able to learn to love, racism is not something you are born with. This idea is significant because it proves that not everyone discriminates based on race or skin color, there are people out there with open hearts and minds. Mandela explains that no one comes into the world with racist beliefs, you are taught that type of hate as you grow up. But if you are taught to hate, that doesn’t mean you can’t learn to love and learn the idea of accepting others.
This thematic idea is present throughout Small Great Things, specifically in the beginning of the story when Ruth witnesses the birth of a child of a family her mom is a maid/nanny for. The family happens to be white, and they name their child after Ruth’s mom since she helped deliver their child since the ambulance didn’t arrive in time. “When I tell people this story, they assume the miracle I am referring to during that long-ago blizzard was the birth of a baby. True, that was astonishing. But that day I witnessed a greater wonder. As Christina held my hand and Ms.Mina held Mama’s, there was a moment-one heartbeat, one breath-where the differences in schooling and money and skin color evaporated like mirages in a desert. Where everyone was equal, and it was just one woman, helping another”(Picoult,12) showcases the idea that the world is not filled with racists people. There are people out there who don’t care about skin color or race. This quote also presents the idea that you are either taught to love or hate. Christina, who is 6 and the opposite race of Ruth, still treats Ruth just like family and doesn’t see her differently one bit. The relationship between Ruth and Christina show that not everyone discriminates and that love can be taught just as easily as hate can be taught.
“I tell them that there is nothing more selfish than trying to change someone’s mind because they don’t think like you. Just because something is different does not mean it should not be respected”(Picoult, 165) symbolizes a thematic idea that just because someone doesn’t share the same views as you, it does not give you a right to reform them to agree with you. This idea is expressed throughout the story because the white supremacists in the story try to alter the public’s view on Ruth instead of looking at her through their own opinion and for who she really is despite her skin color.
The scene from The Help illuminates all the quotes because the picture symbolizes the idea of no discrimination and hence the relationship bonded from the idea of love. The fact that both women in the picture are able to enjoy and withstand each other's presence, shows that when love is taught, and not hate, you are able to enjoy the simplistic aspects of life without judgement. In this scene, there is a black woman who is a maid and you have a white woman who is a housewife, two people of opposite ends on the spectrum, yet their differences don’t seem to stop them from maintaining a relationship out of love. The movie itself is based on the idea of racism and discrimination, but the thematic idea that is presented throughout both the film and novel, is that love conquers hate.