Is the Charge that Gone With The Wind is Racist a Valid One?

Gone-With-The-Wind-2In a recent post over on Book Riot, Kit Steinkellner said she couldn’t read Gone With The Wind because it was racist. She had previously read the book when she was in middle school.

Now for the purpose of discussion, the definition of racism is poor treatment of or violence against people because of their race. That really wasn’t the story in Gone With The Wind. Margaret Mitchells epic novel won the Pulitzer Prize and gave rise to two authorized sequels and one of the most popular and celebrated movies of all time.

Steinhellner tried to show an analogous situation of how the love story of a headstrong German girl and a lower rank SS officer, told against the backdrop of the holocaust would compare to Gone With The Wind. She went on describe what the hero confessing his love for the heroine in a field of flowers in front of Auschwitz and no mention of genocide would be like.

I grew up in South Carolina in a city and state steeped in history. Many of my ancestors were soldiers in the Civil War. I can identify with Gone With The Wind. I have read the book and have seen the movie numerous times. What the author of the post fails to understand is the history of the time as depicted in the book. Slaves were absolutely dependent on their owners for food and shelter. Because of this many suffered terribly when they were freed because they had nowhere to go and didn’t know how to care for themselves. Sadly,Gone_with_the_Wind_cover their previous owners couldn’t help them because they were not in a position to do so. Slaves that worked in the house versus fields were much better off. I am definitely not supporting slavery, but I think it is important to keep things in perspective when taking a stand on a topic.

I read the book again just recently, and I still enjoy it because it is a great story of a strong determined woman who overcame suffering and hardship. In the book, one of my favorite scenes was when Rhett Butler purchased the red petticoat for Mammy, who becomes his biggest supporter.

I think you can still enjoy “classics” from other periods in history, just from a different perspective, which is okay. GWTW was published in 1936,  many years before the  Brown v. Board of Education. Mitchell didn’t bring racism into her novel most likely because authors of the time didn’t push political issues in fiction as many do today. The deep south didn’t have the civil rights movement until 30 years later.  Ten years prior to GWTW I hardly think that racism of black Americans was a big part of a woman’s political agenda since women were just getting the right to vote.

Of course, Ms. Steinkellner can be offended by the book. Her feelings are hers and valid for her only. For me I don’t see this as a racist book, just a damn good one.

What’s your opinion?

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6 thoughts on “Is the Charge that Gone With The Wind is Racist a Valid One?

  1. Great Post. I do hate it when writers without a shred of knowledge about a group of people or the area they live in or its history start shouting their new buzz word about anything to do with history.

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  2. I have to say that you can’t ignore history just because you don’t like it. Though it’s been a while since I read the book or watched the movie, I don’t remember it containing anything that could be construed as racist.

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    • My point exactly. But you can’t apply modern idealogy to a book written in another time and call it racist because it didn’t talk about what you wanted it to .

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  3. I think this is an awesome post. It’s time someone set the record straight. Bringing in the southern point of view helps one see more clearly. I know black americans who like this book. What’s not to like? Racism has nothing to do with the premise of this book.

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