I was surprised how many people responded to the posting on my What Will Matter Facebook page. It was a picture and quote from Aibileen Clark, a black maid in the movie The Help: “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.” I added this line: “Grammar doesn’t matter nearly as much as the sentiment – one that every parent and every teacher should express to every child.” Still, many comments focused, sometimes with outrage, on the grammar. The statement was made by a poor black maid with almost no formal education. The point was the sentiment and her insight that the white child she was caring for needed affirmation.
Ignorant people can be both wise and kind and they are worthy of respect for the qualities they have, not contempt for those they lack. I think we should separate our desire that people teach and learn proper rules of grammar from an ability to appreciate simple wisdom and compassion, and not be so judgmental of the person.
I view Aibileen as a heroic figure. I’d guess she would have loved to have had the education to teach her to talk good. (Grammarians, don’t flip out — I did that on purpose.)