I don’t put too much stock in those myths of the house and slave negro dichotomy. It is so neat. So cut and dry. It suggests that the ones that went inside, cooking in master’s kitchen or drawing his bath, were compromised by their proximity. They are painted as the betrayer.
Closeness often came with a set of dangers all their own. The isolation, the unwanted attention. Assault, sexual and otherwise. In the house they cloaked themselves with smiles and pleasantries. This wasn’t out of acceptance. It was a survival tactic.
When I saw this I thought of the anger that lurks within every oppressed person. Aunt Jamima is the quintessential house negress; so much so that she still occupies space in our cabinets and fridges. But her plump cheeks and pleasant smile mask her true self. Blindness has never been an aspect of her archetype. And even the most skilled actress shows her true self.
No role ever lasts forever. And when it’s done, one still remembers the pain of smiling when a swift slap or a hidden knife would be more fitting.