Meanwhile, On TumblR: English As A Language of Conquest And Two Stories of Employment And Race

By Andrea Plaid

Via www.goodreads.com.

Via www.goodreads.com.

Racializens, my Feminist Wire cohort Monica Torres wants to extend her deepest appreciation for all of you loving the hell out of her excerpted post about the meaning of being an Latina who’s an English major:

I’m an English major. It is a language of conquest.

What does it say that I’m mastering the same language that was used to make my mother feel inferior? Growing up, I had a white friend who used to laugh whenever my mother spoke English, amused by the way she rolled her r’s. My sister and I tease Mami about her accent too, but it’s different when we do it, or is it? The echoes of colonization linger in my voice. The weapons of the death squads that pushed my mother out of El Salvador were U.S.-funded. When Nixon promised, “We’re going to smash him!” it was said in his native tongue, and when the Chilean president he smashed used his last words to promise, “Long live Chile!” it was said in his. And when my family told me the story of my grandfather’s arrest by the dictatorship that followed, my grandfather stayed silent, and meeting his eyes, I cried, understanding that there were no words big enough for loss.

English is a language of conquest. I benefit from its richness, but I’m not exempt from its limitations. I am ‘that girl’ in your English classes, the one who is tired of talking about dead white dudes. But I’m still complicit with the system, reading nineteenth-century British literature to graduate.

Of course, y’all also gave quite a bit of love to Racialicious Crush alum Scot Nakagawa (again!) regarding his reasons as to why he’s critical of yet supports marriage equality:

What appears to be leading to this “success” with young conservatives points to another of my concerns. By presenting LGB (I’ll leave off the “t” here) people as basically conservative in our demands, the most mainstream faction within the LGB movement is subtly positioning us as a model minority. And it’s working. Where once attacks against LGB people relied heavily on messaging that mirrored prejudices historically used against people of color (morally debased sexual predators and criminals seeking anti-American special rights), LGB people are increasingly understood to be all-American and fundamentally non-threatening. The sales job basically seems to revolve around the idea that if you let us in, nothing really changes. And, based on the demands at the center of this agenda, this is, to a degree, true.

Also troubling is my sense that the current strategies ignore something about marriage rights that ought to be obvious to anyone excluded from them, especially when that group is arguing that being excluded has real, material consequences. That is, that we are arguing to be able to use marriage as a shield against wrongs that no one, regardless of sexual orientation or marital status, should suffer. No loved one should be excluded from survivors benefits and pensions, end of life decision-making, hospital visitation, and the many other family rights reserved for married couples. And when we argue that being able to wield this shield is a right we deserve because we conform with the values of good people, that shield can become a weapon against those who are still excluded.

Finally, two stories about Black people and unemployment got a bit of attention on the R’s Tumblr. One story was about how a Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) in Tupelo, MS, fired Eunice Jasica, an African American woman, after the franchise owner found out she was homeless–and theWTF excuse he gave for firing her:

Eunice Jasica has been staying at the Salvation Army lodge since early December after losing her job, her car and her home.

The nonprofit organization requires its residents to seek employment daily and, upon finding it, to pay for lodging and start saving for a place of their own. Jasica said she had been job hunting for months and was relieved to find work on March 11 at the KFC on North Gloster Street.

A document signed by that location’s general manager on March 12 confirms Jasica had been hired to perform “prep work” and would receive a paycheck every two weeks.

But when Jasica reported for duty Monday, franchise owner Chesley Ruff withdrew the job offer upon learning she lived at the Salvation Army.

“He told me to come back when I had an address and transportation,” Jasica recalled. “But how am I supposed to get all that without a job?”

Ruff signed a letter the same day stating he couldn’t employ her “due to concerns of lack of residence and transportation” and that she could reapply when her circumstances change.

On Thursday, though, Ruff said he’d only used the homeless excuse to protect Jasica from the real reason he declined her services: She has no prior food-prep experience and seemed too elderly to lift the 40-pound boxes involved in kitchen work.

Jasica is 59 years old and had worked 27 years as a bus driver and also did security for Bloomingdale’s. She attends classes at Itawamba Community College when she’s not job hunting.

And this last story can go under, “You Thought So, And Now You Know,” about white privilege, racism, and the distribution of employment “favors” in this economy:

So white Americans tell a neighbor’s son about a job, hire a friend’s daughter, carry the resume of a friend (or, for that matter, a friend’s boyfriend’s sister) into the boss’s office, recommend an old school mate or co-worker for an unadvertised opening, or just say great things about that job applicant whom they happen to know. But since most Americans, white and black, live virtually segregated lives, and since advantages, privileges and economic progress have already accrued in favor of whites, the additional advantages that flow from this help go almost exclusively to whites, DiTomaso said.

DiTomaso’s work does confirm that networks — not just the kind you build over awkward conversations, finger foods and watered-down cocktails but the kind you’re born into — matter, Austin said. It also points to just how different forms of inequality feed one another. Family-and-friends segregation feeds job and income inequality. That in turn feeds neighborhood and school segregation. That then leaves some kids less likely to receive a quality education and escape from the cycle, he said.

It’s not that black workers don’t attempt the same sort of job assists within their own networks, said Deirdre Royster, an economic sociologist at New York University and author of Race and the Invisible Hand: How White Networks Exclude Black Men From Blue Collar Jobs.

African Americans ask neighbors, significant others, the significant others of neighbors, relatives and friends about open jobs, too. But since black unemployment rates were far higher than white rates before, during and after the recession, the number of people in a typical black social network who are in a position to help is far more limited.

According to Royster, there’s an additional twist: When blacks are aware of a job, they describe the job, the boss, the company and its preferences and needs. Then they follow up with a warning.

“They give the person looking for a job all sorts of information and then they say, ‘But don’t tell them I sent you,’” said Royster.

Black workers are aware of something that researchers are still trying to explain: White bosses often worry, lack of statistical evidence aside, that black workers are more likely to sue them or band together in the workplace and try to change things, Royster said. That seems all the more likely if the black workers already know one another, she said. And many white hiring managers still assume, consciously or unconsciously, that black workers bring undesirable workplace habits and qualities, Royster said.

Check out the other readables on the R’s Tumblr!

 

  • http://twitter.com/MoniFierce Monica Torres

    Thanks for all the love, Andrea! The biggest kick of my week was seeing my words reblogged by people and organizations I love and admire. When my friend told me she saw me on the R’s tumblr, we both went, ‘!!!!’

    • jallands

      Monica, I really loved your piece. You are so eloquent, and you described some issues I hadn’t really thought of much. Thank you so much.