October 11, 2017 by ingridiswriting
On privilege and the #JobsFromHell series
The poet rapping along to sick beats,
And the sweeper cleaning your streets.
I write poetry and I read a ton of books,
I’m Lin-Manuel Miranda writing the score of Hamilton,
From New York to Compton,
And all over the world,
But I don’t get shook.*
A lot of people who read my blog are progressive or moderate, though I’m sure I get readers from all walks of life and hope that their time wasted on the internet as they read my page was good for them.
I wanted to address the Jobs from hell essay series because I know this will be talked about. Even though my mother brought me to the US from El Salvador, I had a relatively privileged life compared to a lot of immigrants in my area.
Many of my friends had to do hard physical labor, work in fast food, or as line chefs, and did stuff that frankly, I never really did. Somehow, pure luck made sure I did a lot of stuff that took a toll on me mentally, but I’ve had little work experience doing anything that involves physical labor.
Even though I use the Jobs from hell series to document the difficulties I’ve faced in the job market as a millennial (I just learned I am one, ok?!), I was also raised with the idea that any job you do is a blessing. Immigrants and their first-generation children are expected to be grateful for any and all work no matter how tough, no matter how our bosses treat us, and no matter how much abuse we get emotionally, physically, and psychologically.
Most allies to immigrants even use our value to express why we should be allowed to stay in the United States, UK, or other countries. Those who are relegated to physically difficult labor are championed by lobbyists they’ll never meet as “people who came here to do the jobs no one else will do.” Well-off immigrants in the tech, entertainment, and corporate sectors are held up as role models, people who represent us in elitist echelons of society, and whom we should all aspire to be like.
It’s not to say that the American Dream isn’t a reality for people. It’s good PR and hey, some people get at least of taste of it as long as they live in the United States. But let’s cut to the chase: even academics who think they’re better than an average jornalero have no more rights as workers than they do because. If you know anything about how universities are run, academics are just fancy jornaleros who have little to no solidarity with the people they too, demean as being uneducated. (Academics are an example here).
Even if you’ve never had to work in physically demanding jobs, you can’t say that you have any solidarity with those who do because we’re all taught not to want to this hard work. The first step in losing your rights is demeaning others because they didn’t have the opportunities you aspire to get.
The United States has a history of demeaning the people we depend on every day in order to provide the services we can’t live without. So I want to put it out there that I’ve done some mental gymnastics in my day so I could get to the point at which I start to see fast food workers, farmers, and factory workers as people. And I admit that I head to teach myself this. Even parents who work in jobs we don’t respect consistently tell their kids to study, work hard, and go to college so they can work in jobs that don’t demand back-breaking physical exertion.
So those of us who have the privilege of working offices job, of having U.S. citizenship or citizenship in a rich first-world country, we’re the ones who should at the very least train ourselves every day to see ourselves as workers just like the ones that wait on us. We can’t allow politicians or other power players continue to make these distinctions between us because we’re more “educated,” than a plumber, construction worker, or seamstress. Hell, have you ever tried to fix your own plumbing, building your own house, or sewing your own clothes? It’s hard! Don’t even get me started on how hard it is to grow and pick food. It must be harder still to pick food at 3am without breaks and possibly no water, while having no job security and maybe even being surrounded by harmful chemicals.
Most freelance writers I know haven’t tried working such jobs, though there are always exceptions to these circumstances. I silently judge those who treat waiters, taxi drivers, and other service workers like crap. Though judging normally isn’t ok, I think a bit of compassion is required when dealing with workers who do these jobs. This is why it’s so important for us to educate ourselves about the conditions of factory workers all over the world and realize that everything we readily consume is undervalued and is costing us human lives. The thing you worked hard not to become is someone else’s life, and it’s our duty to remember there’s someone on the other side of the world doing what you’ll never have to. Or someone who is undocumented that’s probably next to you, scared for their life during this tumultuous times.
I can’t solve the problem. I’m just a writer that can barely get it in her to call her Members of Congress as much as I should. But what I’m saying is that maybe we’d get better at organizing ourselves in the United States if we stopped defining some jobs as “unskilled,” “low-skilled,” or “high skilled.”
We creative workers have to come up with better talking points and new anthems for our causes that conservatives can see through anyway. This is an ongoing conversation I plan to have with myself and anyone who will hear it. We can’t call out the 1% if we continue to perpetuate false divisions between ourselves as “skilled” and “unskilled” workers.
*I wrote this too.