Speaking of Alabama

One of the things that bugs me about the whole “undocumented workers” issue is that there’s a side to the “they do jobs Americans won’t do” that really bothers me. It’s how the rhetoric on the side of undocumented workers also starts to sound racist–“they’ are just capable of working harder, longer. Like “they” aren’t quite human, because “they” have stamina “we” just don’t have.

This is one of the things I suspect about the United States. We’re a very young country, still, founded on a belief in self-reliance in principal, but in actuality, shit rolls downhill. In reality, we were and are set up like a pyramid, socially, and the further up you are, the more people under you that you expect to do things for you. A man in 1850 might have had nothing but a sod house and a wife, but he expected his wife to put in a lot of labor for his benefit. A farmer’s wife in 1850 might have had to take a lot of shit from her husband, but she could heap a lot of shit on her household slaves. House slaves, when they got the opportunity, heaped on field slaves.

Hell, Reconstruction was undermined basically on the principal that black men and northern whites were going to start heaping on white southerners.

And I feel like it’s this shit-heaping that we’ve never stopped to analyze. We all know slavery is bad, that segregation is wrong, that you shouldn’t beat your wife, blah blah blah.

But did we ever step back and say “We are not owed someone else’s cheap or free labor”? And believe it? I’m not sure.

I saw this picture this morning and I was reminded of just how much of this state and this country was built on the backs of people who worked for free under terrible conditions, building shit they were never going to get to live in, picking shit they were not going to profit from.

But, you know, except for craftsmen, we don’t make brick by hand anymore.

So why do we still pick produce by hand? Oh, no, I know. We don’t have machines that can pick it as efficiently as people can. But we’re paying those people shit wages for back-breaking labor they perform under incredibly harsh weather and social conditions. We’re not actually owed the labor of people we want to shit on.

So, it seems to me that either we need to sit down and innovate some fucking farm equipment or we need to stop shitting on the people who will do the work.

And then we need to learn from our history and be better.

4 thoughts on “Speaking of Alabama

  1. Have you closed your Regions bank account yet? Since, according to the new Alabama law, they can’t do business with people who can’t provide proof of citizenship, refusing to do business with *them* is probably the easiest way to send a very clear message.

    (n.b. Of course I don’t know if you have a Regions bank account, as all of our transactions have been completed with sweet, sweet cash.)

  2. Over at Ta-Nehisi’s place, he posted a link to a Susan B. Anthony speech recently. The actual transcription of the speech was suckily full of typos, which was distracting, but the content of the speech was incredible.

    She makes the point that “The law of capital is to extort the greatest amount of work for the least amount of money; the rule of labor is to do the smallest amount of work for the largest amount of money. Hence there is, and in the nature of things must continue to be, antagonism between the two classes; therefore, neither should be left wholly at the mercy of the other.” Which speaks to the fundamental unfairness of the disenfranchisement of whoever is having to be the labor at a given time, and is completely applicable to the Alabama situation, IMO.

    Link (with typos) is here: http://www.thespeeches.com/susan_b_anthony4.html

  3. I saw the story yesterday about the deli owner in Alabama who received threats after complaining that his documented workers were leaving Alabama out of fear, and that he couldn’t get anyone to replace them. I was horrified by how crazy the wingnuts went after him. Then I read further in the story about how he tried to hire others “for $8 an hour” but they wouldn’t stay.

    That might explain it. The employers complaining about this always have the option of paying workers what their labor is actually worth, rather than exploiting immigrants who won’t complain for fear of deportation.

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