Written by ZenKC on January 27, 2022
“That’s the problem with White privilege. You get to be ignorant and still command respect. Makes you White folks overestimate yourselves.”
Tobias Whale, villain “Black Lightning” TV series
As a child, adolescent, and adult, the established mainstream metaphor describing the USA is that it is a “melting pot.”
Throughout the years, I hadn’t given this “melting pot” adage much thought until I graduated from the sheltered confines of high school in 1973.
On July 31st, a little over 2 months after I graduated from high school at the age of 17, I was hired by Southwestern Bell Telephone Company. It was then that I got a taste of the real world. It was then that I realized that the “melting pot” the USA embraced, has some major cracks in it.
As the years went by, I came to the conclusion of how fallacious the USA being a “melting pot” is. Three incidents in my life helped me solidify my thinking that our country should strive more to be a stir-fry than the mundane melting pot.
The 1st incident happened when I was in my late 20’s. I was elected Executive Vice President of the Communication Workers of America (CWA) Local 6321. A union member filed a grievance based on his religion/sexuality. He recently married. SWB refused to recognize his marriage and religion. Remember this was in the early 1980s. My union member married a man. He was Wiccan. It was no surprise to me SWB was acting a fool, but I didn’t expect my Local President to be trifling as well. She was prejudiced against him being Gay and Wiccan. I wanted to use the “freedom of religious aspect.” The fact he was Gay shouldn’t matter for putting his husband as his beneficiary. SWB claimed that the marriage was illegal and Wicca was not recognized in the state of Missouri as a bona fide religion. I thought that was reason enough to take his grievance further, but I was out-ruled. The USA didn’t mean what it said on paper. Religious supremacy on display. For the next 7 years, while my office was located in Mission, Kansas (a suburb of Kansas City, Kansas) I remained in my old Local. Eventually, my office closed down and we were moved to Kansas City, Missouri which put me in a different Union local.
The 2nd incident happened around 1991. I was now located in an office in Independence, Missouri, a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri. During that time, actor/comic Robert Townsend had a popular weekly comedy sketch show on HBO. One of the sketches was a spoof on TV soap operas. It was called “The Bold, The Black, The Beautiful.” I had bought a T-shirt that on the front it said The Bold, The Black, The Beautiful. On the back, it said The Saga Continues.
On the day that I wore the shirt, I was told the office manager wanted to see me. When I sat down in her office, she proceeded to tell me I couldn’t wear this shirt to work. I immediately stopped her and said I union representation. She stopped the meeting and bought in a union steward. The meeting continued and she proceeded to tell me again I couldn’t wear my shirt to work anymore. The union steward jolted down a couple of notes. The meeting ended. My union steward waited for me in the cafeteria until I went on break. She told me, ” I know you are going to file a grievance. I replied, “Damn-skippy! Miss Thang is messing with the wrong Black man. She knows there is no dress code in the office.” Later on that day, I ran into my coworker who occasionally wears his “Proud to be Italian” t-shirt to work occasionally. I asked him has management ever said something about your shirt or told you that you can’t wear it in the office? He said ” “Never.” On the day of the grievance, my union steward reminded the office manager that there was no dress code. She agreed but proceeded she had gotten several complaints that when I wore that shirt, my personality changed, and I was acting arrogant. I turned to my steward and said out loud for the office manager to hear that it was code that I was being an “uppity nigger.” Long story, short. I won my grievance, and SWB management never spoke about my shirt again.
The third incident occurred again at my workplace. But it wasn’t management, but some of my racist coworkers who belonged to the Activity Committee. We would have special dinners at the office to celebrate special days like the holidays, St. Patrick’s Day, Cinco de Mayo, etc… Black History Month was left out. I went to the committee and suggested when February came around, we would take one day and have a special dinner with food from Africa. They complained that they knew nothing about African food. I guess they thought that would be the end of it. I let them know there was a Liberian restaurant in Kansas City, Kansas that served food from the country of Liberia which is located on the continent of Africa. I reminded them that several employees in the office are Black. The Activity Committee decided to cater food from the restaurant was too expensive, so they said the office will just have a potluck, and people can bring what they want. I said no, you will not disrespect my culture that way. I saw they were turning their nose up when I mentioned food from Africa. I stated that they watched too many old Hollywood Tarzan movies. I asked them what did they think Black folks eat. One of the members of the committee was Latina, but she was nothing but an ass-kissing pocha. she went along with the Activity Committee. I figured if they disrespected her culture, she would have remained quiet. On the day of the potluck, I took a vacation day. I bought the owner of the Liberian restaurant to work with catered food I paid for myself. She set it up in the cafeteria. She bought Liberian-style collard greens, Liberian-style fish, cornbread, potato salad, peach cobbler, and tropical iced tea. Most of the office flocked to my table and didn’t partake in the office potluck. When folks found out I paid for the feast with my own money, they donated money to me. I didn’t ask them for donations. The moral of the story, those hookers were not going to dictate how we were going to celebrate Black History Month. A melting pot my ass. Those 3 incidents proved to me that this melting pot dream is null and void.
Now let’s fast forward to the 21st Century. The hostility being shown to Non-White Americans and Americans belonging to other marginalized groups has come out of the closet and has become mainstream because of White fear/supremacy from some White Americans. the main reason is that the face of the USA is becoming browner and browner. GOP Regressives are working overtime to make sure they are in charge of everything either by hook or crook. Progressives do not have the luxury to sit idly by or be apathetic. A lot of people are. They feel that the problems we are experiencing affect only us and not them. COVID should have taught you that politics affects your everyday life whether you like it or not. MAGA cult members realize that and are being active. They are running for local and state elections as well as Federal. We have to work as hard and smart as well to prevent our freedoms/rights from being taken away. It is not my job to make racists/bigots feel comfortable.
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