Monday, November 21, 2016

That Woman In Front Of Me At Freddy's This Morning

So I'm standing in line at Freddy's really stressing about healthcare. I have to cancel some of my insurance and appointments because I can't afford them, and I have to go back to work because retirement doesn't pay. I found out that fixing one toothache now costs more than a funeral, and I'm thinking about what that means. We live to work in order to live and that's crazy.

But, anyway, I'm standing in line with my stuff at Freddy's. I'm thinking how I'm mad about healthcare and how I can't afford the chicken and pomegranates I want and I'm looking at those magazines at the checkout stand that are all about the joys and drama of being white. You know the ones---they show brides and homes and stars in various states of ecstasy and collapse. I just want to get out of there.

And there are two Hispanic kids in front of me with some groceries. They are probably 8 or 10 years old. The checkout person isn't moving. The kids are anxious. Mom shows up with some candy she went to get, and I can see in her eyes that she's just so happy to get something for her kids and I can see by her hands that she works hard and I can see by her hair and shoulders that she's prematurely old, like 28 going on 60. I know that maybe because I'm a worker, too.

The daughter is translating for her mom. The milk costs too much, it was on sale last week, not this week. The checker, a union member, is patient. Mom says that they can do the vegetables but they can't do the milk. The mother looks into her purse and does that quick calculation and tells her daughter again to tell the checkout person that they can't do the milk, put it back, please.

So I interrupt and tell the daughter and the checkout person that I'll buy the milk. Mom thinks I'm upset, and I am, but it has nothing to do with her. I'm angry because she can't afford milk and neither of us can afford healthcare. No, I say, I'm getting the milk. And I try to explain in broken Spanish which becomes Italian and Turkish because I'm fumbling with words that it's okay, that my family were immigrants once and we're both workers and that this is solidarity, not charity. Don't worry.

Mom is embarrassed. I'm embarrassed and angry. The daughter smiles and thanks me. They leave.

So I'm walking back to my car and I think, damn, before four years are up that woman is going to need a lot more than milk from me. And every headline I'm seeing today tells me that that is so. And how symbolic is it that I get to worry about healthcare, chicken and pomegranates and she's dealing with milk?

This is not a post about me or my needs or me being a nice white guy. None of that works.

This is not a post about the white, Anglo-Saxon and protestant ethic that says that that mom should have taken back the candy and bought the milk. Most kids like sweets, most moms want to provide for their kids and see them smile, we have no business interfering when that happens and shaming a family.

This is a post that says that we need to prepare for real forms of resistance and sanctuary based on a conscious organizing strategy that intersects race with class and gender. Working-class people will recognize one another and can help one another, but we need the solidarity and encouragement to do it across race and national lines. Keep picking up the milk for those women with the kids, keep explaining that it's solidarity, and don't do it because it makes you feel good---do it because it's absolutely needed. But what we really need right here and right now is help making that a journey of solidarity and turning solidarity into resistance and turning resistance into winning. Milk and healthcare for all are pretty good demands to start with. It can happen. It has to, right?

1 comment:

  1. Agreed, but I'm not sure what form that resistance should take. When people march and wave signs for a few hours, they feel solidarity, but then what? I think what's needed more than anything are political victories. There will be a mid-term election in 2 years, and it's typical for more than 60% of the electorate to not participate in mid-terms. How do we engage the disengaged?