Friday, June 15, 2018

A Rant About Privilege

I saw a political ad yesterday that really annoyed me.

OK, yeah, all political ads annoy me. All politics annoy me, more or less, and as I've said multiple multiple times I have no political home. I hate all the parties. I would call myself an Independent, but that seems to put me in the same group with Gary Johnson, who looks pretty in a well-made suit but could not name a single current foreign leader.

Still, this one was amazingly bad. It was pretty much the definition of Privilege used to claim that someone was not privileged. It's someone running for Governor of Tennessee. I didn't catch his name, but I'll look for it next time so I remember not to vote for him.

Starts out, "When I was eight years old, I went to work in a factory my father owned for one dollar an hour."

Let's unpack that.

By the time he was eight years old, his father owned a factory.

As the owner of the factory, his father felt able to flaunt child-labor laws and nominally "hire" his son. (Since 1916, no one under age 14 is allowed to work in any kind of non-agricultural job.) At 8 years old, the boy wasn't really working, or he was being put in harm's way. You'd better bet the other factory workers, who weren't the boss's son, were having to keep an eye on him. Joy.

One dollar an hour was minimum wage from 1952-1960, which is when I'm guessing this was. It was on par with what teenage workers would get.

Next sentence is something like, "I paid for college by operating an injection machine." (Photograph of factory floor.)


He went to college. So, beginning work at age 8 didn't disrupt his education, which means it was after school or in summertime.

Someone paid him enough while he was in high school, working at most nights/summers, that it covered his college tuition bill. So, probably not talking minimum wage.

Look, my husband went to work when he was young, first mowing the grass at the business his dad and grandpa owned, then working in the eyeglass lab as a teen. It was a skilled job and he worked hard; he didn't fool around, he put in the hours. But everyone else in the lab was a full-time long-term employee. The only reason there was room for him in the summertime is because he was the boss's son. It doesn't mean he didn't work. It means getting the job in the first place was for him a function of privilege.

Imagine some poor ill-dressed black teenager showing up at that factory, wanting to work part-time for enough money to pay his tuition. Not as likely he'd be hired, is it?

Then there was more blathering, followed by some kind of dreck about people who don't know how to work and live off welfare.

I know there are people in this country who don't know how to work, or, if they do know, don't care to exercise that knowledge. I know some people scam disability or anything else they can. I work in social justice a couple of hours a week and I am neither naive or stupid.

However. "Welfare" has not existed in this country for twenty years now. What we have are federal housing assistance, food assistance, Medicare, disability payments, and that's about it. There's something called Temporary Aid To Needy Families (TANF) which is a cash payment like the old type of welfare checks. A person is limited to five years lifetime or two years in a row, and I've never seen a monthly benefit of over 250 dollars.

Sometime soon I'll post another blog about starting from the bottom. What offended the hell out of me regarding that ad is that the man running seemed entirely oblivious to the fact that much of his life turned out so well because he started at the top.

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