Thursday, May 31, 2012

White Guilt

We had our sidewalks and front steps replaced last week.  The crew of workers was made up entirely of Hispanic men.  A white man was in charge.  The Hispanic men avoided eye contact, spoke very little English, and worked from sun up til sun down.  The white man sat in his truck, talked on his cell phone, and walked around watching the other men work.  It was brutal to witness.

I felt so guilty sitting in my nice comfy house, watching these poor guys perform this back-breaking labor in the heat.  I also felt guilty knowing that we went with the cheapest place, and that these guys couldn't possibly be making a lot of money.

I don't really know where I am going with this post.  I just had this sick feeling in my stomach while they were working, and a week later, I still can't shake the feeling.


allyk said...

Boy, can I relate to this. My husband is a landscape contractor. He's white. His guys are all Hispanic except for one white guy. He pays them well over the minimum wage and gives them cell phones and trucks to drive and treats them well but even knowing all this I still have guilt when he has them do a project at our house. I offer them food and they say no. In ten years, I've fed them once. I'm Italian, from NJ, so that's a rough one for me. My husband will work in his office if he's not working with them and I've often scolded him and told him it wasn't right. He said if he isn't making calls and seeing no customers he won't be able to keep them working. Many times they have worked for us when there was no work because he has intense guilt about them missing any days. I find myself torn between wanting to help them and wanting to not have to scrimp on things myself. Ugh. Such a complicated issue. Sorry to go on and on.

antropologa said...

I remember this issue. I'm glad to be away from it now I'm in such an egalitarian society, though it's still a very common job for an immigrant here to clean or do manual labor.

For what it's worth, most of my students in the US were Hispanic laborers like you had working for you. And they said they were grateful to have the work.

amanda said...

it's so hard isn't it?

it's just the worst feeling.