Sucking the mop

Richard Pryor didn’t much like Chevy Chase, and he probably wasn’t fond of the rest of us honky-honkies either.

Anyone besides me find it ironic that black Americans have taken on yet another shit job — cleaning up the mess that white folks have made of this country?

The place is definitely a fixer-upper. Not exactly that “shining city upon a hill” that ol’ Death Valley Dutch babbled about as he rode off into the sunset. Even the neighborhood slumlords are giving it the side-eye, grumbling about property values.

Plus the people who wrecked it are still living in it. Hell, they still own it. Stripping the dump like a chop shop parting out a hot car, too. Selling everything, furniture to appliances, bathroom fixtures to copper wire. You want to watch your step when they start pulling up the hardwood floors. Take a header into the basement en route to mopping the crapper and they’ll sic the dogs on you for trespassing.

I was a janitor a couple times. Once after breaking a window in my junior high school, and again after dropping out of college. Spend a little time cleaning up after entitled white folks and you will get good and tired of them and their bullshit, even if you’re entitled white folks yourself.

Thing is, entitled white folks who are pretend hippies playing janitor can always go back to college. Get a haircut and a career. Drop back in, start being part of the problem again.

It’s harder to quit being black, though. Or so I’ve heard.

For quite a while now I’ve been trying to write something thoughtful about the ongoing upheaval, but as entitled white folks I don’t feel qualified. Plus, as regulars here know, I was not, am not, and never will be smart.

As a sprout I was so dumb that I bought the whole “E pluribus unum” bit, all that melting-pot hogwash. Never noticed the asterisk referring to the fine print (*Whites only). It took a good long while for me to realize that a lot of the folks stoking the fire, washing the pot, and mopping the deck had to come and go by the back door while I was digging their music up front.

I didn’t even figure out that my old man was a racist until I was in high school. This is either a testament to his efforts to conceal his bias for fear of passing it on to us kids or more evidence that I was a self-absorbed little prick who didn’t notice much outside the confines of his own skull.

Eventually I caught on, though. And I suppose this means that anybody can, given enough time and patience.

But corporate America’s mad dash to “woke” marketing notwithstanding, it seems to me that white Americans are running out of the former, while black Americans have long since exhausted their supply of the latter. They haven’t given up on the place, the way so many of us have, but this time they’re not just cleaning it up for the white folks.

Just ask Charles M. Blow at The New York Times:

It is exhausting and infuriating and maddening to be forced to fight, always, for what for others is free. It enrages, when you realize that you’re still fighting the same fight that your parents fought, and that their parents fought.

It is an everyday struggle to neither fall into despair nor explode in anger.

So, these people are in the streets, having their moment and having their say. And America would do well to listen and not try to silence them or soothe them.

In fact, America listening and responding to these protests, respecting them, is one of the healthiest things the country can do, because as protester Kimberly Latrice Jones said at the end of her viral video, “They are lucky that what black people are looking for is equality and not revenge.”

• Extra-Credit Bonus Reading: Jon Stewart has popped back up to say a few smart things, and just in time, too. He’s written and directed a film, “Irresistible,” which debuts on June 26. But in his chat with David Marchese at The New York Times Magazine, he talks about much more than that.

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18 Responses to “Sucking the mop”

  1. carl duellman Says:

    well said

  2. Pat O'Brien Says:

    John Oliver and Kimberly Jones said it all and said it best. I can’t add anything to that. Add in zero federal leadership, and you have one hot mess.

  3. khal spencer Says:

    I’m with you on fixing what is broken, which is a lot, but I don’t buy into the self-flagellation part that the liberal elite demands of itself. No one let me pick my parents and God knows, they both had a hell of a lot of factory recalls before they finally got that final celestial recall. I have a broken nose from one of my stepdad’s temper tantrums and inherited my mom’s inability to trust anyone. Think I mentioned some of that before.

    So I can certainly sympathize with and support The Cause, but I don’t think the SJW folks on Twitter et al are doing the cause any favors by shaming people and demanding I buy their book. And I don’t aim that at you, boss.

    I always had the choice of getting ahead or not, did my summer as a janitor serving assholes and watching the maid staff work itself to death. Spent a year wearing a security guard uniform and being pissed on by privileged professionals. Funny thing about that. The nurses treated us well and the doctors shit on our heads. Meena asked me once why I tip generously even for iffy service and vote progressive even though at heart I am a gun-toting redneck. I told her it’s because I was once on the bottom floor of the two story outhouse and know the smell.

    I’ve never had to deal with having to jump that one extra very hard to jump hoop just because of the color of my skin and can’t imagine what that must be like. Maybe go back and re-read Black Like Me. That kind of racist shit definitely has to end and the economic dead end game that goes with it. Part I of that trilogy has to start in November and Parts II and III may take a lot longer.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      I don’t think I do the self-flagellation bit. I do recognize that while I wasn’t born on third base, thinking I’d hit a triple, I did get the walk to first.

      The folks were born in 1918 and ’24, endured the Great Depression and WWII (“The Big One”), and never got further than a high-school diploma despite an abundance of natural smarts. As a consequence they were cheapskates who prized education, and saw to it that we got what we needed (not everything we wanted) and plenty of book-larnin’, including free rides to college.

      We lived in nice houses (especially on Randolph AFB, where the officers’ housing was tip-top). The neighborhoods were all pretty monochromatic, though, so I never really got to meet and hang around with any people of color until I got to college.

      Then I was off into newspapering, and holy shit, the only whiter gig on earth would have been doing PR for the Klan. I can count the number of black people I worked with on one hand and have fingers left over. Gays likewise. Brown people were a bit more common in the newsroom, since the bulk of the papers I worked for were in Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico.

      Cycling? Hee, and also haw. The only thing whiter than the activity was the people who wrote about it.

      This is probably why I don’t feel confident addressing racial issues. I don’t have much personal experience. All I have is the bullheaded notion that everybody should have the same opportunities that I did. But a lot of kids never even get inside the ballpark. That’s got to change.

      • khal spencer Says:

        Well said. Or said well. Or something like that.

        When we moved out of Buffalo in 1962, I spent the next 25 years in lily-white locations and put being an inner city kid behind me. The U of Rochester was the epitome of white privilege with students, primarily honky, from upscale parts of the Northeast. My roommate freshman year was a Jewish kid who graduated from More Science High (Bronx High School of Science). Eastern Long Island was about as white but with far more rednecks. The sciences at Stony Brook were pretty honky except for immigrant students, who were generally the privileged of their nations.

        Moving to Honolulu was a paradigm shift of sorts, being the first time as an adult I was in a multicultural location. Learned two things real fast. One, not to judge a book by the color of its cover and two, that if a white guy from Upstate Neew Yawrk were to insult a native Hawaiian, one could end up drinking lunch through a straw for a while. I managed to avoid that but did see the animosity in others. If someone asked if you wanted beef, it was not a lunch invitation.

        Cycling was segregated by class, not color. If you had the greenbacks, you were in like flint. The bike racing teams were pretty integrated.

        I don’t know shit about racial issues except that the situation is all fucked up. My periodic visits to Buffalo show that Whitey has created a wealthy renaissance on the West side while the East side, where I was a kid, looks like a set for a movie about the homelands in S. Africa. When people talk about reparations, what I see is a Marshall Plan for areas like East Buffalo. And I don’t mean just changing the name of Public School 39, where I went to school for K-2nd, to the M.L. King Multicultural Institute #39. It means black kids lives count, and they should have the same resources anyone else does. You and I had ninety feet between the bases. Most of them would be lucky if its less than 120.

      • SAO' Says:

        Colorado …the most diverse bunch of whites people you’ll ever see.

  4. khal spencer Says:

    Oh, and in case anyone missed it. Three cheers for CJ Roberts and Neil Gorsuch for doing the right thing.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Also, and too: The Supremes rule that immigrant sanctuary laws are valid.

      • khal spencer Says:

        Interesting. Both Gorsuch and Kavanaugh kicked Orange Hitler to the curb on that one. Time for the Orange Fuehrer to retreat to his bunker and wait for the elections to smoke him out.

        Kimberly Latrice Jones’ comment reminded me of one by LBJ during the sixties riots: “What did you expect? I don’t know why we’re surprised. When you put your foot on a man’s neck and hold him down for 300 years, and then you let him up, what’s he going to do? He’s going to knock your block off.”

  5. BruceM Says:

    Patrick, You may not be, or ever will be smart, but for an ex-hippie (Okay, perhaps not ex?) your writing holds its own with any appearing on the inner-tube today. Your insight isn’t too bad either!

    • Pat O'Brien Says:

      Bruce, I agree. He should be getting the big money for his writing, and it should have a much wider audience.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Thanks, Bruce. It may not surprise you that I had Matthew 25:40 in mind while writing that one.

      Paddy me lad, I count myself fortunate to be right where I am. I got to earn a respectable living and have a bunch of fun, and now I’m at liberty to do pretty much whatever I please.

      One of the dailies I used to work for is down to eight staffers in the newsroom, and three of them are on furlough this week, which leaves the honcho with just two reporters. Back in the Day® we used to have twice that many guys on the copy desk.

  6. khal spencer Says:

    Onate comes down in a front end loader.

  7. JD Dallager Says:

    General comment on all the above by Anonymous: “What we do not understand, we fear. What we fear, we judge as evil. What we judge as evil, we attempt to control. What we cannot control … we attack.” Author unknown.

    Mark Twain: “History doesn’t repeat itself; but it often rhymes.”

    Wanna live to be 150? NO THANKS! 🙂

  8. Herb from Michigan Says:

    It’s been 49 years! since I was chairman of a bi-racial committee in my “integrated” high school. Team White were all honor roll students and headed for college. Team Black were mostly very vocal and disgruntled black men who were headed someplace but it wasn’t college. Absolutely nothing was accomplished. Zero understanding and same goes for 49 years later. I was the only Team White member that had any remote idea what was making the black dudes so angry. They were totally getting the Shaft looong before the movie came out. But my white counterparts didn’t see it that way. All they saw was anger and threats without bothering to think about WHY.
    I thought Obama’s two terms would produce more diversity but I thought wrong. Outside of the White House (name seriously needs to be changed) the same cast of characters continued to mine the depths of human cruelty to better themselves at the cost of any/all. Sigh…..we won’t be solving racism any time soon and that’s a fact.

  9. B Lester Says:

    Fuck this.

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