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July 20, 2004

FedEx & The Instant Working Class

I'd like to fly far away from here
Where my mind is fresh and clear
And I'd find the love that I long to see
Where everybody can be what they wanna be

-- Lionel Ritchie

New blogger Negromaticus points to the boundaries of Second World employment. Recieving high marks from folks you don't respect puts one in an interesting predicament. You see the value of the System, you could invest, you could game it, you could play it off and do something else.

My brother Doc, now knocking knuckleheads for a living with the Great and Powerful Oz LAPD worked his way up the chain and finally off the chain at FedEx. Like most, he started moving boxes at the airport and found himself in the company of a statistically significant bubble of young black men. Now this was pre-riot LA and so it's difficult for me to recall whose values rubbed off on whom. But I always seem to recall that Doc was as punctual as it is humanly possible to be, and being one of my father's unpaid house elves sons, he like the rest of us had been infused with a mighty work ethic. So the tales of Negromatic are not the first time I've heard commentary on the trife, slapdash, and drama among the youngbloods at the docks.

Now in transition from Hollywood to Academia, my other brother Deet is making ends meet as a permanent part-timer at FedEx. Working just half a day, he's got full benefits for his family. What a country!

FedEx is now the Post Office that Robert Townsend was talking about in 'Hollywood Shuffle'. There's always work at FedEx. When times get tough in the labor market, their planes still fly on schedule, and there seems to always be some scutwork for the able-bodied. In that, there is a love-hate relationship for such work. You can get it if you want it, but who wants it? There's not much glamour. Ever since Biz Markie said "Nigga please, you work for UPS", we've been reminded that delivery, in the eyes of many aint too respectable. Can you hear me revving up another plug for the Second World?

Back in the dark days of 2003, I came very close to finding myself on the payroll. But since, on good days, I make in the top bracket for unemployment compensation, I got more money sitting on my butt and looking for work rather than finding it. It would have been a welcome change. Eventually I did get some blue collar employment. I own my snobbery, but I was led towards this attitude not only because of who I might be, but also because of what people thought I needed to be.

As time goes by, I see more and more clearly how much has conspired against the ambitions of blacks in my generation, and how tough it must be for those in the next. I see the angle of the soft bigotry of advanced expectations in cahoots with the arrogance of the bogard a combination of motivations that rocketed us headfirst into the glass ceiling. I think I am fortunate enough not to have stalled in my corporate career before I went entreprenuerial to experience that frustration, although in the latter Dotcom days I saw it approaching. Why must a black man be a superman just to be a man? Why can a black man just being a man be considered a boy? So much of what we get out of the fact of our gainful employment goes to signify rather than just to get us paid. We have ourselves via W.E.B. to blame, and of course we know how much others want to touch our hair.

Tangential to this the other thing that I feel I have to assert is that participation in the market requires little of us. The dignity we carry is our own and that comes from the home. There are wonderful strengths our nation has because of our willingness to take from and trade on the status a job gives, but the trade of honest work for honest pay is enough. So that means we shouldn't concern ourselves about how articulate is the basketball star. He brings his skills and he's the best in the world at that. It's enough. Let's not expect him to write poetry. He does his job, so stop signifying. Likewise, the man lifting crates at the airport ramp is doing his job. Everybody find the right way, somehow, someway, someday.

Posted by mbowen at July 20, 2004 12:24 PM

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"He does his job, so stop signifying" I like that. Like what Heidigger (sp?) said in his bio of Aristotle "The man was born, he worked, and then died."

Posted by: Cerberus at July 20, 2004 04:26 PM