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If you’re one of the elite, or feel entitled to be elite without lifting a finger or breaking a sweat–but you’re not elite so obviously someone is keeping you down, oppressing you and rigging the game so that you cannot reach the exalted status to which you aspire, you have the luxury of believing in systemic racism.
If you work, you don’t care who is on your crew, as long as that person can get the job done.
Not 10 minutes ago, I finished reading and then commenting on Gary McVey’s (@garymcvey) outstanding post on Henry Ford and Nazism. Then, a couple minutes before it was time to call The Lovely and Talented Mrs. Mongo, I went outside to finish my drink and fortify myself with some nicotine. When I’m on the road, whether CONUS or overseas, from the time I step foot outside the house for the trip, until the time I shuffle back in with my suitcase and computer bag, everything negative that happens on the home front is my fault. I get it. I got it. I’ve learned how to telephonically roll with the punches. Still, my worst trips are the CONUS trips, because I can’t claim I was in a location where there was no cell coverage or landlines. No cover story for not calling, so suck it up, Cupcake.
To ensure I’m the best Mongo I can be, I ensure I’m in the right frame of mind to make the call and have the conversation and not get impatient about things that I consider irrelevant and make the fatal error of saying something akin to, “Got it, move on.” See, that’s bad marital decision-making. Better to patiently listen and, as/when appropriate make sounds like “Mm-hmm,” “Uh-huh,” and “tsk-tsk.” Also, I don’t have one big superpower, but I have several little ones. One of which is the ability to let my mind wander, during the conversation, over the things I need to do the next day of the trip, the things I need to do upon my return home, how best to echelon the tasks I have coming up.
The mini-superpower is, when I get the inevitable “You’re not listening to me!” I can recite the last five minutes of the conversation verbatim, even though, yeah, I wasn’t listening. Move over, Iron Man.
But as I walked outside, there were members of a crew pitching quarters outside the side door of the La Quinta Inn I’m at.
If you’re the manager of a construction site, and you’ve got a requirement for a surge of skilled, scheduled labor, you often import a crew. Then you put them up at a local, livable but slightly seedy (hey, never lose sight of King Bottom Line) hotel like my beloved Miami La Quinta so that they can lay the pipe, do the wiring, plumb the project.
I’ve noted over the last couple days that such a crew is staying at the (my) La Quinta. I estimate that the crew is between 11 and 14 tradesmen. Working-class men who are there to get the job done.
When I walked outside to get a little pre-phone call nicotine fortification, a slice of that crew was pitching quarters. While I was out there, another five or six exited the building, headed out for chow.
It was, something out of a movie, but whoever made the movie would be accused of stereotyping and inserting obligatory tropes. When I looked at the panorama of working-class dudes that just want to do a job: there’s the tall, lanky black dude with the jeans under his ass but the boxers covering the rest–oh, and he had a magnificent mane of dreads. There’s the Hispanic dude with tats all over his neck. There’s the long, greasy-haired white dude who is kind of short and squatty with those cargo shorts that fall below knee-length and upon whose belt you can see the chain that loops down but rises again to secure his wallet in his pocket. That dude has tats like the Latino dude, except for his tat schemata was gained trespassing somewhere, and instead of shotgunning rock salt at him, the owner shot him with salted ink. Random, no theme, no coherence.
I watched these guys, while some of them moved out for dinner and some stayed pitching quarters. I abjured the offer of joining the quarters pitching by saying, “Gentlemen, I do not partake of games of chance, lest I not be able to make this month’s rent.” Eh, I got a laugh out of it.
But while I finished my bourbon and my unfiltered Camel, with my mind on Henry Ford, antisemitism and Nazism, I realized that there was no racism anywhere near where I stood. There were men, masters of their craft, there to do a job, and I am more than sure they cared about the competence and craftsmanship of their cohort far moreso than each other’s race.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a phone call I gotta make.
So, called The Lovely and Talented Mrs. Mongo, and the call went directly to voicemail, immediately thereupon I got a text saying, “I’m on a call, call you later.”
Okay. Proofread the post (for me, proofreading is a relative term, I’m more than sure that there are spelling/grammar mistakes aplenty). I was about to hit “send.” Then, I thinks to myself, “Hey, those guys are still out there pitching quarters. I wonder what they would think of the post?” So I went outside and asked them if they’d participate. They thought I was maybe/probably a weirdo, but said yes. I went back to my room, grabbed the MacBook, and then exited and read everything above the BREAK to them.
First, it was a point of pride that they were not tradesmen surging to a job site. They were employees of a conveyor-belt-making company, down in Miami to provide warranty service.
Out of the cast of characters depicted above, the sample was a big black guy, the Hispanic with the neck tattoo, a pure-D country redneck accented dude, and then a clean-cut kid with a beard, maybe on a summer job, dunno. Looked like Spencer Klavan’s kid brother. I told them that because the post was about systemic racism, the black guy would get to comment first.
After the post (all names here are made up) Darryl the black guy said, “well, it sounded like there were a lot of stereotypes in there.”
“Dude, you’re a big-ass black dude and–what kind of cigarette are you smoking?”
“Okay, is there a bigger stereotype than that?”
And that kind of kicked off the whole, free-wheeling conversation. Me mostly listening to the warranty servicers and throwing in a question every now and then. I don’t have the time or memory to try to reproduce the whole conversation word-for-word, but I’ll try to convey the gist of the conversation.
Hispanic Neck Tattoo Guy (HNTG) pointing at pure country redneck guy: “Yeah, we’re friends now, but I did not like this guy when I first met him. Now, we’re tight, man. We hang.”
Me: Okay, how come you didn’t like him? ‘Cause he’s white? ‘Cause he sounds so redneck he should be named Cooter (accepting a little bit of operational risk, here)?
Cooter: No, man. See, Juan used to work for the company, then he took a break to do some other stuff, then he came back.
Mongo: Lemme guess, you didn’t work there when he left, but you were there when he came back.
Cooter: You got it. And when he came back, they made him a crew boss, ’cause this guy knows things, man. You don’t let that kind of talent go to waste.
Cooter: So they pulled a couple guys off my crew to round out his crew, and one day in the cafeteria, I just stopped and talked for a while with my old guys that were on his crew now. And then this dude is hatin’ on me all the time.
Juan: That’s right, I couldn’t stand this guy.
Mongo: Lemme guess, I think I got it ’cause it works like this in the military. Juan, you had the ass ’cause Cooter didn’t go through you before he talked to your guys.
Juan: That’s exactly what it was.
Cooter: So, we went somewhere where we could hash it out privately. I said, “Dude, what’s your (CoC)ing problem? And he told me. And I was like, Holy (CoC), I’d feel the same way. And we been tight ever since.
Cooter: Man, this whole racism thing is just stupid. Some of my best friends are–
Mongo: Stop! You can’t ever start a defense of why you’re not a racist with that. You’re setting yourself up for failure.
Cooter: Yeah, but it’s true.
Mongo: Doesn’t matter.
Then I gave some of my insights on how to respond if one is called a racist. Can’t go into it. Severely non-CoC compliant.
Then I brought up the whole Rush Limbaugh (Peace be upon him) Rushism about how if you love this country you’ll be called a racist, bigot, homophobe. Oh, and what’s that word for when you hate women? Misogynist?
Cooter: Man, who thinks that way? Look, I got a friend from high school that I always thought was a little fruity, y’know, but after a while I figured out he was full-up gay. Now, I ain’t down with gay [insert a bunch of homoerotic jokes here that we made, asserting that he was, in fact, gay]. Nah, man, I don’t abide that stuff. But I tell you what, if I was drivin’ down the street and some dudes were beating him up, because he was gay or any other damn thing, I’d pull over and whoop some ass and take care of that guy. I’m not sure how many people would.
Mongo: Really? You’re not sure? (raise my own hand) Who here would pull over and help out a gay friend if he was getting beat up, whatever the reason?
Every hand went up.
Mongo: See, you’re not alone. They just want to make you think you’re alone.
A lot more, but I won’t go on, except for this.
HNTG: Hey man, my 16-year old kid is smart!
Cooter: Yeah, he’s got a smart kid.
HNTG: Yeah, I tol’ him I had read that there was 37 genders out there, an’ what was all that about? He said, “Dad, there’s two genders, and 35 different ways of being queer.”
I had a great time. Want to continue to write about it, but I really, really have a phone call to make.Published in