Let me tell you a story. The individual family farmer, because of his precarious position in capitalist society, will of necessity develop a very careful attitude toward money—those who fail to develop this attitude don’t last long as farmers. This attitude easily becomes part of the farmer’s character, with the result that, often, they are relatively poor tippers. No one who understands their conditions can blame them for this, but, justified or not, it becomes an assumption. Back when I was working at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival, it was simply accepted wisdom, and, because performers often survive on tips, farmers were generally spoken of scornfully.
One day, sitting around with a few people, a band-mate made an insulting remark about farmers, and my friend Maria promptly said, “Just don’t say that with food in your mouth.” Zing.
Now I’m going to change the subject.
40 years ago, a conversation like this was not uncommon:
“Yes, I’m prejudiced against black men. I’m a white woman, and if you’d been harassed by black men as often as I have, you’d be prejudiced too.”
Or perhaps you’d have heard this:
“Mexicans are lazy. You can argue as much as you want, but I’ve worked with them, and I know.”
Or maybe this:
“You just can’t count on women in high-pressure jobs. They get emotional and make bad decisions. I’m basing this on my own experience.”
Today, hearing things like that makes the bile rise in our throats. We understand, at least more than we did, the way personal experience can be warped by confirmation bias, by prejudice picked up from media and popular culture, and perhaps we even understand how statements like that both reflect and sustain ignorance and bigotry and oppression. Anyone saying those things today would be liable to get, at a minimum, a cold glare by most of us. And rightly so.
“Blue collar workers are bigots and sexists. I know, I’ve worked with them.”
When I’ve seen the above statement on social media, it has generally gone by without a challenge. Think about that for a minute. If you pat yourself on the back for “calling out” racism and sexism, but either say or permit statements like the above, think about whose work you’re doing by accepting and perpetuating these stereotypes. Ever seen “All In The Family?” It was one of the first efforts in popular culture to create this image of the working class, and it was a lie then, and it is a lie now, and when that show came out it was never challenged by liberalism, because it fit in with their agenda. Workers are stupid and bigoted, so it is perfectly okay to continue rising in society by stepping on them, and we can also cheerfully mock them as their living standards are slashed and their children are sent off to die in imperialist wars.
But if you really do have to make an insulting and degrading remark about workers, just don’t do so while you’re using anything that was created by human labor.