Thursday, July 9, 2015

Those People Just Want Handouts

On a recent trip, I watched workmen erecting a large white wedding tent on a beautiful white-sand beach. The canvas tent had multiple peaks on tent poles and clear plastic-paned windows with rounded tops on all four sides.

Beaches are often windy, and the foreman had his crew driving three-foot metal stakes at an angle into the sand to anchor the tent. The foreman was in his forties and overweight, but the crew appeared to be in their early twenties at the most. The closest one was classic white trash, skinny with his shirt off, with a thin chin-beard, a cigarette dangling most of the time, and bad tattoos, and he worked hard. He raised that sledge hammer high and brought it down awkward, driving his spike a few inches deeper with each blow. He always hit the spike's head, but not always straight on. His spike's angle started out right but gradually shifted to straight down. The foreman came to talk to him about it. Anyone could tell the young man was angry but held it in. He struck the spike from the side, changing its angle in the sand, and finished the job. Although the day was cool and breezy, he was red-faced and sweating.

The other worker I could see was Hispanic, small and slender. He worked with such grace, moving his sledge hammer in a looping figure eight, his entire body in a dance with its own rhythm and careful moves. He expended less energy and drove two stakes for every one the other young man seated. He wasn't sweating after four stakes. It was a pleasure to watch him work. The foreman came up to him to talk, apparently including some praise, in Spanish.

Three days later, we visited that beach again. Someone had added a sand sculpture of a large heart near the wedding tent. The side of the tent facing the water had been rolled up and secured so those inside could see the arch, now covered with white tulle. The tent stake which had been straightened had lifted half its length from the sand, but all the others were holding.

It makes me angry when someone says a particular ethnic or racial group is lazy and doesn't want to work hard. The young man I watched defied that ugly stereotype, working hard, well, and with literal beauty. I imagine he'll be running a crew when he's still a young man--and that the sweating white guy with the dangling cigarette will resent the hell out of it.

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