Thursday, October 16, 2008

think of the "working class" as the "(white) working class"

The following piece of political satire, a guest post from Kit,

also appears at her blog, Keep It Trill

What about
Jamal the Plumber?

We heard a lot about Joe the Plumber at last night's final Presidential Debate, but what about Jamal the Plumber?

I met him over coffee early this morning to get his opinion.

"I don't want to sound petty," he said, "but it should have been my turn to shine. I have issues and concerns too."

"Like what, Jamal?" I asked.

"McCain been yapping 'bout what he's gonna do for Joe Sixpack forevah. I know Joe; we're in the same bowling league. He drinks entirely too much and ain't seen the crack of dawn since he caught the school bus twenty years ago. Last I heard, he was chilling in that Pennsylvania bar, clinging to his Bible and his gun and waiting for Hillary to visit again. He's not gonna even vote for McCain..."

I interrupted him. "Why not?"

"Joe got problems that John McCain said he won't fix, and Joe figured this out. He's been dying to get into a rehab for his alcoholism, but has no healthcare. McCain's plan ain't universal and thus, ain't gonna help him. That's the third reason why he was digging on Hillary so much."

"What were the first two?"

"She's white and can chug-a-lug."

"Jamal, come on, did he tell you this?"

"Not the white part, but I ain't stupid. When Joe got all pissy that 'the black guy' beat her out, he said he was looking at McCain a lot harder 'for his service to his country'. It was all I could do to keep a straight face."

I chuckled, knowing what he meant. Jamal looked at his watch and sipped his coffee before continuing.

He said, "McCain act like he don't really want black votes other than from a handful of Negro GOP suck-up politicians, and that strange fella in his audience last week who was begging him. Geez! That man looked like he had died and gone to heaven when McCain touched him! As a black man, I was embarrassed for him."

We both cracked up laughing.

"So McCain ain't got the black vote," Jamal said, "and I overheard Joe Sixpack say he might as well be black too for what the GOP will do for him, which is nothing, except keeping the White House white, so he's voting for Obama."

I asked, "So what about this new guy who McCain was talking about, Joe Plumber? Do you think he'll vote for him?"

"There's more than one Joe Plumber out there," he said. "The one I know told me last night that he didn't like his name being put out there like that. He thought it was funny a couple months back when McCain was bouncing Britney Spears name around without her getting her endorsement first. Upset the girl so much I think she wanted to go back to the hospital to get away from the paparazzi. Joe Plumber was pissed when it happened to him. He had a dozen camera crews outside his house last night. He refused to talk to any of them."

"Why wouldn't the Joe Plumber you know enjoy his fifteen minutes of fame?"

"He's been going through a lot lately," Jamal answered. "I talked to him an hour ago about a job we'll be on this morning. Joe P. said his wife is four months pregnant and they want the baby, but she's having big time problems. The doctors are watching her closely, and they say she might need a late term abortion if her health becomes endangered, but McCain made it real clear last night that he don't play that."

"Was he a McCain supporter before?"

"His family has always voted Republican, but they ain't been happy during the Bush years. Joe Plumber said he lost his stomach for McCain after coming back from one of those hate rallies. He was standing near the guy that screamed 'Kill him!' about Obama, and he was worried to death that the cameras panned on him. He knows how that guilt by association thing works in the media, and he don't want no one thinking he's a pal of a domestic terrorist threatening a public official. As Joe Plumber said, 'I was just in the room, the same as Obama was with that Ayers guy. I didn't have a thing to do with what that man said or did.' I couldn't agree more. I know Joe Plumber, and Joe Plumber is no domestic terrorist."

Jamal looked at his watch again. The sun was shining now, and I knew I had time for only a few more questions.

"So Jamal, what was your favorite part of the debate last night?"

"That's easy," he said. "Barack rocked it with all his answers. For one, he ain't gonna freeze all spending except defense like McCain will. He has a banging tax and health plan, and maybe best of all, he didn't renounce that black Congressman, John Lewis, for saying McCain's campaign rallies and ads had been planting seeds of hate. My man Obama is tired of being bullied for words that don't come out of his mouth. Lewis told the truth, but McCain and the haters been trying to back Obama into a corner like the racism don't exist. He stood his ground, yet at the same time, was cool about it."

"Have you experienced being hated on more in the past month or two?"

"I can feel it and see it in the eyes of some white folks in certain areas, especially when I wear my Obama t-shirt. I used to ignore the frowns, but I had a run in at a gas station with some yahoo boys who seriously were trying to bait me into a fight. Sometimes, late at night before I fall asleep, I wonder if I'll be attacked or shot or worse in a random act of violence by a bigot with a grudge when Obama wins."

I nodded, agreeing. "That's been on the minds of a lot of black folks."

"Yes," he replied softly, "and if it happens to me, I wonder if anyone in the media will care enough to ask one question."

"What's that?"

His voice became even softer.

"What about Jamal the Plumber..."


  1. Wow, great post! Really good way to make this point, Kit, thank you for sharing it here. I used to go to your blog, looking forward to going back! I hope we see more of Jamal, too. Even though he's (apparently?) fictional, he speaks truth we don't often here, and the ending is a chiller.

  2. First, thank you Macon for having me as a guest. We've communicated about this for awhile and this is the perfect post for our cross-section readers.

    Runawayfred, thanks so much. Yes, Jamal the Plumber is a fictional character as this is political satire. The chiller ending speaks to what many blacks fear, particularly after seeing the deep hatred at those McCain-Palin rallies, not that it wasn't in the back of our collective minds before then.

  3. This is a great post, because it fills in a gap in the dominant narrative about who "ordinary" people are. They're not just white, you corporate media-heads! Thank you for posting this.

    One of the other good points I get from it is that those working-class whites who fall for McCain/Palin's race baiting tactics and the dog-whistle appeals to themselves as the REAL Americans is that McCain's and Palin's policies would, ironically, hurt them in all sorts of ways.

  4. "I know Joe Plumber, and Joe
    Plumber is no domestic terrorist."

    Good one! I like how this picture of Joe the plumber has faith that people like him can see the light and change their minds. Even if that happens sometimes in a sideways kind of way. Who knows maybe even the real Joe, who might be a McCain plant, will come around. He should talk to Jamal!

  5. and why think whites of the working class as the white working class?

  6. Hey Kit, thank you for this, a really great perspective on the mighty "Joe" debacle. And like Macon's title above your title spells out (maybe spells out too much?), most Americans ARE told that "the working class" is in effect a white one. So yeah, people that Jamal represents here do get left out.

    jw, maybe you should rephrase your question? Tt makes no sense, at least to me.

  7. which part of the question doesn't make sense?
    The title of the post is: think of the "working class" as the "(white) working class"
    and my question is: Why do white people think that way? Isn't this blog about exploring whiteness? This is a legitimate question to ask

  8. Which part of your question doesn't make sense? The grammar I guess. Now that you've explained it more, I see what you are asking and agree with you that it's a legitimate question. I would say the answer is that white people think that way because the media and politicians and pundits and advertising and TV shows and radio shows and labor unions and more tell them to think that way, becuase when they say "the working class" they're really talking about those people within it who are white. Kit's article partly points out that there are a lot of non-white working class people too, but there concerns, and their actually larger problems, don't get much attention in terms of "class," only if at all in terms of "race."


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