Monday, August 07, 2006

We See It All the Time

Outside they are digging with bulldozing equipment to lay a new water pipe. I go out to see their progress. There is a group of white working men, all in their mid-30s to mid-40s, tanned, lean or heavy, in t-shirts and work clothes, all talking loudly and aggressively to themselves and to another younger white man further away. They are conferring on whether it is time to shut off the water main, and one of the men is talking on a cell phone, it seems to headquarters, to confirm or to give the order. They are all standing around the large hole they have dug in the lawn. Below them, in the hole, is an African-American man in his forties, looking up at them, waiting for their decision or word, he, apparently, prepared to do whatever. He is silent, just waiting. Why is it always the black man who is in the hole and who is most likely to do all much of the physical labor involved? I think to myself. Is it circumstance, racism? or both? Of course he is one of the few African American men that I have seen on the entire construction project that the hole-digging is part of. I can only recall one or possibly two others. As I write, now I am actually hearing this black man talking--telling these men what he sees. He seems to have come from the South. He is talking as aggressively as they do. I am glad to hear him.