Hattie McDaniel Cashed Her Checks

It has been interesting to see the criticisms of yesterday’s blog post Abercrombie and Fitch and Homelessness and You.

The funniest one was the one that said if I knew any poor people, I would see it differently. She even suggested I volunteer at a soup kitchen to get some perspective.

But pretty much all of the criticism comes back to this: The people who are homeless are not complaining – heck, they even took the clothes and mugged for the camera. So, Hugh, why are you complaining?


The woman who plays Mammy was Hattie McDaniel. She was the first African American to win an Oscar, and has not one, but two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

In the years preceding Gone With The Wind, she was a popular actress, often cast as a maid. But her pay was so low, she actually worked as a maid on her off days to make ends meet.

This scene makes us cringe. Everything about the scene intends to perpetuate myths about the happy slave and the benevolent white slave owners.

Hattie was oppressed multiple ways –she was forced into roles that denigrated her race, she was vastly underpaid, she was barred from the Atlanta premier of Gone With The Wind because the theater was not integrated.

Hattie was oppressed , even though she cashed the paychecks they gave her. And just because she decided to work within the system as it was does not mean that the system was good or right or just. It just means she decided to take what she could get.

When folks who live outside stand in line to get the baloney sandwich from your “mission team” in the park after the mandatory “Bible Study” and prayer, it does not mean that the homeless folks like the Bible Study. It means they needed the baloney sandwich, and those were the only terms under which they could have it.

It was you that needed the Bible study. Let’s just be honest.

That the beggar talked to you about Jesus after you told him you were from First Church of Suburbia does not mean he really wanted to talk about Jesus – it is probably what he thought would make you happy, and if you are happy, you will bring him more food. (It did make you happy, didn’t it?) His smile is not proof that you are not oppressing him.

And that someone who needs clothes allows you to shoot video of them receiving clothes (which you then put on YouTube to promote yourself) does not mean that the act was noble and unselfish and virtuous,  any more than Hattie McDaniel cashing her paycheck was proof she wasn’t being wronged countless ways.

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  • tim

    I am always amazed at how people can sit back and criticize those that are doing something good by assuming their motives are “wrong”. From the christian perspective, they came to Paul and said, “Some are preaching the gospel out of selfish motives” and Paul’s response was, “What does it matter? The Gospel is being preached.”

    I don’t know who all you people are but I’ll tell you this. Watch a football game. You don’t see the players worrying about what the people in the stands are saying. They listen to their coach and their captain. You are neither.

    So sit in the stands and holler at the players. Sometimes they make the plays, sometimes they fumble but at least they are in the game.

  • Sonja

    Using a person as a “tool” for whatever your motivation is, is making an object of that person & that is not right. Using a homeless person as an object to promote your agenda, however righteous, is degrading them because it assumes you have power over them. Most women understand this idea because of our history of being used as objects to make others feel good…many men do not understand this concept for the same reason. The saddest part is those people who cling to these ideas without even knowing they are unenlightened.

  • Terri-Anne Williams

    If one truly cares about others they are going to go out meet them, listen to them, laugh, cry, weep, mourn … If possible, fill a need…. But,if your main purpose is to save a soul and put another notch on your “breastplate of righteousness”, then you’re doing it wrong. Making anyone who is hungry and in need jump through hoops like a trained puppy to get food in their bellies and clothes on their backs, is wrong, arrogant, and exploitative, and in no way, shape or form shows the love of Christ.

  • Reply

    I know there are some who use food as a tool to proselytize, but so what? Everyone puts up with something to get what they want.

    That comment just made me incredibly sad. Getting food should not be an act of indignity just because someone is poor.

  • Tim

    Most soup kitchens and people who prepare food to hand out to the homeless don’t prepare a Bible Study, they prepare food. I know there are some who use food as a tool to proselytize, but so what? Everyone puts up with something to get what they want. How many of you would come into work if your company didn’t promise you a paycheck (way to get food) at the end. But to infer that the homeless are somehow being degraded for choosing the soup kitchen with the bible Study over the one that doesn’t is to presume that they can’t make decisions for themselves.

    Try going to your boss and saying, “I like the paycheck you’re giving me. I actually need it for my survival. However, I feel that you expecting me to do something for it is degrading to me and stigmitizes me as a person. Therefore, I am no longer going to work” See how far that gets you.

    At least the people with the Bible study are saying “I not only want to feed your soul but your body as well.” I find it interesting when there is anyone out there trying to do good, someone is always out there to poke holes in it. But I understand how someone might assume that these Christians are out there trying to take advantage of the poor and homeless by giving them food. They have so much to gain from them. I mean with all those good feelings and all.

    The homeless may be in a bad place but, for the most part, they’re not stupid. They can make their own decisions and they do. For some of them, that’s why they are there. What’s wrong with offering help and hope.

    Well, I gotta go. I have to drive a buddy of mine who lives in a mission where they preach then feed to a job interview… wait… is that wrong? Not as long as I don’t talk about the Bible, right? But what if he brings it up…?

  • Tim

    Once again, your blog is filled with assumption and inuendo. It also ignores some basic facts in order make your point. It also seems to take one example of oppression and make the leap that people helping people to make a point is the same as denying the rights of equality. Huge leap right off a cliff.

    By this blog, am I to understand that doing good things that make me feel good is wrong? And if feeding the hungry assumes they have no food is somehow stigmitizing them? And who are you to make the assumptions that you equate with “being honest”?

    This is what I understand about blogs and why they are not actually news. A blogger doesn’t have to research or ask questions. A blogger doesn’t have to look past his or her own experience to see the perspective of anyone else. A blogger can play the “moral hero” by shooting down anyone who thinks or acts differently than themselves without ever having to actually talk to anyone. A blogger can call people evil whenever it suits with absolutely no basis other than their opinion to back it up. A blogger can present one side of the coin as if all coins are one sided.

    My best friend for 10 years was a homeless guy. No matter how many times he tried to get out of addiction, he kept falling back in but he was my friend and he let me into his world as much as he came into mine (family gatherings, bbq’s, hanging out, coffee… what friends do). We discussed life and reality as he saw it and we learned a lot from each other. Then there are people I have just been blessed to share with. Sometimes clothes, sometimes food, sometimes just a place to sleep. From my experience, it feels good. Not only that, most of the other people I know who help the poor (and some have even made youtube posts about it) truly care. By the way, Sammy died last year and my 17 year old daughter wants to be an addictions counsellor because of his influence in her life. You want to find somme way that is wron too?

    Your assumptions about who needs what is arroagant and as self promoting as anything in that guys video. You ignore that most people help because they want to help and sometimes they side with the poor in videos to say the poor deserve all the help, love, and dignity that some arraogant CEO would deny them.

    Maybe there is someone who needs a Bible Study in all of this but before you start telling the world that they don’t love right or care right or try to make a point right, maybe you should have one yourself.

  • Brad

    Man, if people can’t learn something from this post, then they need to open their eyes and minds. This is fantastic, and I realize how often in my life I’ve exploited the poor without meaning to. For that I’m incredibly sorry.

    Repentance is in order.

  • Nora


  • CassandraToday

    Friend of mine linked to this on Facebook with the comment, “Exactly. Amen. Hell yeah.”

    I’m good with anything that inspires people to say “Amen” and “Hell yeah” in the same sentence.

    Well done, sir.

  • Reply

    I don’t see where making the homeless sit through a prayer or a speech benefits them at all. You’re treating them without any respect by forcing your views on them all because you know they need to eat. THAT to me is selfish and ego stroking. Makes me sad that some places will feed the homeless and brag about it but never say they have conditions attached.

    Giving them clothes and recording it is more to show A&F that their clothes aren’t going to be worn just for the demographic they want. It’s showing A&F they aren’t as elite as they think and discriminating against teens is just awful. Nice way to feed the bullying that happens in schools A&F.

  • Reply


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