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.