It's amazing how many times folks Google words like "lazy nigger" to ultimately end up on this blog. (That might explain some of the trolls that we have from time to time.)
One post I did called 10 Myths About Black People gets a lot of folks linking in to it.
Number seven of those ten things deals with the myth that black folks are lazy.
This is a myth because anyone who lives in any urban area where there is a large concentration of black people understand that black folks (especially poor ones) are some of the hardest working people in America. They just don't have anything to show for their hard work because when you are making $8 or $9 dollars an hour you are basically just working to buy food and put a roof over your head. You have zero chance of getting ahead and living the American dream.
Sadly, you were born in this environment, and you will live and die in it as well.
Anyway, whenever I hear about lazy black people, I think of James Robertson of Detroit, Michigan.
"America needs more people like James Robertson. Every place needs more people like James Robertson. But that doesn't mean his story isn't disturbing.
The 56-year-old Detroiter was the subject of a profile in the Free Press over the weekend. He walks 21 miles every day, part of a 23-mile commute from his home in the city to his factory job in Rochester Hills, a suburb. He's been doing it five days every week, ever since his old Honda bit the dust. His route takes him through rough neighborhoods and he leaves work well in the middle of the night. This being Detroit, he also reckons with snow drifts and sub-freezing temperatures regularly during the winter.
But Robertson is impressively upbeat about it:
I sleep a lot on the weekend, yes I do," he says, sounding a little amazed at his schedule. He also catches zzz's on his bus rides. Whatever it takes to get to his job, Robertson does it.
"I can't imagine not working," he says.
There are some fringe benefits. Robertson's boss' wife feeds him delicious home-cooked Southern meals. Still: pretty grueling.
The reaction has been appropriately positive. Robertson was already something of a role model for his co-workers, and readers responded to the story generously, donating $70,000 and counting to help him get a new car. That's great for Robertson. But this isn't a feel-good story—it's a story about policy failures, structural economic obstacles, and about what it takes to keep working despite those challenges. Robertson is no doubt deserving, but it'll take larger changes to help other people who face similar struggles.
Let's start with the obvious problem here: lack of mass-transit options. Robertson used to drive to his job, but his 1988 Accord gave out 10 years ago. In car-obsessed Motor City, that's bad news. Robertson's $10.55 per hour pay is more than a buck-fifty higher than the living wage in Wayne County, but it's still not enough for him to get a new car and insure and maintain it. The Freep's Bill Laitner reports:
Robertson's 23-mile commute from home takes four hours. It's so time-consuming because he must traverse the no-bus land of rolling Rochester Hills. It's one of scores of tri-county communities (nearly 40 in Oakland County alone) where voters opted not to pay the SMART transit millage. So it has no fixed-route bus service.Detroit has never been big on mass transit—car companies helped hasten the demise of streetcars—but it's gotten worse over the last five years. Even as the city shrinks and people struggle, there are fewer options for transportation. But with unemployment rates inside the city at nearly 25 percent, workers have to leave the city limits for work. The Detroit area overall has a much rosier 7 percent unemployment rate. (A transportation official told the paper that Robertson might qualify for a special service for low-income workers.)" [Source]
Once he gets to Troy and Detroit, Robertson is back in bus country. But even there, the bus schedules are thin in a region that is relentlessly auto-centric.
It's nice to see that this story has a happy ending.
Shout out to honorable Field Negro, Ivan Leedy, for stepping up to help Mr. Robertson after hearing about his story. Dude is 19 years old and has already raised over $200,000.00 for the hard working man.
There still might be hope for America.