Reflections on an Election Season
It’s been said before, but as we come right up to Election Day, it is worth repeating: let’s stop saying we are going to Canada if our candidate doesn’t win. We cannot weasel out of our nationality. Sure, Canada seems like a kinder nation right now, far less polarized than the US, and immune from the lows of this 2016 presidential race, but we are a privileged few who get to even imagine fleeing the country if our candidate doesn’t prevail.
I hope that is no surprise that I find the possibility of a Trump presidency abhorrent. His complete disregard for the people and communities in which we see so much promise, potential, knowledge, and vitality proves that in his world, some lives absolutely matter more than others. If he wins, the lives of people who are the target of his hate – people of color, people living in poverty, immigrants, those who have been in the criminal justice system, women, people who are LGBQT, people who are differently abled -- anyone who does not look/act like him – will worsen. Freedoms and rights will be curtailed, injustice will win out.
A Clinton win, however, will not magically make our problems disappear. There are real issues in the communities that Rubicon serves. Some of these challenges can be addressed with support from agencies like Rubicon and our many community partners who are dedicated to helping people reach their full potential. Other challenges have nothing to do with the actual people living in marginalized communities, but the lens with which outsiders choose to view them. While the rhetoric has not reached Trump-level volume, the seeds are there and they are just as dangerous.
Over late September and early October, Buzzfeed, Fortune, the New York Post and Bay Area NPR affiliate KQED covered a story on unsafe working conditions and incidents of violence at Blue Apron’s Richmond, CA and Jersey City, NJ warehouse facilities. Despite the obvious irony of low wage workers packaging gourmet meals in dangerous working conditions for well paid professionals, the reporting in all of the coverage seemed very comfortable with the tired trope that places the blame for Blue Apron’s workplace safety violations and violence on the shoulders of its local workforce.
The Buzzfeed article describes people hired at Blue Apron’s Richmond facility as ‘ex-con’s[sic], parolees, and gang members’, and with the exception of its geographical merits, Richmond is reduced to, “a challenged town” with a “fairly high crime rate” and a “history of gang violence.” Not only is this a narrow view, it is at odds with the realities of other successful warehouse businesses in Richmond. The article notes that HelloFresh, Grace Baking, Richmond Wholesale Meat Warehouse, CostCo, Delmonte Fresh, Safeway Bread Baking, all of whom have facilities near Blue Apron’s, do not have the same problems with workplace safety and violence.
It is worth noting that the company also was cited for similar problems at the Jersey City location. Think about it -- two facilities nearly 3,000 miles apart, each experiencing high rates of violence and workplace safety hazards. Let’s not scapegoat the employees.
On the surface, this may seem small, but the implications are bigger. How willing are we to nod knowingly when we see the words “violence” and “ex-con” together in a story about workplace problems? Is it the same instinct that has drawn so many people to the idea our inner-cities and immigrants, are people and places to be feared? They are both about other-ing, about disregard and enmity for people other than one’s own, about blaming people who have little power. One could say they are both about refuting our higher angels.
This is what I come to – that it is incumbent on us to keep up the struggle – to stay in the US, speak truth, shine a light on what’s right, believe in the potential of all people, and have hope for a more just tomorrow.
Read the Blue Apron coverage: