A Tupelo [MS] woman hired earlier this month by a KFC was fired Monday after the franchise owner discovered she’s homeless.
Eunice Jasica has been staying at the Salvation Army lodge since early December after losing her job, her car and her home.
The nonprofit organization requires its residents to seek employment daily and, upon finding it, to pay for lodging and start saving for a place of their own. Jasica said she had been job hunting for months and was relieved to find work on March 11 at the KFC on North Gloster Street.
A document signed by that location’s general manager on March 12 confirms Jasica had been hired to perform “prep work” and would receive a paycheck every two weeks.
But when Jasica reported for duty Monday, franchise owner Chesley Ruff withdrew the job offer upon learning she lived at the Salvation Army.
“He told me to come back when I had an address and transportation,” Jasica recalled. “But how am I supposed to get all that without a job?”
Ruff signed a letter the same day stating he couldn’t employ her “due to concerns of lack of residence and transportation” and that she could reapply when her circumstances change.
On Thursday, though, Ruff said he’d only used the homeless excuse to protect Jasica from the real reason he declined her services: She has no prior food-prep experience and seemed too elderly to lift the 40-pound boxes involved in kitchen work.
Jasica is 59 years old and had worked 27 years as a bus driver and also did security for Bloomingdale’s. She attends classes at Itawamba Community College when she’s not job hunting.
Competing images of the poor as “deserving” and “undeserving” became central components of the debate. Ultimately, the racialized nature of this imagery became a crucial resource for conservatives, who succeeded in using law and order rhetoric in their effort to mobilize the resentment of white working-class voters, many of whom felt threatened by the sudden progress of African Americans. As explained by Thomas and Mary Edsall in their insightful book _Chain Reaction_, a disproportionate share of the costs of integration and racial equality had been borne by lower- and lower-middle-class whites, who wee suddenly forced to compete on equal terms with blacks for jobs and status who lived in neighborhoods adjoining black ghettos. Their children—not the children of wealthy whites—attended schools most likely to fall under busing orders. The affluent white liberals who were pressing the legal claims of blacks and other minorities “were often sheltered, in their private lives, and largely immune to the costs of implementing minority claims.” This reality made it possible for conservatives to characterize the “liberal Democratic establishment” as being out of touch with ordinary working people—thus resolving one of the central problems facing conservatives: how to persuade poor and working-class voters to join in alliance with corporate interests and the conservative elite. By 1968, 81 percent of those responding to the Gallup Poll agreed with the statement that “law and order had broken down in this country” and the majority blamed “Negroes who start riots” and “Communists.”
Race had become, yet again, a powerful wedge, breaking up what had been a solid liberal coalition based on economic interests of the poor and the working and lower-middle classes. In the 1968 election, race eclipsed class as the organizing principle of the American politics, and by 1972, attitudes on racial issues rather than socioeconomic status were the primary determinant of voters’ political self-identification. The late 1960s and early 1970s marked the dramatic erosion in the belief among working-class whites that the condition of the poor, or those who fail to prosper, was the result of a faulty economic system that needed to be challenged. As the Edsalls explain, “the pitting of whites and blacks at the low end of the income distribution against each other intensified the view among many whites that the condition of life for the disavantaged—particularly for disadvantaged blacks—is the responsibility of those afflicted, and not the responsibility of the larger society. Just as race had been used at the turn of the century by Southern elites to rupture class solidarity at the bottom of the income ladder, race as a national issue had broken up the Democratic New Deal “bottom-up” coalition—a coalition dependent on substantial support form all voters, white and black, at or below the median income.
Hoxby says some college administers had confided to her that they had reluctantly come to the conclusion that the pool of low-income students with top academic credentials was just limited, and there wasn’t much they could do to change that.
But in an analysis published with Christopher Avery in December, Hoxby has shown that this conclusion isn’t true. There is in fact a vast pool of highly talented, low-income students; they just aren’t ending up in top schools.
"The students whom they see are the students who apply," she says, of admissions officers. "And if a student doesn’t apply to any selective college or university, it’s impossible for admissions staff to see that they are out there."
Hoxby found that the majority of academically gifted low-income students come from a handful of places in the country: About 70 percent of them come from 15 large metropolitan areas. These areas often have highly regarded public high schools, such as Stuyvesant in New York City or Thomas Jefferson in the Washington, D.C., area.
Low-income high-achieving students at these schools have close to 100 percent odds of attending an Ivy League school or other highly selective college, Hoxby says.
The reasons are straightforward: These schools boast top teachers and immense resources. They have terrific guidance counselors. Highly selective colleges send scouts to these schools to recruit top talent. And perhaps most important, students in these schools are part of a peer group where many others are also headed to highly selective colleges.
Hoxby and Avery found that top students who do not live in these major metropolitan areas were significantly less likely to end up at a highly selective school. These students were far less likely to find themselves in a pipeline that ended at an Ivy League school.
The campaigns’ disparate rhetorical treatment of poverty is worth talking about because it helps us understand what’s happening to safety-net policy. Obama’s acting scared of poverty. He’s all about ladders to opportunity and apparently also about closing the gender gap in earnings. He’ll talk around economic equity issues, but he doesn’t want to talk about poor people, and certainly not welfare and other poverty programs. Why? Because poor people and some of the programs that they depend on—food stamps, cash assistance, housing vouchers— are popularly imagined as people of color issues. And race is one thing that Obama still can’t talk about.
It’s not by accident that food stamps and the safety-net have been stigmatized and made into a racial issue. Let’s recall for a moment the Republican primary, when Newt Gingrich told an audience in New Hampshire, “If the NAACP invites me, I’ll go to their convention and talk about why the African-American community should demand paychecks and not be satisfied with food stamps.” And when Romney told a crowd that imposing mandatory drug tests on the recipients of safety-net programs is “a great idea.” And more generally, remember the wave of bills—in 30 states earlier this year—to impose drug testing requirements on applicants to the food stamps, Medicaid, welfare and other programs, despite scant evidence of high rates of drug use among the programs’ applicants.
When Romney waxes indignant about poverty and food stamps, this is the context.
The reason that Cross and Marta go to the Philippines is to synthesize a super-soldier chemical compound pick-me-up that can only be produced in a US military lab in Manila. It’s believable that the US government would operate a covert lab in the Philippines because the plot draws on the actual history of US military presence in the region.
Downward camera angles also might seem militaristic because we experience similar aerial views on the news. We’re familiar with this gaze from images and video reportage on places and events of military interest, such as bombings that are reported in such a way as to instill confidence in the military’s ability to complete mission objectives. Aerial views allow us to see far and wide, giving us a sense of command as though we are military officers looking across the scope of the field of operations, deciding upon the appropriate strategic uses of its geographical features. But it’s not only in the context of formal war that we are asked to look from this militarized perspective. Often images of slums in news reports present these aerial views from helicopters, again to give us a sense of knowing something about an area, while allowing us to stay above and away from it.
Mimicking recent trends in the military basing practices, Cross is able to operate far and wide, without restriction, moving from the US to the Philippines and finding strategic pivot-points from which to protect his interests. He may fight the US government, but he does this by assuming its military operating model and gaze, which is biased, selecting the spaces of particular populations as appropriate battlegrounds, while understanding other spaces as off-limits.
Funny how things work out, my friend said, as she changed the channel on her flat-screen TV. “The other day at the bodega I ran into these four white girls. I started talking to them. They said they were living right across the street in this dumpy building paying $800. I thought, Well, that’s all right. Then they say they’re paying $800 apiece! One of them is sleeping on the couch. Sleeping on the couch in their own house! I went back to my apartment, looked at my view, and thought, Maybe my elevator is pissy, but if that’s gentrification, who’s the joke on now?”
“I’ll know the projects are changing when the first hipster applies for admission,” said April Simpson-Taylor, as we sat together on a bench at the Queensbridge projects, where she has lived most of her life.
We got to talking about the future of the projects. I mentioned Howard Husock’s plan. Simpson-Taylor frowned. “They’re always talking about selling the projects. I don’t listen to it,” she said.
“But, if they did, how much do you think you could get for this place?”
“Yeah. How much do you think it’s worth?”
The idea had been roiling around for a couple of weeks. Husock mentioned selling the Ingersoll Houses, a twenty-building development tucked under the BQE in Fort Greene. But Queensbridge, 50 acres with all that river frontage, had to be way more valuable. Queensbridge Park, right by the water, was a beauty. The renovated F-train station right on the corner was a mere two stops from Manhattan.
A couple of phone calls to property assessors returned the following information: Despite the image of the teeming projects, the leafy QB is severely underbuilt. The buildings themselves take in 1.6 million square feet, but the area was zoned for a “buildable” total of 3.6 million square feet. With that 3.6 million feet currently going for $80 per, the site could be worth close to $300 million. “Selling Queensbridge,” Simpson-Taylor said mournfully. “You know how many times I’ve thought about moving away from here? Who wants to live their whole life in a project? But I keep coming back. You don’t always get to choose your home, but it is still home, and not just because I grew up here. It’s home because everybody’s here. What happens to everyone then?”
That was the question, the one Howard Husock’s modest proposals didn’t quite cover. He said the best way to pry the people out of the projects was “with carrots, not sticks.” The residents could be “bought out,” in the way landlords in the private sector give tenants money to empty a building. That way, the former residents would be free to move anywhere, Husock said.
Somehow I didn’t think it was going to work that way.
Reaction to “Honey Boo Boo” would seem to prove that TLC has successfully pinged a host of American biases about class and size and gender and race.
There is no denying that the word “ghetto” and “street” are all kinds of racially charged, evoking images of urban, black dysfunction. The comments above are revealing of one interesting thing: Some folks may be made uncomfortable by “Honey Boo Boo” because it challenges their association of thin, shining, educated middle-classness with whiteness and Southern accents, fatness and poverty with blackness. They are ignorant of the similarities between white and black Southerners and white and black poverty, and so, when Honey Boo Boo drawls one of her famous phrases, she is acting like a “ghetto slut” or a “street kid.”
And then there is “slut.” Women and girls who are not compliant and quiet must be promiscuous–and promiscuous women are bad (i.e. sluts). The phrase that provoked this name calling was Alana’s “A dolla make me holla.” The kid claims to like money. Fine. But it is the adults analyzing the show who have equated a six-year-old’s love of money with prostitution. I am certain that Alana’s involvement in pageants plays a role in this analysis. Child pageants are highly-sexualized and disturbing affairs. But I also believe that a little boy saying the same phrase would likely be praised as a future business tycoon not accused of selling sex.
But Suz-at-large’s comment, though less offensive, is also revealing. There is a chorus of folks claiming that “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” is a bridge too far, the bottom of the barrell, the worst of the worst and the last thing we’ll see before the Four Horsemen arrive. And I believe this notion is also driven by who the Thompson/Shannon family is and how people like them activate American disgust in a way far greater problems do not.
We could have turned off the TV when VH1 was trading on stereotypes of black men with “Flavor of Love.” We could have pushed back when show runners on countless programs hunted for and showcased angry black women. The cable cord could have been cut during any of the shows from “Real Housewives of Orange County” to “Basketball Wives” designed to display women as catty, back-biting gold diggers. “Toddlers and Tiaras,” the show that spawned “Honey Boo Boo” has lasted five seasons.