As Americans have become known as the “workaholics of the world,” what does that mean for those of us whose backs have been the foundation upon which this country has been built? In a recent video feature for The Atlantic, Derek Thompson imparted, “Work has become the centerpiece of our identity, the focal point of our lives.”
Thompson also made the argument that work has replaced traditional religion, in that people have begun seeking self-actualization through their careers instead of through their spirituality or meaningful relationships. To clarify, he didn’t make this video with the unique plight of people of color in mind. Through the imagery he chose, he clearly referred to work production trends of white Americans and went on to state, “The wealthy are the pioneers of working longer hours,” seeming to claim that they were the first people to grind. Nah, Bruh.
What they pioneered was forcing others, mainly lower-income and people of color, to grind through long hours so that they could reap the benefits. These white Americans have also perpetually conditioned their offspring to do the same. However, aside from Thomspon’s less-than-holistic view of the historical context around labor and production in this country, I agreed with him when he said (paraphrasing): We need to stop and truly consider the immediate and long term impact of constant grinding and striving for survival on our physical and mental health and ability to actualize re-liberation.
“It’s a huge issue,” said Maya Rockeymore Cummings, CEO of Global Policy Solutions, a social-change strategy firm. “Over our working life we experience pay disparities, have little wealth in our families and often support others… I think the stress of racism, sexism, poverty and the grind of having to figure out how to make ends meet on a daily basis creates a confluence of pressures that are disproportionately borne by disadvantaged communities, especially communities of color.”
Through the perpetual cycle of grinding becoming our sole focus, we continue the conditioning as what was initially forced upon our ancestors. So, are we liberating ourselves by grinding or reinforcing the kitchen table legs of the patriarchy and of white supremacy, believing that the food served on this table will get us the right nutrients to free us “one day”? And what notions of “work” are we passing on to our children?
True, we must affirm our power and sufficiency under all circumstances, yet we must also remember that this includes the confidence and space to proclaim, “Hellll Nah!” in the true spirit of Ms. Sophia from The Color Purple, and to recognize that the food being served has not been cooked with loving intent.
– – – – – – – – –Write us back! How has work taken over your life? Challenge: Write down 5 small yet immediate steps you can take to ensure the work that you produce brings more resources to you and your community.