While Congress worries over the state of bank CEOs, the financial crisis has been the only thing to trickle down to consumers.Standing in line this a.m. in my neighborhood post office a discussion about the economy, Obama, and our lives unfolded between myself, the African American elder patron beside me, and the two postal employees, one African American and one Chicano. (We were the only ones there.)
The elder woman cashed her social security check beside me and the postal worker reminded her to take it to the bank. She looked at him cockeyed and said she was headed to the bank but not to make a deposit rather a withdrawal. We all laughed before she even had the chance to add that she knew “[she] need[ed] to get [her] money now, while the bank still had some.” I sucked my teeth in disgust, looking at this frail woman clinging to her social security money while perk-lavished Congressmen fight for the rights of the banks they looked the other way on when they stole from her, me, and all of you.
The postal worker helping me said, “Well Obama’s gonna win” and shrugged as we all laughed again.
The other worker said, “Yeah, so they can blame the whole thing on him.”
To which, I added “That’s why he has a chance of winning.” Both men’s eyes met mine in knowing comiseration and we all laughed, ironically, again.
The elder, adjusted her cherry koolaid colored wig, and said “Well, looks like I am going to live long enough to lose my house and see a black president. Better get to that bank so we can have bbq in the street.” As our laughter filled the room, I thought about the important cultural codes of laughter that are often missed in literary and journalistic descriptions of people of color and the poor. There we were, two state employees whose pensions are evaporating like water in the desert sun, an elder woman on assistance who probably can’t make her mortgage bill and will never be helped by any Congress bail out plan, and the college professor whose decision to spend her career working at Pov U in Identities Studies has left me both underpaid and likely to lose my Departmental home(s) in the coming year or so. We are the faces of N. America’s debt. Hardworking people at different ages and stages in our lives, with incomes ranging from subsistence to middle class and none of us may survive this crisis.
We are also the people who understand that the government is not going to fix it. They have never fixed it for those of us on the margins and our laughter marks clearly the understanding that this too, we must survive.
- “okies” unattributed
- “multicultural children on porch” Michael co 2008