Now Politics: the Political Opinions of Thomas Sarebbenonnato

A Friend of the People Opposing Elites; Social and Political Commentary of Thomas Sarebbenonnato; Publishing and Contributing Editor, Jay V. Ruvolo [Copyright (c) Jay Ruvolo 2018]

Blue Collars and Canaries [Fictional Essay]

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When I was a boy in the 60s, New York City was as blue collar if not more blue collar than it has been in a very long time, more than it was then bourgeois (pseudo or actual); or rich, as it has become increasingly since twelve years of Bloomberg made the two-tier society palatable.

The thing about examining blue collar from the point of view of an Italian-American like myself, is just how many labor jobs there were available in the city then, especially for the poorer residents of the city, more specifically, African Americans. Perhaps the things I recollect are more ethnocentric revision than going to the video tape; nonetheless, what I say I remember is what I know I have remembered, however, whatever, whenever, wherever I say that from what I saw, what I heard and then understood, Italian American blue collar ownership and management hired African American workers at a rate I did not see from others who were not Italian American, although they were other ethnicities, caucasian or not. I don’t want to say, I can’t count how many . . . no! But there were many auto-body shops I passed, knew of or heard of, auto-mechanic shops, sheet metal shops, other forms of blue collar shops (which were more proliferate in the city of my youth) where a goodly number of the labor hires were black.

But then this was also the sixties going into the seventies, decades that saw the lowest levels of immigration and the highest level of native born population of the 20th century entering the workforce. Today you cannot go to an Italian owned pizzeria and not see a couple to a half dozen Mexican workers, or some other non-native latinos–in my youth, those jobs, if not filled with members of the then larger immediate families (today, Italian American families are much smaller), would be filled by African American workers.

As my people, those of our socio-economic class, left the city for the suburbs, so did the jobs they would have provided. This was also part of the urban-industrial economy that had peaked somewhere between the late fifties and late sixties. This happened on the cusp of the seventies, a decade that had seen the Democratic Party abandon labor, which then set the stage for a shift to the Republican Party–the later in part because the blue collar working man’s affluence, which had come at the heals of the nation’s largest union enrollment, around the mid 60s, facilitated this working man’s movement into the middle class and consequently his adoption of pseudo-bourgeois politics, all collateral with his children’s college education.

Cities dropped off a precipice, and along with the socio-economic cliff fall, African American chances at social mobility dwindled. The city as a center of multi-ethnic, multi-racial, multi-class life was no longer upward in its trends; the Great Migration to Northern cities in the 20s had its pitfalls and pot holes, but the city that had been a great place of immigrant and migrant assimilation, of upward mobility fractured and fell to pieces. This growth, the upward turn, was no longer true for most Caucasian ethnics; it was certainly not going to be better for African Americans, the first to feel the effects of the coming Urban blight . . . always the canary in the coal mine.

Written by jvr

May 23, 2019 at 3:06 pm

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