SBS 301 Cultural Diversity/Prof. Koptiuch         Fall 2005        Personal Memory Ethnographies

Dustin Young

Reap What You “Sew”

It was about mid-evening on Monday, as the sun scorched the ground leaving our little non-air conditioned room in the back nothing short of a furnace.  The t-shirt dryers were venting inside the warehouse which didn’t help either.  The heat was affecting my processor on my computer and it drifted in and out from working to locking up.  I reached down to pound on the computer a little cussing to the side of my mouth right when Norma slams the door shut and says, “Hey shit-head is the Texas Tech Raider file ready yet.  We need to get these t-shirts running immediately!” The last thing I needed was her bitching at me right now.  “No it is still in the process” I state right before she interrupts, “Well, what is the hold up!  If a woman had your job she would already be done by now.”  I interject, “Norma, it would help if you would inform me an hour before you decided to run this job.  I’m not a mind reader you know.”  She just looks at me with this really evil dominating look.  The door slams as she walks out of the office and into the embroidery machine room.  Marcus looks up at me from his desk and says, “I think that Norma feels that embroidery is a woman’s job and you just don’t belong.”

I remember a day when Marcus once hated me.  He hated white people and would constantly remind me of how I deprived him of his happiness, along with that of his black brothers.  I never could understand this and I was definitely not one to challenge his opinion since he dressed, talked, acted and looked like a gangster.  I just accepted his comments and continued on.  We were both promoted to manager at the same time, which really angered him since I had only been on the job for little under a year as opposed to his seven.  When Norma hit the scene it wasn’t pretty.  Norma’s continuous calls, complaints, and meetings with Steve the company owner, soon led me to a demotion and Norma to a promotion.  Marcus couldn’t help but to rejoice over the white man’s fall from grace but he soon took notice as to how I was treated by my new boss, Norma.  Later on I noticed Marcus would often drop subtle hints on how I should deal with Norma.  It wasn’t long until I would be asking him for advice not only about my boss but about how to deal with the ladies in my love life, which was just as brutal.

After a few edits I had the TTU Raider file finalized, exported to disk, and into Norma’s hands.  She looked at me with a hint of distrust saying, “It’s about time little boy.”  If I had a fetish about being dominated, I would have been in heaven.  The months continued just like that day with Norma’s condescending and hateful remarks.  Sometimes I was lucky because Norma grew tired of picking on me and would go all day giving me the silent treatment but whenever coworkers were around she couldn’t resist the need to belittle me in front of them.

I understood her thoughts even though they conflicted with my own at that time.  Her husband probably had forced her to stay at home and be a “housewife”.  She spent twenty plus years rearing her children only to find that the prime of her life had passed her by.  The last thing she wanted was to start back in the workforce only to find herself working for an eighteen-year-old boy.

It was on that day when I gave my two weeks notice that I realized Norma really didn’t want me to leave.  She enjoyed the stability that I gave her as a quality digitizer and she had grown to accept me.  I too felt hollowness for leaving especially after I witnessed the immediate concern for my departure and appreciation for my service that Norma showed me.  It appeared as though our time was spent in angst but the truth was that we appreciated each other.  Our differences were enough to cause tension that in all honesty could have been detoured.  

    I realized why Marcus hated whites, and why Norma hated men.  Perhaps Marcus was treated wrongfully by whites, and Norma was treated wrongfully by men.  With human nature, it’s common to group all people into a certain category and to let the stigma of that category propagate to all of those in it.  I was a white male and they looked upon me with all the negative qualities that white men have embodied in the past and present have contained.  Once I realized this, I did my best to let this vicious cycle stop with me and to hold no other group of people accountable for those who have negatively affected me.

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