Wednesday, October 26, 2016
Cluelessness in action
I spent a couple hours at the laundromat yesterday. The one I prefer to patronize locally happens to be a KBIC tribal enterprise; it's one of several local businesses owned and operated by the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community. I like using it because it's always clean and it's pretty rare to see an "out of order" sign on any of the equipment.
As it happened, yesterday was one of those rare times. One of the big front loaders was refusing to accept any coins, which is a sign the cash box needs to be emptied. There were customers who had hoped to use that machine so there was a fair amount of griping. And what form did that griping take?
Well, if I'd been over at the other laundromat, the one in L'Anse, I'd have been hearing complaints about a specific individual, whoever the current owner happens to be. But I wasn't. I was at a tribal-owned enterprise. So if the laundromat has a problem is it because whoever is supposed to collect the coins isn't doing it as often as he or she should? Is it the manager's problem? Nope. It's the "damn Indians can't do anything right." This gets said with complete seriousness despite the fact the facility is clean and every other machine in the building is working just fine.
That pronouncement is then followed with a bunch of comments about the "damn Indians," their subsidized housing, the fact tribal members get a discount at the KBIC-owned gas stations, and a litany of other complaints.
And this, dear reader, is what bigotry looks like. When the white-owned laundromat is disgustingly dirty, the front loaders are all out of order, and the dryers rip you off, it's because the owner needs to find a better manager. When one machine isn't working at the KBIC-owned laundromat, it's the whole tribe that's to blame. And not only is the whole tribe to blame, one temporarily out of order machine can serve as justification for criticizing every other enterprise the local Ojibwe have ever undertaken.
Even more depressing, now that I think about it, is that if I were to tell this story to some of my local acquaintances, they wouldn't pick up on the internalized racism at all. They'd agree with the ranter -- one malfunctioning machine is indeed proof that an entire group of people can't do anything right.