Saga of the Domestics: The Invisible World Below Us

Of all of the activist groups and activists at my college, the College of Charleston, I am the only I am aware of to have concerned myself with the food workers and the janitors. In the myopic and solipsistic purview of the average student and member of faculty, they don’t exist. The minimum wage workers descended, in heritage and blood, from the toiling workers who swept the floors of this godless institution in the 18th century. The cruelty of our society manifested in the passive aggression of the most affluent ignoring the backbreaking hours spent to sanitize their buildings so they don’t catch the diseases whose absence they take for granted. In all of the calls for social justice that have spilled from the clubs of this school, none of them have taken into account the most mistreated of our people.

                In the bottom of one of the anthropology buildings is where the headquarters of the custodial staff is but most people don’t notice it. From that basement door, an ingress and egress of poor black people trapped in an almost inescapable cycle of poverty proceeds with the lines of malnutrition drawn on their faces. A short conversation with them will reveal varying degrees education and civic awareness but in every case it reveals a waste of human life spending as much time and life as they do cleaning the messes of their socioeconomic overlords. The frat boys and anime clubbers and everyone else whose hearts have seldom ever bled for their socioeconomic inferiors. In Titanic and in Downton Abbey, the downstairs people were sympathized with because the cameras told their side of the story. At least, a somewhat inaccurate one since Titanic’s portrayal of Edwardian era poverty was too jovial. Yet, no one tells the story of the downstairs people at my college. The movie of college life at my school has no scenes where the domestic servants play a role despite the fact that they are everywhere and play an extremely important part in the story.

                The Black Student Union sent a list of demands to the new president of the college but I was very disappointed with their failure to include the most racist aspect of college life. The fact that, like the slaveholders who founded this place, the current administrators use the cheapest Black labor they can legally use. Which is to say, they do the closest thing to slavery that they can legally get away with which does make one question that if slavery were legalized if the college would use slaves. I believe they would and given how little the student body cares about the plight of the domestic workers at the college now, it is not apparent that there would be much of a movement against the slavery. Given how badly the janitors are treated and universally Black they are, the college may as well raise a Confederate Flag on campus because their system of domestic servants is pretty Confederate. It is amazing how striking the classism of the college is with so few people noticing it.

                This is not mostly a race issue, either. It is a class issue. It is the fact that the college has a class structure of lower-income menial labor that is ignored and abused by rich people. While it is racist structurally, psychologically it is more classist because it is not an aversion to the people because of their race but more an exploitation and degradation based on labor-status and perceived social status and so I would classify the prejudice as more classist but just as inhumane. The college and the people in it think that they are living in a more egalitarian society than the slaveholders who founded the college and they are but they’re not a more egalitarian society than Victorian Britain so while it is better by a few degrees, it is not nearly where they think it is. They’re the worst of Charles Dickens, not the worst of Shelby Foote, but that’s nothing to brag about.

                That being the case, they should require as uniforms corsets and coattails. My greatest lamentation is that as classist as the boys and girls of my school are, they lack the class to justify it. The girls should be prissier and the boys more chivalrous. At least, if they’re going to play Victorian rich people. Personally, I think period dress up parties are fun and I would thoroughly enjoy that. My fairy-tale fantasies are elated at the vision. However, I doubt that would happen and even if it did make the classist state of affairs more apparent, nothing would happen about them. I can only hope that my small voice can help the most maltreated people in my world and at my school.

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