A New Spin on Slavery

After watching “Ten Dollars an Hour” in class last week, I was without a doubt disturbed. I was complaining to my family and friends about it for two days straight. I understand that this is happening all the time, throughout the world, every day. But, it was never put into perspective for me the way it was during our discussion in class. It’s like a never ending cycle of slavery that continues today in 2013. Slavery supposedly ended many years ago, but the principles still exist, and what I mean when I say this is that labor and worker characteristics still apply. Ben Guest did an outstanding job directing this documentary, and I’m admired by his strength and courage to release such a powerful piece. Leasse Williams, which is who the documentary is about, works as a cook in a fraternity school in Mississippi for fifty hours a week, at ten dollars an hour. She jumps off the screen as this bubbly, friendly person, but I wonder if that’s really how she feels deep down inside.

“Ten Dollars an Hour” made the connection to slavery then and now. The idea of customer service has been based in slavery. In the documentary, Leasse is described by her ‘superiors’ as a person who is a hard worker, loves to please, and someone who is always happy. We know that slave owners described their slaves as hard workers who love to please, and who are always happy. No offense, but the fact that they are located in Mississippi doesn’t make it any better for Leasse. It has been said that some areas there have never let go of their slave mentality. But, moving right along, Steve, the accountant says that he believes that if the kids are happy, then Leasse is genuinely happy. Slave owners would also say this about their slaves, the idea of slaves being happy in their owner is happy. Steve goes on to say that Leasse is very agreeable and loyal. Now that is exactly what a slave owner wants, a slave to be a ‘yes man’, no back talk or conflict wanted. Slave owners love those who are loyal and there whenever they need them. In Leasse’s case, that’s weekends, and even while she’s attending a funeral. *blank stare*

In my perspective, Steve, who is the accountant, is also the slave owner. Now, Janis is the house mother. She hires the cooks, looks over them in the kitchen to ensure that they are preparing the food correctly, buying ingredients, and so on and so forth. Janice plays the role of the mistress, so to speak. She doesn’t really do much at all but plays second to the slave owner, and helps spend the money. Here we have Leasse who is just trying to make enough money to support her family. She doesn’t complain much, not at all really, but you can tell that she’s tired. It takes a lot out of a person to cook three meals a day for twenty or thirty boys, then go home and cook for your own family. The sad part about is that no one sees Leasse’s struggle. They all think she’s just a happy camper, but at ten dollars an hour, how can she really be happy with that?

My point is that whether we like it or not, slavery still exists today. There are just different twists and turns on it now. The principles still exist. It pretty much works the same, the title of “slavery” just isn’t attached to it anymore. “Ten Dollars an Hour” really made me understand that. In all actuality, there’s nothing we can do to escape it. I feel like it will always exist because of the economic social status of African Americans. Regardless, black people will continue to be the minority, and will continue to treated as such. White people always want to be respected by blacks but never want to respect us. Even in the video, we saw the white boy that Leasse absolutely adored. She went on to say that she even LOVED him, and the first thing that came out of his mouth was, “She respects me.” He didn’t say anything about loving her. It’s a shame. It really disturbs me because I can tell that Leasse has a big heart, but at the end of the day, I can’t change the fact that she is being taken advantage of.

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