Mike Rowe is a unique celebrity. He made his name actually going out and working at some of the grungiest, nastiest jobs out there…and in the process, giving blue collar workers a much deserved boost in “cool.” He’s also touted vocational education as a viable choice for many students leaving high school over college. Considering how many people get degrees in things they’ll never get jobs in, he might have a point.
When MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry claimed that the term “hard worker” had some funky connotation regarding slavery, it’s unsurprising that Mike Rowe had something to say. “[T]here is no longer a limit to what people can be offended by,” Rowe commented.
He began by pointing out how odd it is that Harris-Perry believes something so extreme should exemplify hard work. “That’s a bit like hanging images of rape and bondage to better illustrate the true nature of human sexuality.”
“…Slavery is not ‘hard work;’ it’s forced labor,” he continued. “There’s a big difference. Likewise, slaves are not workers; they are by definition, property. They have no freedom, no hope, and no rights. Yes, they work hard, obviously. But there can be no ‘work ethic’ among slaves, because the slave has no choice in the matter.”
“Workers on the other hand, have free will. They are free to work as hard as they wish. Or not. The choice is theirs. And their decision to work hard, or not, is not a function of compliance or coercion; it’s a reflection of character and ambition.”
Rowe went on to say that he also has a picture to remind him of hard work…only his is a pretty nasty toilet that he needed a garden trowel to clean. Rowe says, “I keep it there to remind me of what happens when you need a plumber but can’t find one.”
He went on to note that there’s far more job security for plumbers than TV news anchors.
We’re still trying to wrap our heads around how Melissa Harris-Perry could take the term “hard worker” and think it has racial connotations when every ethnicity has a history of hard work.
Any group of people can point to hard working ancestors. Slaves just had no choice in the matter.