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Workaday World: Crack Economy Essay

963 words - 4 pages

Workaday World: Crack EconomyThe film, "Monster," a fictionalized portrayal of serial killer Aileen Wuornos, depicts the struggle of an underprivileged, abused woman as she attempts to find legitimate work and social acceptance. Wearing mismatched thrift shop clothes, Wuornos rides her bicycle through a business district and fills out applications, not realizing she looks pathetic and hopelessly out of place. She endures a humiliating interview at a law office, where a lawyer bluntly informs her that she is unqualified because she lacks a high school diploma or a resume. She is similarly dismissed at an employment office when she admits to having outstanding warrants for arrest. Actress Charlize Theron captures the woman's desperation and anger at a system that will not let her in, no matter how hard she tries. Demoralized and broke, Wuornos returns to working as a street prostitute because that is the only way of life she knows.The young Latino African American men profiled in Philippe Bourgois' "Workaday World--Crack Economy,"* are trapped in a similar situation. They work in deplorable conditions at low wages selling crack because they lack the skills and education to get and keep a legitimate job. At the Game Room crack house, these men averaged $7-8 an hour, barely a livable wage. One of the crack dealers, Primo, gets embarrassed when he reveals that he made only forty dollars one night, and his mother has added him as a dependent for food stamps. Primo rhapsodizes about "going straight," and how his life would improve if he got a legal job. He realizes that the Game Room is a bad environment; he is drinks too many Colt 45s and uses cocaine daily. Furthermore, Primo is subject to the violent temper of his supplier, and the erratic, irritating behavior of the addicts who comprise Game Room's clientele.In a series on interviews, Primo tells of his experiences working at an office for a trade magazine. He was belittled by supervisors and dismissed as "illiterate." Like other young minority males, Primo was defensive and hostile when he felt "dissed," especially in front of his peers. "Ray (a fellow crack dealer) would never disrespect me that way," Primo says, "...because he's illiterate too." Primo chose to work in the underground economy because he knows how to fit in. While he might look like a fool in a corporate office, he is accepted as the "head man" in El Barrio, and sought after by many young women.At the author's urging, Primo and a few other crack dealers enrolled in a motivational training program designed to re-educate the unemployable. The program used manipulative, verbally abusive, and coercive techniques to convince its clients to accept low-paying service jobs. Primo dropped out after the first day, and later described the program as similar to his degrading experience in office work. The program's instructors criticized him for not dressing in professional attire,...

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