Thursday, February 11, 2010
Scene 12, Lilies Elton Jennings
Racism was still alive and well in 1930. Just ask Elton Jennings. He had been working on the line for the ford motor company for almost two years, longer than most of the white folks he worked along side. Yet somehow he caught wind of the fact that most have them had been hired on at a significantly higher wage than he, and some were making more than he currently was.
Although the frustration overwhelmed him, he said nothing. Sadly, he had learned to keep his mouth shut, a lesson he longed to not have to teach his two boys. Bolt after mindless bolt, he silently worked the line.
Two years back, he had come to the plant in response to an add in the paper. They were hiring an accountant, and he happen to be a numbers man. An understatement really, he had graduated from Indiana University class of ‘26’ with a bachelor’s degree in economics. He had always loved literature, but was told that, "a degree in liturature was far too impractical for a Negro man to trouble himself with."
But in retrospect, even the economics degree didn’t seem to do him much good. He was hardly considered for the accounting position. Having been told he was “under qualified”, they offered him a position on the line fascinating bolts.
Upon taking the position, he asked if there was a possibility for future consideration in the finance department. They agreed and he set to the mundane task he was hired on to do. He worked harder and faster than most. He had hoped to stand out by being efficient; he was troubled by the idea of becoming anonymous, fearing that the powers that be would soon forget him and their commitment to consider him for employment in accounting. After six months on the line, he went into his supervisor to discuss the matter.
“The problem is, Elton…” His supervisor Mac Mullen began, “You’re just a damn good worker! You set the standard. I don’t want to loose a guy like you down there. In fact, I’m going to give you a ten percent raise…starting today!”
With a handshake, the conversation was over. It was a good tactic, Elton thought. Flattery.
After that, Mac seemed to have made a point to forget Elton’s name. Elton had now become anonymous; it was a dangerous place to be, especially since the plant had recently started laying people off.