Elon Musks' employees might be racist

A Happy New Year to all my occasional readers! May your 2022 be less fucked-up than your 2021, which is probably the best we can hope for.

I was inspired to put pen to... LCD? whatever... reading a breathless Los Angeles Times article on racism and discrimination at Tesla's Fremont, California plant:

4:05 p.m. Feb. 12, 2022: An earlier version of this article said that at least 167 racial and sexual harassment suits were filed against Tesla since 2006. At least 160 worker lawsuits were filed over various grievances, not just harassment.
Oh, sorry, that was an article correction. I'm sure that most of the 160 lawsuits were about racism and sexism. Many, at least. Some, for sure. I wonder why they didn't give a more specific breakdown?

Anyway, let's get on to the meat of the allegations from California's (government) civil rights agency, who are clearly in no influenced by Tesla's move from California to Texas that will take billions of dollars out of their income:

Tesla segregated Black workers into separate areas that its employees referred to as “porch monkey stations,” “the dark side,” “the slave ship” and “the plantation,” the lawsuit alleges.
Only Black workers had to scrub floors on their hands and knees, and they were relegated to the Fremont, Calif., factory’s most difficult physical jobs, the suit states.
Graffiti — including “KKK,” “Go back to Africa,” the hangman’s noose, the Confederate Flag and “F-- [N-word]” — were carved into restroom walls, workplace benches and lunch tables and were slow to be erased, the lawsuit says.
Ooohkayyy... Let me show you where this factory is located:
It's squarely in the Bay Area, which is one of the most liberal areas known to man persons. It's just down the road from Oakload, which is heavily Black. If this behavior was really happening at the scale indicated, I would fully expect mobs from Oakland to come and burn down the factory - while mobs from San Jose and San Francisco with artificially colored hair paraded cleverly-worded signs outside.

This claim is almost certainly massively exaggerated bullshit, based on a few events. I mean, the Confederate Flag? If you ever flew it here, your house and car would be burned down in short order. But, and here's the kicker, it might contain a kernel of truth.

Thing is, these "triggering events" aren't coming from the well-established white supremacists in the Bay Area (either of them). They're coming from the near-minimum wage factory worker class - and, to no-one's surprise, this is dominated by recent immigrants: Very few of whom are in any way white.

The dirty secret which the California civil rights agency skirts around is, and this goes back to Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird", practical racism mostly happens around the same strata in society. The Ewells were racist - eventually, fatally so - to Tom Robinson because he was only one rung below them in society - a hard-working black man, not far off from doing better than the wastrel crackers who formed the Ewells. Things have not changed much in 60 years.

The relevant strata of society in the case of Tesla - and any other manufacturing company in the Bay Area - is recent immigrants in manual labour, earning not much above the minimum wage. There is strenuous competition for these jobs, and indeed for the positions just above them that have more security and better prospects. As such, you tend to see the various communities form "views" on the other communities. And, unfortunate as it might be, African-Americans are seen as the least hard workers and least dependable.

From reported experience in major cities, in both USA and Canada, newly immigrated Hispanics and East Asian Americans tend to be reasonably coherent groups, with intra-group solidarity (if you were Manuel Labor on the factory floor, you'd support Javi in his attempt to get a full-time position because he's "one of you", you'd grudgingly agree that Binh from Vietnam could do the job but he's clearly trying to climb to the management ladder, but there's no way you want Marland from Jamaica because he's always complaining and making other people fix his mistakes, but the boss won't fire him because he's black and they can't be doing with the inevitable racial discrimination claim...

This is deliberately a caricature, but it's the practical reality in a wide range of jobs around here. There's strenuous competition for jobs and advancement, so the natural defensive tendency of the human is to join a tribal group for self-protection, and absorb their attitude towards other groups.

Interestingly you don't get so many (proportionate to immigration rates) South Asians in these jobs - they tend to come to the Bay Area on graduate-level visas, or head towards their own small business rather than working for The Man. But still, they have a view on Black Americans, and it's often informed by the relative racial proportion of people robbing their - and their extended family's - retail establishments.

I particularly liked this claim from the article:

One was lodged by a female Black employee who said her female white boss struck her with a hot grinding tool and called her “stupid” and the N-word and insulted her intelligence. The suit says the supervisor was fired but later rehired.
A white woman, in the Bay Area, using physical violence and calling a Black woman the N-word in earshot of anyone else? And the company re-hires her? I would love to hear the details of this case. I suspect the actual facts are quite different to the stated ones.

I understand that the California governing class is mad at Elon for taking his money away from them, and that an accusation of racial discrimination is the easiest tool to exact revenge. But let's not be fooled - these claims are likely 90% bullshit, and the core of real racism arises from the struggle for good jobs and money between non-white ethnic groups.

1 comment:

  1. It's the point the fans of 'white privilege' don't seem to get. Every group tends to be more accepting of those 'like them'.

    If you're Spanish and move to a small village somewhere else in Spain and you step out of line the reaction will be more extreme than that meted out to local doing the same thing. It's a general reaction to 'the other'.

    Race is just another way of identifying 'other'.


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