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Give the Working Class a Break

As part of Assignment Detroit, is working with 11 high school students from the Detroit area. They come from all walks of life, from suburban prep schools to city schools both strong and weak. The project will illustrate the Detroit region from their point of view—what it's like to live there now, and whether the area has a place in their future or not. Today's post is from Liz Sawyer, a senior at Waterford Kettering High School in suburban Detroit.

My mother has been a waitress at Big Boy for more than 20 years. During that time she has worked as hard as she possibly can to provide for our family. And until recently, that was enough. But on more than one occasion in the past few months, regular customers have made degrading comments toward my mother and her job. When a customer asked about me, she said that I had just won a scholarship. He replied, “So your daughter is a success, despite you? I bet she doesn't want to end up working here.”

It takes a special kind of audacity to say that to someone's face.

What I can't understand, though, is why being a waitress is so utterly repulsive. My mother makes a living serving the public, just as so many other Americans do. She makes almost $500 a week with wages and tips. No, she didn't dream of becoming a waitress as a child, but over the years she has stayed in order to put food on our table. Seems like an honorable profession to me.

Besides, every mother is a waitress in one way or another. Most mothers cater to their family's wants and needs; it just so happens that my mother caters to everyone's needs.

Even more foreign to me is the elitist attitude. Who is this man to judge my mother's career choice, when so many of the people here can't find work? With the decline of the auto industry, people in Metro Detroit are lucky to even have a part-time job, let alone full-time. People with bachelor's degrees are getting turned away from McDonald's. And it doesn't look like it's going to get better soon.

The truth is, the working class drives this city, it doesn't hold it back. We shouldn't be ashamed of those blue-collar workers who spend their lives making ours a little more comfortable or a little less complicated; we should be grateful.

I'm the way I am because of my mother, not despite her.  

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