Because of how the service industry is structured and affected by very real oppressions, service workers the perfect prey for state-sanctioned bullies like the police.
Did you read that title? Good, because I mean that shit.
But in the interest of writing from a slightly different perspective on things, let’s just say that I meant a loosely synonymous word. Like, say, a bully. Dictionary.com defines a bully as “a blustering, quarrelsome, overbearing person who habitually badgers and intimidates smaller or weaker people” and “To intimidate; domineer”. Merriam-Webster defines a bully as “one who is habitually cruel, insulting, or threatening to others who are weaker, smaller, or in some way vulnerable” and “To cause (someone) to do something by means of force or coercion”. Oxford defines a bully as “a person who habitually seeks to harm or intimidate those whom they perceive as vulnerable.” In archaic versions, it is defined as “a man hired to do violence”.
What’s the point in me saying this? Well, it’s fairly simple:
Cops a la police forces in this country are state-sanctioned bullies (and they attract people who either were already bullies in their prime or just wish to bully others as some demented hard-on for a minor power trip). It’s true. They literally exist to carry out the will of the state. But specifically, enforce the will of the state. Enforce its laws, per being a part of the executive branch, as Schoolhouse Rock taught us. With that said, because we have a legal system and not a justice system, enforcement of the law… is largely left to their own discretion. Which is an important thing to note. Because at one time, the law allowed the government to steal land from (and murder) Indigenous people. The law once allowed slavery. It once allowed draconian Jim Crow laws. And we see how the police enforced those…at their own discretion. And we see how they enforce them now, by them shooting and profiling and killing Black people (along with Latinx and Indigenous peoples) in this country with impunity…despite what the law says (about, say, murder). Legislatures pretend that they have a say in what they do by passing all of these toothless reforms, but let’s be real. They believe it is their right to bully, per all these dictionaries, those who they perceive as weaker. And more vulnerable to their strain of bullying.
Are you following along? I hope you are. Because if I stated above that cops have a grand ol’ time bullying (allow harassing, hassling, possibly killing, etc) people who are marginalized in this country, who do you think they’ll have the best time bullying?
If you guessed service workers (particularly of the fast-food variety), you’d be correct. And bonus points for guessing correctly that they would really bust a nut if they got to harass a Black or Brown service worker. If you’re questioning why I’m bringing this up, then I urge you to do your Googles and notice the uptick in cops claiming they’re being, ahem, oppressed by fast-food workers refusing to serve them or worse, being poisoned by them or called really mean names like “pig”. Of course, this oppression is fictitious. Not just because these officers are blatantly lying and making up these scenarios of fast-food workers either doing them harm or wishing them harm.
But because these really powerful and painfully insecure state-sanctioned bullies…have a persecution complex. The Los Angeles Times’ Mariah Kreutter said it well when she illustrated in her piece that cops are trained as warriors and regard themselves as such. Now, as warriors, it’s safe to say that they are quick to assume everyone who is not them… is “the enemy”. And of course, if you see everyone (but particularly Black and Brown people + service workers) as the enemy, you’re gonna also assume that they are out to get you. That everyone is out to get you. Giving yourself cause (and those who suck your police dick) to believe that you are being, you guessed it, persecuted when the smallest (fictitious) thing doesn’t go your way.
Enter [fast food] service workers.
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Let’s not be coy here. Fast-food workers and other service workers (waiters, housekeeping staff, janitors, sanitation workers, grocery store clerks, and cashiers, etc, etc) are generally treated like shit. Or perhaps worse than shit. Like the gum that stuck to your shoe after passing through a urine-riddled subway. It’s true. Different people from different walks of life love to join hands and rally around their apparent God-given right to shit on service workers. Bully them even. They foam at the mouth for the opportunity to bully service workers, people who—in their eyes— are beneath them. People who don’t have “real jobs”. The lowest of the low. Doing the “lowest” jobs. This belief is so deeply entrenched that even people who share the same class as service workers will turn around and shit on them too (yes, I am talking to you, call center employee who is scared of quitting their job for “a real job” even though they hate every second of it).
With this being case, logic dictates that, if it is socially acceptable to collective shit on and bully service workers without experiencing any major (and perhaps “legal”) consequences for doing so (and thereby making them exceedingly vulnerable to physical, material, and in-real-life mistreatment), then it would make total sense that it is extremely easy for cops—the most gargantuan of bullies—to bully service workers as well.
But their hard-on for intimidating these service workers still isn’t that simple. I mean, think about it. Who tends to occupy these so-called “low” jobs? Who tends to fill out these so-called “not real” jobs? Poor people. Poor immigrants. Poor Black people. Poor Latinx people. Even poor white people. But if there’s anything America hates more than a poor motherfucker is a poor Black or Latinx motherfucker. In fact, per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, particularly as reported on by Al Jazeera America, Black and Latinx people represent roughly 40% of fast food and other service workers across the board. With their white counterparts being even more likely to occupy a higher position in, say, fine dining rather than fast food. Which totally explains literally everyone’s preoccupation with trying to shit on and most importantly, “humble” them. Or, in worse cases, harm them.
This makes service workers the perfect prey for state-sanctioned bullies like the police. Not only because their class position almost wills this to be so, but also because the intersection of race and class here (with the likelihood of harassment increasing based on additional factors like gender, sexuality, disability, and etc) makes it so easy to. Because larger society already vehemently hates these groups (Black people, Latinx people, immigrants, and poor people) on their own and combining these people in one person, one position makes for an interesting game of Who’s Oppressor is That Anyway?
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This is particularly why, while it’s humorous to see the denizens of the internet joining hands to cyberbully these state-sanctioned bullies into confessing about and exposing each other for habitually lying on service workers (in what I believe is an elaborate or concentrated effort to get free food for simply being cops, if I’m being honest) about shitting on themselves after drinking shakes or putting “tampons” in their drinks or taking too long to serve them the warm piece of cardboard everyone refers to as the McMuffin, it’s not enough to merely point and laugh at them. Many of us rightfully focus on the more overt symptoms and hallmarks of police brutality, like murder. But police brutality by definition includes undue force and harassment against people who are merely trying to exist. And in this case? Merely trying to do their fucking jobs and survive another day in this capitalistic shithole called America.
And until we all confront our own biases against service workers as well as call for the defunding and abolishing of the police (therefore removing their power to bully), this will continue.