In doing some much-needed cleaning out of old boxes, I found a piece I had written when my daughter Meredith was in college. I think the message is still appropriate even about 25 years later. Here goes.
Sitting in one of her classes at Rutgers University as part of her education to become a social worker, my daughter heard the professor expound on various theories on why minorities become involved in crime.
“Only lower level jobs – such as McDonald’s or supermarket clerks -are open to minorities,” said the professor, claiming these were dead-end positions with no opportunity for advancement.
My daughter was incensed. Since she didn’t have a chance to voice her opinion in class, she came home, rhetorically posing questions to her parents.
“What’s wrong with being a supermarket clerk?” Not waiting for us to answer, she went on.
“I’ve been a cashier since I was 16 in King’s (a gourmet supermarket). I earned my spending money through high school and saved for college. I’ve continued to do that in college and have consistently gotten raises. As a result of working at King’s, I have a scholarship.”
“What’s wrong with being a supermarket clerk?” Meredith asked again and proceeded to answer herself.
“It’s taught me responsibility, accountability, how to get along with people, especially difficult people. I’m not afraid to handle money and can work as a bookkeeper, responsible for counting thousands of dollars. If I wanted, I could go into management.”
“So what’s wrong with being a supermarket clerk?” she asked a third time.
“I think there are plenty of opportunities; people just have to look. Frankly, I’m insulted that someone puts my job down.” She threw up her hands, saying, “No wonder there are problems if the leaders are telling people that certain jobs are beneath them.”
When she paused, my husband and I quickly agreed with her and praised her perception of what was happening in colleges and in the media.
Footnote: Meredith worked in various King’s locations in New Jersey, becoming a closing manager and an acting assistant manager before she got married. She now works in commodities, specializing in legumes, as a general manager for an international company. Obviously, her experience as a supermarket clerk was not a dead-end position and provided opportunities for her.
Sidna Brower Mitchell was graduated from the University of Mississippi in 1963 and named to the Ole Miss Hall of Fame. She was editor of The Daily Mississippian when James Meredith integrated the university, receiving a Pulitzer Prize nomination for her editorials and a number of other honors and job offers.
The Memphis native worked for the World-Telegram and Sun in New York City and UPI in London. She held other media and public relations jobs as well as being a part owner of weekly newspapers in Morris County, NJ, for 25 years. She has continued to write a weekly cooking column since 1975. Sidna retired as deputy director of the New Jersey Council on Affordable Housing (COAH), a controversial state agency.
Still holding offices in several organizations, Sidna has taken up serious croquet in retirement and has participated in tournaments in New Jersey, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Florida.
While she has never returned to the South to live, Sidna’s heart and cooking still have that Southern touch.
She can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.