Racial and Ethnic Relations
Racial and Ethnic Relations SOC 400
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This 1 page Class Notes was uploaded by Amiya Fritsch on Sunday October 11, 2015. The Class Notes belongs to SOC 400 at Eastern Kentucky University taught by Dionne Smith in Fall. Since its upload, it has received 5 views. For similar materials see /class/221440/soc-400-eastern-kentucky-university in Sociology at Eastern Kentucky University.
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Date Created: 10/11/15
2 Racism in Toyland ment Lazelle for example who was about 35 had been asking to work as a cashier for the two months she had been working there She worked as a mer chandiser getting items from the storeroom pricing items and checking prices when bar codes were missing Lazelle nally got her chance at the regis ters the same day that I started We set up next to each other and I noticed with a bit of envy how competent and con dent on the register she was Later she told me she had worked registers at other stores including fastfood restaurants I told her I had been hoping to get assigned as a merchandiser I liked the idea of being free to walk around the store talk with customers and learn more about the toys I had mentioned to the manager that I wanted that job but she made it clear I was destined for cashiering and service desk and later to my horror computer accounting Lazelle looked at me like I was crazy Most workers thought merchandising was the worst job in the store because it was so physically taxing From her point of view I had got ten the better job no doubt because of my race and it seemed to her that I wanted to throw that advan tage away The manager may also have considered my andr rin assigning me to particular jobs The preference for lighterskinned women as cashiers re ects the importance of this job in the store s general operations In discount stores cus tomers seldom talk with sales clerks The cashier is the only person most customers deal with giving her enormous symboliciand economiciimpor tance for the corporation Transactions can break down if clerks do not treat customers as they expect The preference for white and lightskinned women as cashiers should be understood in this light In a racist and sexist society managers generally believe that such women are the most friendly and solici tous and thus most able to inspire trust and con dence in a commercial transaction At the upscale Diamond Toys virtually all cashiers were white Unlike the warehouse store where cash registers were lined up at the front of the store the upscale store had cash registers scattered throughout the different departments The prefer ence for white workers in these jobs and through out the store seemed consistent with the marketing of the store s workers as the ultimate toy experts In retail work professional expertise is typically associated with whiteness much as it is in domestic The purported expertise of salesclerks is one of the great deceptions of the retail industry Here where jobs pay little and turnover rates are high estimated at more than 100 percent per year by the National Retail Federation many clerks know almost nothing about the products they sell I knew nothing about toys when I was put behind the cash register and I received no training on the merchan dise at either store Any advice I gave I literally made up But at the upscale store I was expected to help customers with their shopping decisions They frequently asked questions like What are going to be the hot toys for oneyear olds this Christmas or What one item would you recommend for two sis ters of different ages One mother asked me to help her pick out a 58 quartz watch for her seven yearold son A personal shopper phoned in and asked me to describe the three Britney Spears dolls we carried help her pick out the nicest one and then arrange to ship it to her employer s niece Customers asked detailed questions about how the toys were meant to work and they were especially curious about comparing the merits of the educa tional toys we offered I was asked to compare the relative merits of the Baby Mozart and the Baby Bac On my first day I answered a phone call from a customer who asked me to pick out toys for a oneyearold girl and a boy who was two and a half spend up to 100 and arrange to have the toys giftwrapped and mailed to their recipients At Diamond Toys most customers didn t mind waiting to talk with me When the lines were long they didn t make rude huf ng noises or try to make eye contact with their fellow sufferers as they often did at the Toy Warehouse I couldn t help but think that the customersimostly whiteiwere more civil and polite at the upscale store because most of us workers were white We were presumed to be pro fessional caring and knowledgeable even when we weren t Like the employers of domestic work ers studied by Julia Wrigley white customers seemed less respectful of minority service workers than white workers they apparently assumed that whites were more re ned and intelligent On several occasions at the warehouse store I saw customers reveal racist attitudes toward my AfricanAmerican coworkers One night after the store had closed I saw Doris and Selma ftyish African Americans escorting several white cus tomers out Getting straggling customers to leave the store after closing was always a big chore Soon after as I was being audited in the manager s office Selma came in very upset because one of the women she and Doris escorted out had spit out her chewing gum at her Doris and Selma were appalled Doris said to them That is really disgust ing how could you do that And the woman said