Commentary  A call for unity of the have-nots

A couple days before Obama’s Inauguration, a good friend of mine was laid off. The factory he worked at works exclusively with aluminum provided by the Alcan smelter, which, not coincidentally, just closed down one of its Quebec smelters. This happened on the same day Obama told us that “our economy is badly weakened” because of “our collective failure to make hard choices.”

Which hard choices has my friend failed to make? Paying rent, or skipping a meal? Or paying off one credit card and not the other?

To assure all those weak-hearted liberals that this is not a racist rant, I will have to establish my race credential and that of my friend. For simplicity’s sake, I am a yellow and a landed immigrant, and my friend is a brown. But losing your only job has nothing to do with the colour of your skin. We immigrants and coloured people have always been at the bottom of the barrel, doubly-oppressed and invisible despite being a visible minority. It wouldn’t be an overstatement to say we’ll be hit first and hardest by this economic crisis.

Castro’s brother said that Obama “seems like a good man.” I hope that’s true, because hope seems like the only thing we have left. We used to have our sweat to sell, but bosses aren’t interested anymore. Why? Because we have too much of everything: too many cars in the GM parking lot because none of us can afford to buy them, so the factories are closing; too many houses from which millions were evicted because they couldn’t pay their mortgages. When people are starving and wanting in this world of plenty, the world is truly upside down.

Promises have been made, but my gut tells me they’ll be broken. A first step forward has been taken but the rug will be pulled from under our feet from the very man who laid it for us. Because now it takes a face of hope to break any hope left in humanity. Now, as my dear friend told me, it takes “a black face to tell white lies.”

However, I believe humanity will triumph, not through a unity but through a division, that of between the haves and the have-nots. The have-nots will unite amongst themselves breaking loose the truth. We’ve seen a glimpse of this truth on the picket line, on the street fighting injustice, and whenever we wonder how billions are made while we stand as starving outcasts. When that day comes, for the first time the have-nots, black and white, yellow and brown, will be able to join hands and sing that old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

Ted Sprague is a Master’s II student in Chemistry. He can be reached at