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Comforting Fables

November 02, 1986

I gather that Robert Hawkins lives with President Reagan on the ranch in Santa Barbara in exchange for the comforting fables he tells. There is no other explanation for his letter of Oct. 19.

Like Hawkins' nephew, I have never had trouble finding work in Santa Barbara. Temporary jobs paying $4, $5 and sometimes $10 an hour are quite easy to find there. Unfortunately, finding an acceptable place to live on such low and often intermittent pay is nearly impossible.

Speaking from my own experiences, "cash-only" or "service-exchange" jobs can provide nearly anyone with 32 hours of work a week, providing someone is willing to put in at least eight hours a week looking for work while enduring such unpaid interruptions as bad weather, holidays, late materials, or the boss' unscheduled days off.

Thirty-two hours a week at $5 an hour comes to $640 a month. That's enough money to split a decent one- or two-bedroom apartment with three or four other people. It's a fine life until the roommate you hate most comes down with the flu, head lice, or an irrepressible lust for abused women.

Hawkins' insights about "race, creed, color, age, sex" not mattering to cows is pointless. The cows belonging to President Reagan and his neighbors may indeed welcome any man or woman to milk them, but the undercurrents of Santa Barbara's human society are not so accommodating to minorities.

Witness UC Santa Barbara's troubles in attracting and holding onto minority students, or the unwarranted detention a few years back of three Harlem Globetrotter basketball players as suspected "jewel thieves" just because they happened to be the only black men shopping on State Street that day.

The purpose of this letter is not to malign Hawkins or Santa Barbara.

On a warm sunny day even an unemployed black man living in Los Angeles can believe that there's a good job waiting for him out there--a job with yearly raises until he retires and good medical benefits. But the feeling goes away when he sees he's truly not getting anywhere; when he sees he'll never be able to afford the basic necessities of home and family that many people better off by circumstance than he is take for granted.



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