(Article originally published in POOR Magazine)
Hegemony–The predominant influence, as of a state, region, or group, over another or others.
In my last revolutionary worker scholar article entitled, “You Sexy Thing”, I wrote about my experiences working as a security guard in a supermarket. In this bad economy, it is the only job I can get. Many people tell me, “You should be thankful you even have a job”. Believe me, I am on my knees every night giving thanks to the Gods of private security and loss prevention (LP for short) for allowing me to wear the uniform of 100% polyester, neckline covered in fur and, of course, badge with the security guard company logo.
Something interesting happened during my shift that is worth noting. I was monitoring the activity in the store near the entrance/exit doors. I was in a highly visible position, nestled between stacks of sports drinks and dingdong/hoho (or hoho/dingdong) cakes. I was trying to look alert and attentive but I was in a different place, a different reality. I was daydreaming of getting into the electronic buggy for disabled shoppers and plowing full-speed into the store manager’s ass (complete with painted-on bullseye), bumper car style (A la bull goring matador). I imagined doing donuts in the aisles and parking lot and popping wheelies and leaving skidmarks while flapping my arms and making chicken noises. This is the best part of security for me–being able to let the imagination run loose down the aisles while the manager makes announcements over the loudspeakers about various perishables.
As I stood near the dingdong/hoho cakes, a co-security guard whose post is in the parking lot approached me. “Hey”, he said, “There was a guy who came in earlier, I think he walked out with a beer”. There was a pause. “What you need to do”, he continued, “is walk the aisles so you can see what these guys are doing”. I gave him my most sincere and confounded look. “I didn’t see the guy”, I said, “What did he look like?” The guard looked at me and said under his breath, “He was a young black guy. He came in yesterday too”. I began to notice a pattern among these supermarket employee folk. I heard them say things like, They’re stealing from “us”, when referring to shoplifters. Who the hell is “us” i’d whisper to myself silently. I witnessed a Raza store clerk run after a young African descended woman whom she thought was shoplifting. The lady was merely placing her basket down near the entrance doors and obtaining a larger basket on wheels.
I stood in silence feeling as if I had betrayed some secret code of security guards. Here was this guard (an ex mortgage broker, bless his altruistic soul) trying to school me, trying to bring out the empathy that was dormant in my soul for the Budweiser Beer Company that just got beaten for $1.25. Shame overcame me like a flood of florescent light. I felt the need for a bathroom run followed by a drink (Presumably one I’d pay for, 1.25 to be exact). I recalled a conversation I’d had with POOR Magazine co-editor Lisa Gray-Garcia (AKA Tiny) about people like this. They identify with the man to the degree that they start believing that they own what the man owns, said Tiny. What they own is hegemony.
“Follow me”, said my security guard comrade. He led me across the aisles past the sodium, fat and high fructose corn syrup laden foodstuffs. We went up a flight of stairs until coming to a door that said, “Manager”. We walked inside. The manager sat at a desk strewn with papers and orange rinds. Her hands were folded into a little pyramid. “I heard you have a different outlook than the others”, she said, leaning back in her chair. “What outlook is that?” I asked. The manager looked at the other guard, then at me. “You know very well what I’m talking about”. She opened her drawer and pulled out a medicine bottle and tablespoon.
She approached me and unscrewed the cap. I looked at the bottle, on it was the word: Hegemony. The other guard grabbed me from behind in a Full Nelson. “Open wide”, said the manager, the syrup oozing onto the tablespoon like a disease. “What is that, I asked. “It’s good for you”, she replied, “We get the stuff by the truckloads, at marked down prices. Open up!” She put the spoon to my lips. I opened my mouth and took the tepid liquid. It burned into my tongue like a freshly lit match. In a flash I spit it out, wanting to expunge the medicine and everything it stood for in the annals of supermarket history. The liquid landed on the manager’s face like a frenzied molecular species that had just been let loose from the lab. She screamed like a hyena (which is an insult to that species). The guard shoved me against the wall and landed 2 knees to my groin–the left first, then the right. “Get him the hell outta here!” the manager screamed.
The guard led me down the stairs by the scruff of the neck like a bad little boy who disturbed the class–past the aisles with dog food, floor wax, snack cakes, clothes detergent and frozen fish sticks. He led me through the exit door and out of that market and into the street. The birds were perched on a wire waiting for me. I walked away from that market leaving behind a current opening for a security officer.