Toilet Scrubber, Reporting for Duty


I swear I wanted to do a News Links post for you, but I couldn’t focus. My mind kept wandering and I figured if I couldn’t concentrate on reading the news, there was no way I’d be able to pull together anything interesting enough to share with you.

Today, instead of a News Links post, I’m gonna share some thoughts on the one item that refuses to disappear from my social media feeds: Kelly Osbourne’s sad attempt at defending Latinos.

I realize this isn’t exactly news, but it’s saturating my social media feeds and I’ve read entirely too many crazy comments to let it go. “I’m Mexican, I have family that are housekeepers and I’m totally not offended by what Kelly said. LOL Quit taking everything so seriously.” I can’t tell you how many comments like that I’ve sifted through. One’s bad, half a dozen is concerning, but 12 + had me rethinking my stance on what Osbourne had said.

When I first got wind of Kelly’s remarks I just rolled my eyes and went on about my business. What else was I supposed to do? Get outraged? Nah. Folks say a lot of derogatory things when relating to my people. Sometimes they don’t even realize what they’ve said is shitty, until I’ve begun contorting my face in reaction to their words.

You see, I’d have died of an anger-induced stroke by now if I were to fly into a rage every time someone assumed I was beneath them just because I’m Mexican. What Kelly Osbourne said was terrible for sure, but it didn’t come across as intentional. Intentional looks more like this:

What happened to Kelly felt more like a mistake or a poor choice of words. She misspoke. She made a generalization with negative connotations and accidentally equated all Latinos to, not just maids or janitors, but toilet scrubbers specifically. That’s not to say there’s no honor in scrubbing toilets, it’s honest work and somebody’s gotta do it. I appreciate everyone who takes care of that, so that I don’t have to. In my house, however, I’m the one scrubbing away.

Image Source: Klein Cleaning

Image Source: Klein Cleaning

What happened to Kelly was actually more telling of her perception of Latinos than Trump’s immigration grandstanding is of his. Trump’s saying what he thinks people want to hear. He’s telling voters they’re not alone in their contempt for these outsiders. He wants the everyman to think he’s on their side because he needs their help. Kelly, on the other hand, assumes she’s on our side, but accidentally ends up reducing an entire ethnic group to “the help.”

In reality, it wasn’t so much Kelly’s word choice that was infuriating. It was that she thought equating Latinos to toilet scrubbers was the best way to underscore just how integral immigrant labor has become to the daily lives of Americans. As if that weren’t enough, when her colleagues call her out on this, she refuses to even partake in the “debate” because that was obviously not what she meant, you guys. I suppose what Kelly didn’t realize was that no one wanted to debate anything, but an immediate apology would have been nice. It would have felt more sincere.

I suppose it comes down to this, you might as well have looked straight into the camera and told me that the help doesn’t require explanations because they’re the help, Kelly. You were so concerned about the impact of your poorly chosen words that you later crafted an official Facebook post to apologize for your gaffe, right? Why wait? If you saw that you crossed a line (and the reaction on the face of your Latina colleague should have been sufficient evidence of that) you should have explained yourself then & there. If you’re going to say something, own that shit, woman. Tell us how you didn’t mean to denigrate an entire ethnic group and give us the respect of an explanation. We deserve that much for cleaning your toilets, raising your kids, cooking your meals, and mowing your lawns. Wouldn’t you agree?