13 Sep “Kids First: Respecting the Dignity of the Working Person,” By Andrew Malekoff, Sept. 10, 2018
By now I imagine you’ve heard all about “The Cosby Show” actor Geoffrey Owens who was job-shamed for working at Trader Joe’s.
If you haven’t heard or just to refresh: a customer recognized him, snapped a few unflattering photos of him bagging potatoes and sold it to a tabloid news outlet that gave it a derisive can-you-believe-what-he’s-doing-now hook.
If you are a parent, this is a great story to share and discuss with your kids. If you are a young person still in school it is an important lesson to absorb, store away and preserve so you can come back to it. You might find that you will need it one day.
Although Yale graduate Owens admitted to feeling humiliated by being exposed in such a disdainful manner, he said that he was not embarrassed about having a side job at Trader Joe’s and that many working actors need to supplement their income to help support themselves and their families.
Social media picked up his cause, which led to myriad media appearances and a viral social media presence. He used the opportunity to give voice to the dignity of work.
Here is what he said about that in a Sept. 4 Time magazine video interview: “The fact that I, as the guy from ‘The Cosby Show,’ was shamed about working at Trader Joe’s, that story is going to move on, that’s gonna pass. What I hope doesn’t pass is this new recognition, this current sensitivity people are feeling about work and about people working. I hope what continues to resonate is the idea that one job is not better than another. A certain job might pay more, might have better benefits and might look better on paper, but essentially one kind of work is not better, superior to another kind of work and that we reevaluate that whole idea and we just start honoring the dignity of work and respecting the dignity of the working person.”
Ironically, Owens’ job-shaming experience led to thousands of tributes on Twitter, a new acting job with producer-director Tyler Perry and offers of cash gifts from celebrities like rapper Nicki Minaj, all of whom were so moved by Owens.
I found the story to be personally uplifting; and, not because Owens benefited with renewed notoriety and a promising new acting job, but because of his humanity and the dignity he displayed in representing working stiffs all across America, regardless of their stripe or station in life.
Bravo Geoffrey Owens. Well done!
Andrew Malekoff is the executive director of North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center.
You can see the Time interview with Geoffrey Owens here: http://amp.timeinc.net/time/5385842/geoffrey-owens-cosby-show-actor-grocery-store-speaks-out?__twitter_impression=true