photo: There’s work at the Post Office!

A line most will remember from the Robert Townsend stereotype-acknowledging–and defying–1987 flick Hollywood Shuffle. Spoken by the main character’s grandmother as she disapproves of the stereotypical black roles he feels forced to take to make it as an actor, it’s a strong reminder that there’s always a job somewhere else. Maybe not a better job, but perhaps one you can at least be proud of.

While out and about yesterday enjoying the briefly nice weather, we emerged from Gallery Place/Chinatown at the 7th & F exit and my eye immediately noticed a young black man in an orange prison-style jumpsuit. Considering that it was still a little overcast out, it was impossible not to notice him, really. He was handing out flyers to passersby for The National Museum of Crime & Punishment.*

He was polite and while one or two people seemed startled, most walked past clearly immune to the usual array of DC hawkers and buskers.** My companion remarked that he’d think a young black man would turn such a job down. I agreed. As we headed towards the National Building Museum, I was more than a little tempted to walk back and tell him, “My good man, there’s work at the Post Office…”

† I am certain that the young man was well aware of what the job might entail and had no problem with it himself. It was an easy day’s work with a pleasant day’s weather. It’s just one more thing that makes me question the Museum’s advertising choices.

* They’re still kinda on my no-go list for equating crimes of passion with romance–by making it a Valentine’s Day event–so I’m not really surprised what kinds of shocking or outrageous advertising they employ.

** During my travels in DC, that corner has played host to pandas (both statue and costumed), terra cotta warriors, and the Nationals Park presidents to say the least. It’s not out of the ordinary that people wouldn’t take notice.

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2 Responses

  1. Donna Munoz says:

    (my email to crime museum)

    Hi—

    I was downtown this past weekend and saw several black men in orange jumpsuits with “Crime Museum” on the back of the jumpsuits. Two of the men that I saw had handcuffs hanging off of one hand and another had “crime scene” yellow tape around his forehead like a bandana. I just wanted to comment that this seemed a fairly mean spirited way to interact with tourists visiting in DC, perpetuating the stereotype of black men as criminals. I can see much crossing of the road happening. Granted, I was clear that they were handing out flyers and figured that they were advertising for the museum and it still seemed really tacky! I might have had a different reaction had I seen some white blond haired, blue eyed men in the same costumes—but that is not what I saw.

    The reply from the museum

    Hi Donna,

    Thank you so much for your comment and email.

    Our museum does not discriminate in our hiring practices. We have a very diverse employee population that is representative of DC.

    Our employees are shown the required uniform upon applying for a position. If s/he chooses to apply for that specific job (Outside Sales)- then the prison scrub is the required uniform, if they chose to apply for a different museum position, they get a choice. Again, everyone is shown the uniform before they apply, this isn’t something we “blind-side” anyone with.

    I, myself wear the scrubs, when I work the floor on weekends, so I am sorry that you feel it’s tacky, as many tourist ask to pose in pictures with us, and even more times, people have asked if they can purchase them (which we do not sell).

    Again, thank you for your comments and feedback.

    (My reply to the reply)

    Thanks for replying. I understand the position of the museum and will pass it on.

  1. June 24, 2011

    […] have taken notice of the questionable practice, and the museum got some heat in February for a Valentine’s Day […]

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