My father was a steelworker, the epitome of the person you likely conjure up when you hear someone described as “working class”. White, male, hard hat and lunch pail, steel-toed boots and a dark blue uniform he’d bring home at the end of every shift and promptly throw in the washing machine. The earthy, sweaty, and metallic smell lingered in the laundry room after he closed the lid.
He taught me how to play basketball, badminton and throw a decent baseball as well as how to fix a flat tire. Most importantly, he gave me the grit and resilience –and some might say, hard-headedness – to make my way from a blue-collar upbringing in Middletown, Ohio, to create a life and career in New York City. My dad was the last generation of working-class heroes – the men who soldered, heaved and secured America’s industrial might in the world, and as a result earned the pride and respect of our nation.
But men like my dad no longer epitomize the working class today.