A few years ago I opened a credit card with a minor department store in my area. The payments were low and I used it whenever emergencies arose, it was handy for birthday gifts, graduations, weddings or whenever they would have a sale on sheets , towels and underwear. I kept the card in the back portion of my wallet and never really thought about paying it off completely, but I would always keep the payments low enough to manage. When I would get the bill, like most of Middle America, I'd give a little here and there, just enough to keep it open, no big deal –I thought.
After a few years, the Department store closed abruptly and another company took over its accounts. The new company sent me a letter assuring me that my payments would remain the same and all I had to do was to continue to send those minimum payments to the same address. They even sent me a little tote bag for my trouble.
‘…But there arose a Pharaoh that did not know Joseph.’
Despite their assurances, almost overnight things changed for the worst. One month I was a week late on my payment, but still within the allotted grace period and I started getting strange static-ridden phones calls really late at night. When I paid my credit card the calls would stop, but when I was a bit late again the calls would mysteriously resume not only on the weeknights but, on weekends too!
The third time it happened the caller on the other end of the phone finally asked for me, by my first name (which always makes me angry because I never give stranger permission to be so familiar). In the back of my mind, I thought it may have been the new company, but I looked at my tote bag and said; Naw, it couldn’t be. The static-ridden call persisted until they got up enough nerve to say what they wanted.
I am not a world traveler, but I have been out of the country a few times and I have received calls from people in various parts of the world. Oftentimes, the calls from other countries seems to have a bit of a delay and the voice on the other end sounds faint, like they are talking into a tin can. Those were the type of calls I would receive at 8 and 9 in the evening 7 days a week.
At first, the speaking delays were so awful I would hang up after repeating 'Hello' two or three times, thinking it may be an overseas pervert. The calls would stop for a few days and then start up again around the time my bill was due. One day when the connection was clear, I heard a voice with quasi-British accent call me by my first name again;
I answered a bit warily:
‘Yes?’ Who is this?
I was hurriedly informed by the shaky voice on my telephone, that the calls were regarding my delinquent bill to the above-mentioned, now defunct department store’s take-over Company. The new company that had sent me the tote-bag was they now demanded my immediate payment ‘in full’ after 2 late payment 4 months apart.
This was the gist of the conversation:
“Mad-am this is the credit De-part-ment for such and such a company and we are calling you this even-ing to see when it is that you will pay your bill?”
Now, I am by nature a curious person so I asked the tin-can-quasi-British voice;
“Oh you are the one calling me at nights and weekends? By-the-way, where are you calling from?”
“Why are you asking?” she said on the verge of British irritation.
Now, it was obvious that my Customer Care Representative was not schooled in the social graces of America and she did not understand how to start off a meaningful conversation that would result in a payment, so I tried to break the ice.
I replied with a lilt in my voice, “Well, it sounds like you are a long way away.”
She said sternly; “I am in India, I am calling from Ind-ia.”
Then, without missing a beat, she insisted most vehemently that I pay my monthly bill of 25 dollars or my credit would be dinged.
The Beginning of hegemony: The White man’s Burden
At first I thought it was a joke, my husband and I joke a lot and sometimes he calls me up and pretends he is an old boyfriend or changes his voice to sound like an old woman - silly stuff like that, but I would always catch him and we would laugh and later tickle each other and then – Uhhh, well, I digress. We've been married for a while and in love for a lot longer, so we'd joke with each other to keep the sparks flying, but this time he was lying besides me snoring in my face, so he was not the one playing this practical joke.
I said arrogantly;
“ ...my credit is dinged? Where in Delhi? Bombay? Calcutta? At my neighborhood mini mart? Where can you ding my credit?”
That was the moment at I was introduced and initiated into the New Global Economy, the One World Government where my credit is bad in this country and a country I have never even visited. This was the One World Financial system and I was under the thumb of people that live thousands of miles away, and these people knew my buying habits, purchases, the size of my underwear, what color I choose for my sheets, not to mention my Social Security number and Drivers License Number! But, I still couldn’t believe it.
“Are you calling me from India? Where the Ganges River flows, where Mahatma Gandhi lived and where Genesha the half-woman, half elephant is worshipped? Where the Dalits are disrespected?
She stopped me in mid-sentence.
“Yes!” She said like an irritated mother, ‘Yes, that is where I am calling from!’ Now, are you going to pay this bill?
She was miffed, but so was I. Did she know I had endured 2 weeks of late night phone calls, static and interrupted family time? Did she know that we were going through a financial transition [We was broke]. I could tell she didn’t like the Genesha thing either, but I didn’t like the fact that she called me my Shabbat.
So, I went for the jugular, I asked her how much she was getting paid.
"Madame that is none of your business, will you pay your bill or not?” We can make it very, very hard for you to get credit.”
Obviously, she had not dealt with black-folks on a fixed income with an attitude before. Threats of bad-credit never scare us. Come and take it! We know how to start all over! She's had to find me first and then stand in line with all the others!
Now, don’t get me wrong - I was taught you are to pay for what you buy, but I was also taught to never, ever buy anything on TIME (credit). I failed that latter teaching and I was about to fail at the former. This country is built on credit, especially Po' folks credit. Why is it you can get plenty of credit in America, but you can’t get a decent job to pay your bills? Every job has been outsourced. Nothing is made in America except joblessness and poverty.
I wanted to say to my persistent caller that although she is on the long end of the stick today, she will be on the short end of it tomorrow. Corporate America is the eating machine - it eats and defecates all over the world. I wanted to tell her when she get comfortable and has her needs met, they will move on and find another person in another country that will work cheaper than she will, they will work for 10 cents an hour and maybe even a penny. I wanted to tell her that capitalism will ruin her chances at a rally meaningful life.
What bothered me was that I knew this job meant the world to her, as it had meant the world to the person she’d replaced in this country. What bothered me was that the measly money she was making probably afforded a better life for her than what she had. Better than most of the world had and soon better than me too! What scared me was that, maybe in a few years my town would be like a town in India and that Washington D.C., Compton or Atlanta could be like the black-hole of Calcutta...and Mother Theresa was dead! I was afraid that we would trade places with all those we discounted while we consumed goods they slaved to make.
Yes, I admit it, what scared me was that in India my credit was bad! Not in the good ole USA where I bought my merchandise, but in India!
What terrified me was the possibility that maybe my son would have to leave the good 'ole USA to take a job in another country to even make a decent living wage and when I went to visit him I would be put n jail for bad credit in America. That is the ultimate goal for OUTSOURCING isn't it? Having a hoard of roving people prostituting their talents for a fraction dollar? To have the whole world in debt and indebted to a few? To have a great gulf fixed between those who have and those who are slaves?
Would that mean if I ever went to India, I would have to take cash and come with a pocket full of Rupees? Did that mean that Indian folks in taxis would glare at me, or the man making Naan and Tandori at my favorite restaurant here will suck his teeth and refuse to accept my Master Card? This was what I was threatened with, not only in India, but all over the world. Soon everyone worldwide would know my name and my FICO score, and what is worst they already do.
People thousands of miles away CAN mess up my credit! Ding me from a distance! Would I eventually have to run from the global credit police?! Like all powerless people, I got upset and struck out at someone just as powerless.
“Well, this is how it will go today Honey, my delinquent 25 dollars may pay you for a couple of months, but, I don’t have the money now, so that means you won’t get paid!”
Her voice got higher, as she said just a moment and put me on hold.
As, I listened to a tinny rendition of ‘That 'Ole Black Magic’ played on a sitar, and soon another woman came on the line who was cool and to the point. It was obvious an American counterpart had schooled her and she passed with flying colors.
She got straight to the point giving me a simple option and informed me that; I could send either send a check today by wiring the money to an account in the Grand Cayman Islands or they would take a payment over the telephone with another credit or debit card otherwise they would take the next step, dinging my credit. I was really angry but defeated by now and I informed her I would send a check when I got paid and please stop calling me on my Sabbath and it was still considered harassment in America to call a person on the weekends and late in the evenings, especially on a Sabbath.
Then, she pulled out her trump card;
“Mad-ame the ‘Law’ says I can call you an-y-time until 9 pm on weekdays and on the weekends too!”
I was low on ammunition. I asked almost naively,
“The credit laws in America, we have them all in front of us and we know what can and can not be done and in what States.”
I was wounded...I didn't know the law in my own country, had we voted on them? There was a law that made me a slave again? The One World Government had wrestled me to the floor and I was about to say 'Uncle’.
I had a bad taste in my mouth. I wasn’t mad at her, I was mad because it had gotten out of hand not just my credit account , but how it was handled, how I was being handled. I had to face the realization that we all will be handled. Eventually we will all vie for a pitiful 25 dollars out of someone else’s pocket. We will all become prostitutes and slaves bought by global companies that own all workers birthed from the global worker gene-pool. We will be relegated to struggling for position at the bottom of the barrel, climbing over one another, pulling at others limb and feeding on the dead carcasses of the fallen and vulnerable - like crabs.
Whether crabs with in Curry, Black bean sauce, Jolof rice, Okra, salsa, or Hoisin sauce or over cornbread, either way we will all become bottom feeder! Did she understand the laws in America had enslaved my people will do the same to hers? It didn’t matter to her? She had a job and she was determined to do it.
Like a broken record I asked her again, (maybe it was the pinch to see if I was dreaming)
“Where am I calling again?”
She answered like an automaton;
“Due to the current political climate, I am not at liberty to divulge our geographical location.”
Well, that’s how it goes. I owed 25 dollars in India and must abide by American Law. It doesn’t even matter that they spent 30 dollars in long distance calls to get me to send in a 25 dollar payment on a bunch of stuff that was now broken including a stereo I bought 2 years ago. It doesn’t matter that the stereo was manufactured in China and broke 2 weeks after the warranty expired. It didn’t matter that I had to send it back to the repair office in Compton, California only to get a letter in the mail from North Carolina saying the parts they needed to repair the stereo had to come from Mexico and it will be 6 weeks before they can get an approval from their main repair office in Tennessee.
It didn’t matter that I was sold an older model stereo under the guise that it was NEW from the same store that had abruptly closed down and now that model had been discontinued and the newer versions were made in Malaysia but with parts slightly different than my model. It didn’t mater that nothing is made in this country and nothing can be repaired here either. All that didn’t matter because I have bad credit in India!
I woke my sleeping husband and told him of my conversation, as usual he spoke words of wisdom;
'Pay the damn thing off and be finished with it.'
Well, seven weeks later, two weeks after I paid off the credit card completely. I called about the stereo I had bought from the now defunct store. The customer service repairperson was not in India, but in the good 'ole U.S of A. I breathed a sigh of relief and asked her where she was from she said with a drawl;
After a brief but friendly conversation, I was told "in confidence" that she was an inmate doing her last months in a prison outside of Tennessee.
I said defeated;
"Well, at least someone’s workin'."
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