Posted on

NO LAUGHING MATTER: White collar vs blue collar

Mac Fingall

NO LAUGHING MATTER: White collar vs blue collar

Social Share

This is my last article as a columnist with the Nation newspaper. I would like to thank the Nation management for allowing me the privilege of writing the Sunday Sun column entitled No Laughing Matter. It was indeed an enjoyable experience.

I want to thank all those who took the time to read the articles. Thanks too to all those who took the time to write me concerning the said articles. Thank you all.

Some time ago I wrote a song entitled White Collar Man and I was shocked to hear many people accusing me of singing about white people. I did not realize that the terms “white collar man” and “blue collar man” were not commonly used and therefore my title was misinterpreted to mean something quite different from what I intended it to mean. The two terms are used to described the type of work an individual does.

Having found out that so many people, and I

mean many, misunderstood the song, I felt compelled to write and make it clear what the song was suggesting.

The song was prompted by my observation that the white collar worker seemed to be looking down on the blue collar worker, some times even with scorn, and it affected the blue collar worker to the point where he felt inferior.

I judged this to be quite unfair, for God made us all with different talents and abilities so that all the work to be done will in fact be done. Can you imagine if we were all of the same intellect? Oh, how the world would be confused.

The first thing I would like to do is to dispel the “skin colour” labelling from the white collar and blue collar discussion. All colours and races are both white collar and blue collar workers. In fact, in Barbados, there are considerably more white collar black people than white collar white people. And quite a few white people are blue collar workers.

The white collar worker is generally a person who performs professional, managerial and administrative work which is usually performed in an office setting while the blue collar worker usually does manual labour and mainly works outdoors.


Office worker


The origin of the title “white collar” would have come from the dress of the office worker of the past – white dress shirts of the male worker. The term “blue collar” would have evolved from the blue overalls that the manual workers wore.

I believe that the initial feeling of scorn for the blue collar worker would have come from the fact that they tend to get dirty. The manual labour that they do would usually cause their clothes to become soiled and sometimes even carry an unpleasant odour.

But is that reason to scorn or look down on a hard- working person? Let us look at some of the important work of the blue collar workers. They are carpenters, painters  masons, butchers, fishermen, canecutters, mechanics, hawkers, electricians, plumbers, garbage collectors, grave-diggers, farmers, air condition men. Now you should have an idea of those which I did not mention.

These workers are just as important as anybody else. They performed jobs which are vital to the very existence of the self-revered white collar man. So why should he be made to feel less than others? Just because you work in an air conditioned office and they work in the sun? Just because they sweat and you do not? Just because you smell of perfume and they smell of gas fumes?

Did they not build your house? Did they not put in the electricity so that you can see at night? And did the plumbing so that you could get water to drink and bathe? And repair your fancy car so that you could drive on the roads that they built? Do they not feed you with fish and vegetables?

Suppose they do not take away the garbage for about six months. Can you imagine your plight? So you see the blue collar garbage collector and the blue collar grave digger are in the health business just like the white collar doctor. Did they not say “prevention is better than cure”? Do you still scorn the blue collar worker? Do you still look down on him? Do you still feel superior?

Suppose we were to experience a major earthquake tomorrow, what will be the most important and urgent jobs necessary? Do you think that to open an office in order to sign a document or to finish  a law case would be urgent?

Urgency would demand the services of electricians, welders, carpenters, plumbers, tree cutters, garbage collectors and even grave diggers. Are they still to be scorned?

Thanks again to the newspaper and the readers.

• Mac Fingall is an entertainer and retired secondary schoolteacher. Email [email protected]