#689. Chimney Sweeping

Just doing his part in bringing back chimney sweeping

It is a well known fact that many of the eighteenth century chimney sweepers in New York City were free men of color. And by “free men of color,” we mean Black people. Regrettably, this vocational practice has gone out of vogue in the Black community as the time honored tradition of apprenticing and training to sweep chimney’s for a living is borderline dead.

Is it because homeowners fear having a Black person in their house? Is it because Black people grew tired of wiping soot and ash from their clothes and body? Is it because of pernicious impact of White Privilege and the continued usage of the white Santa Claus paradigm, instead of embracing a move toward inclusion by crafting a new myth around a Black Santa?

Regardless of the reasons, chimney sweeping – as a profession for employing Black people – is on life support. Until 17-year-old Renaldo Jack (of the increasingly unlivable Gwinnett County) made a bid to restore luster and prestige to an occupation that is known to give white people who perform the task a culturally-unacceptable blackface:

If Santa knows whether you’ve been bad or good, he knows 17-year-old Renaldo Jack is part of the former group.
The Atlanta-area teen was charged with burglary after trying to break into a Norcross home through the chimney. 

He got stuck, and was trapped for nearly half a day.

The teen’s cries for help were finally heard, and he was rescued by firefighters around 1:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Gwinnett County police said Jack had been stuck in the chimney since 3 a.m. Tuesday.

Chimney Sweeping: A once proud Black tradition

Jack was also charged with providing false information to a police officer after he gave a fake name to a policeman who recognised him from a prior arrest.

According to WSBTV in Atlanta, no less than six patrol cars showed up to the scene.

The AP headline for the story at Yahoo stated Teen Rescued After 10 Hours in chimney of Georgia home, without providing the crucial detail of the uninvited nature of his visit to that chimney. Even if he was trying to resurrect Black people’s interest in having a career in chimney sweeping, Renaldo was still participating in an attempted home invasion. 
And instead of perpetuating an image of Black people as hard working chimney sweepers, Renaldo’s arrest – and time stuck in a chimney – highlights one of the primary reasons that homeowners don’t trust having Black people in their home.
Stuff Black People Don’t Like, sadly, includes chimney sweeping, a once proud tradition within the Black community. It’s just a profession that doesn’t pay as much as the government these days.



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