The Desk

January 19, 2009

Still Standing for the Cause

Filed under: Career Advancement,Hiring — Yvonne LaRose @ 8:54 PM
Tags: , , ,

There are times when we go through situations that are most disagreeable. Unsavory as they are, unacceptable to the typical, forward-looking person, there are those who see no flaw in the circumstances because that is obviously where the person is supposed to be. They are among their kind. These individuals are progressing as they are supposed to be (which is actually stagnating and not being challenged in any meaningful way). These people are free to live wherever they want as long as it’s in the same or lesser environment of where they’re expected to be. Goods and services are acquired appropriate to the person’s standing. There is freedom of self expression in whatever manner chosen, so long as it’s among a particular class of people. Boundaries should be respected.

That description sounds like life from some foreign planet. It sounds like a brochure for a communist country tour or a visit to some place still existing under dictator rule. Actually, it’s a description of life for a typical 21st Century resident in a United States ghetto.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has established unequivocal standards that relate to fair employment practices. One would expect that after more than 50 years, those rules and regulations would be part of every person’s subconscious and guide them to make proper decisions as well as act in a reasonable way when sourcing, recruiting, screening, and hiring. But they don’t. More examples are reported each week.

Even in the recruiting industry, there are those who proudly beat their chests and boast about how ethical they are. Yet these are the very same people who will attempt to have the applicant exclude themselves from being considered by asking them questions that tend to disqualify rather than demonstrate higher qualifications. What the applicants who survive this screening-out process gain is an opportunity at a lower salary because of the lack of skills they have to offer. It tends to be Jim Crow in treatment.

Again, prime examples of race-based pay inequities abound. Statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and education centers abound with the evidence. According to a 1998 study by the National Center for Education Statistics, the difference between compensation received for work (and education that qualifies the individual for it) among black women compared with Asians was .857% and between black to white workers was .9724% for the same position. In other words, blacks could expect to earn at least 3 cents less than their white counterparts and 15 cents less than their Asian ones.

This reduced starting (and therefore long-term) salary keeps certain races and individuals locked into an ever downward spiraling path of lack of opportunity. It may look like they are getting work. But many times the work that is offered actually constitutes permanent under-employment. The only hope the person has of advancing their career is to change jobs because, unlike their initial hiring process, they will be passed over for all promotions unless they are quite aggressive in their pursuit of something more advanced.

These lesser positions and opportunities are partially hinged on the not-so imaginary inferior quality of education that is delivered in black neighborhoods, especially the ghettos, compared with what is supposed to be a level playing field of equal education and exposure to challenging concepts that will develop the critical thinking minds and talent we so desperately need in 2018. Teachers are saddled with not only inferior quality supplies and resources. They are also burdened with inordinate amounts of administrative paperwork. Couple those obstacles with students who come to school ill prepared because they may have been deterred by any number of factors, and you have a powder keg of disenfranchisement that can be blamed on any and every part of “The System.”

As with the times before the EEOC, before the 1950s, people no longer rock the boat with protests of unfair opportunity or unequal opportunity. Instead, they quietly take whatever they can get in order to support their own selves and their families. Stakes, as always, are high. There are bills to be paid, rent that always comes due or resort to living on the streets. But the salaries the minorities can command are so much less than that of others that the quality of goods and services that can be consumed is also lacking. The ripples of unfair employment practices spread across the pond and touch on every aspect of business and life as we know it.

It no longer does any good to protest the wrong. To do so is to be one who makes waves and is uncontrolled and uncontrollable, prone to violence at the least provocation. The solution is to shut up the noise and get rid of it by whatever means is expedient.

We stand today looking forward to a new horizon of opportunity and a promise of change from the status quo. We have a new president who has been elected on the merit of who he is and how he conducts himself, not on what he is. What he actually represents is another statement about being an American. He is a blend of races that came to these United States. He is an example of one family’s struggle to make ends meet and strive to be a little better than the previous generation. He is one who knows the history of this country and appreciates the foundations upon which all of the lessons are based. From that type of knowledge and awareness, there can be growth and improvement.

With grit, tenacity, hard work, and adapting to the many cultures surrounding him, Barack Obama has succeeded in being the the President of Change. Change is desperately needed. Nay, it is required. He prepares to step into his office on Tuesday with the state of the Nation in shambles scattered about the floor. The leadership of the previous administration was in word only, not in execution. The world is breathing a sigh of relief and pensively waiting for the first strokes of the man who will bring order back to the Nation of leaders.

We now have the daunting task of getting shell-shocked troops out of countries where they should not have been sent in the first place only to bring them back to home soils where there are no jobs. There are few job opportunities for those who never left the States while they face high rates of layoffs. Wages are not desirable. Rents are high. Housing is next to impossible to find because lenders are foreclosing on more properties than gaining revenue from the risk. Perhaps we should become a nation of Peace Corps enlistees who live from the basics of the land and build up. Is it realistic for us to look back to an agrarian economy? As long as agri-business isn’t involved, that could be one of the solutions.

It was about 50 years ago that we marched on Washington singing and chanting and joining hands to demand Freedom Now. We listened as the charismatic King told us of how we were on our way to the Promised Land of Opportunity. But we now stand looking at that prospect and dare not breathe lest the dream vanish before our eyes.

Do we have anyone in our numbers, of whatever race or mixture, who is willing to call the injustices when they’re encountered and strive to create the corrections, turn the thinking, to the directions where there truly is an open door for those who have worked to enter it? We look forward to this inauguration and are hopeful. But we look toward this inauguration with two generations of people who no longer remember why all of these inroads are landmark.

Instead, those two generations ask “What’s Going On?” while those who were not even in their teens attempt once more to explain who the leaders were, what causes existed, why they were important and mattered. They hope by sharing the stories the younger generations will be infused with a desire to learn those lessons and names. There is a hope that they will strive to pick up the gauntlet and continue where others fell short.

We need to once again reflect on our American freedoms before we begin to formulate the response to these new generations. But we, all of us, no matter what color or ethnicity, need to be certain of the many promises this land held for us in the 1600s when the Pilgrims settled at Plymouth. And then we need to find ourselves still standing for the causes they represent. Finally, we need to firmly grasp the reins of change in order to effectuate that change, not run away from the deterioration that has become part of our apathetic reverie. Rather we need to move forward to the progressive realization of The Dream so that it will not have been in vain.

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