Right Talent or White Talent

January 29, 2007

In today’s paper, there was a story about a round table meeting with technology leaders in the area. The story was basically about helping the area grow into a technology hub and the problems associated with achieving that goal. This area is considered one of the top places to live and start a business is the U.S. However, the state’s education system isn’t exactly in the top 10 in the country.


These panelists touched on the school systems in the state being a problem of getting talented technology workers to move here. They also cited a lack of tax incentives and other exemptions that other industries receive for moving here. One CEO in particular talked about not being able to hire all the talent they needed from a local school, which just happens to be one of the largest in the state. His company needed to go outside the state to bring in talent. This same company ran advertisements in a Midwest state to recruit employees.


What’s interesting about all of this is, there are at least ten schools of higher education here. I’ll also assume that this company does recruit at the larger schools in the state. But I’m willing to bet that they don’t recruit at a single HBCU in this state or any other state. I think that’s part of the reason technology companies are having a problem with recruiting here. There are at least five HBCUs within ninety miles of here. I know there are some talented students graduating from there. I include myself in that number. Unfortunately, the good ol’ boy network is still alive and well. Supposedly, when it comes to technology workers, talent and knowledge are the main currencies. Not for Blacks. Maybe for Asians or East Indians.


These companies are missing out on talent that is right beneath their collective noses. I know this first hand because one of the companies mentioned in the article didn’t hire my wife. They’ll never know the special gifts that she could have brought to the company. In her case however, I don’t think race was a factor. Given her experience and high level of pay at her previous job, they most likely figured she’d want too high of a salary.


This brings me to what I think is the main reason these companies have a problem getting employees: they don’t want to pay for talent. People tend to move to this area because of the warm weather and laid back lifestyle. Being a beautiful and historical area certainly helps also. Companies try to sell the lifestyle, which means they can low-ball salary offers. I don’t know too many knowledge workers willing to go from 85K+ to 60K just to live in a vacation spot. Especially when there are other places to live that are just as nice and companies there will meet your salary demands.


As long as companies here continue to ignore minorities and refuse to raise their pay levels, they will keep having recruiting problems. Even at my current company, a VP told me I’d have to go work for another company to make the kind of money I wanted. I must admit, I was a little ticked off at first. It seemed that “the man” was just trying to hold me down. As I thought about it however, I decided he’s right; my goal is to take my talent and eventually make more than our CEO.


NFL History in 2007

January 22, 2007

Well, it finally happened. Lovie Smith became the first black head coach to lead his team to the Super Bowl. Later this evening, Tony Dungy, another black head coach, joined him. Who would have thought…a Super Bowl where no matter what, a black head coach will win.

There is a struggle with getting more blacks in positions of power in sports. It seems to me that the NFL has made the most strides. Today, we witnessed another step in the right direction. Black coaches haven’t been given a fair shake in general, but the black coaches in the NFL have exceeded when compared with there white counterparts. So far, there have been seven black head coaches: Art Shell, Ray Rhodes, Dennis Green, Herman Edwards, Tony Dungy, Marvin Lewis and Lovie Smith. Every single one of these coaches has lead their teams to the playoffs. Here’s an except from another article:

…In fact, with the exception of Marvin Lewis, every black coach in NFL history to date has gotten his team to the playoffs within two seasons. Art Shell, Ray Rhodes, Dennis Green, Dungy, Herman Edwards, Lovie Smith all did it in their 1st or 2nd season with their first teams. Only Edwards can be said to have walked into a situation that was not marked “Total Disaster”.

Johnnie Cochran Jr. and Cyrus Mehri released a report in 2002 that caused the NFL to establish the Rooney Rule. The Rooney Rule required each team to interview at least one minority candidate when filling a head coach position or be fined.

This rule has had some effect. Even though its sad that such a rule is necessary to promote an equitable opportunity for minority coaches, I’m proud that those coaches that have been given a chance, have excelled. Now if we could just apply all this to the Fortune 500.

Raise Your Hand If You’re A Token

January 15, 2007

Today is the celebration of Dr. King’s life and work. There have been plenty of posts and articles posted today in remembrance of him. All this made me think about what effect Dr. King has had on my life.


Since I’m a 70’s child, I’ve grown up knowing nothing but “diversity” and “equal opportunity”. At least this is what my parents tried to provide for me. My sister on the other hand, is from a different generation. She’s old enough to actually remember seeing “White Only” signs and she went through integration in high school. As for me, I grew up being the only black in my honors classes, so I can somewhat relate to the seclusion my sister must have felt. But for the most part, to my knowledge, I never encountered racism while growing up. Actually, I was ostracized by the black students more than I was by white students. There was one other black male that started off in the honors classes, but he ended up dropping down to the “college prep” tract. Looking back, I think he was just tired of being picked on by the black kids in his neighborhood.


As for me, my education minded parents encouraged me to stay the course. Because of their influence, I achieved some “firsts” in my life. I was the first Eagle Scout in a mostly white Boy Scout troop. I was also the first Black Eagle Scout in my county. I’m sure this upset a lot of White parents of the boys in my troop. Especially a troop leader or two whose sons were older than me. Anyways, because of always being the only black in my classes, I went to a HBCU for college. My classmates were all shocked by this. Everyone figured I would go to a big White state university. My close friends, however, always knew I’d go to a HBCU. The surprise for them was the fact that I didn’t go to my parents’ alma mater.


I finally started to notice racist attitudes when I got to college. Because I was now hanging out with a “black crowd”, I began to notice how store clerks treated us. It was all good when I was with white friends. Now, I noticed people following us around and immediately “helping” us in the stores. This was a shock to me, but a valuable learning experience. When I went back home, I began to notice things there also.


One day, after I graduated from college, I talked to my mom about my experiences. She sat quietly and listened to me. When I finished, I asked her if I’d unknowingly gone through this when I was growing up. She looked up and told me that she and my dad tried to shield me from as much as they could. At that moment, I had a sudden thought. I asked her, “was all this prejudice the reason I was never in the “gifted” program until I got to high school?” She gave a sad smile and nodded.


Now, I never had high grades in school because I did just enough to get by. However, I always tested in the highest percentile. She told me that it just wasn’t worth the fight to get me in the “gifted” program when I was younger. Since she worked in education, she figured it was just extra work for no reason. Besides, I’d already had more experiences than 98% of the kids I ‘d gone to school with. Not too many black kids could say that they’d been to Europe, Canada, Mexico and all over the US by the age of eighteen unless they had a parent that was in the military. Heck, most white kids in my hometown hadn’t been off the east coast, much less out of the country. My mom said that once I got to the point where I could take high school level classes early, they fought for me. They wanted me to have the option to graduate early. Hearing that was pretty sobering.


Today, I’m out in corporate America. Once again, I’m the only Black in a lot of cases. Since I’m a black male in IT, I tend to stand out. There have been occasions when I’ve sat down with management and I know I’ve been told “no” about something specifically because I’m a black male. They might tell you “it’s lack of funds” or “it’s company policy” or some other reason, but other white co-workers don’t seem to have the same constraints. I’ve seen this happen with other black employees also. Oh, and the favorite excuse seems to be either “you don’t have enough education” or “you don’t have enough experience”. I’ve gotten the experience excuse myself.


All this tends to lead me to the conclusion that I am a token, a statistic that can be reported to the government. But that’s okay, I don’t mind. One day soon, I’ll really be able to use my knowledge and experience to help others come up. This is the reason I volunteer in my community. By constantly seeing a positive black male role model, kids will be inspired to be successful in whatever they want to do in life. Only by opening doors and helping others can we help achieve the dream Dr. King had for all of us. The question I have for you is, will you continue to just be a “token” or will you answer that knock at your door?

Bad Credit = No Insurance

January 12, 2007

I ran across this article that talked about insurers using credit scores for premiums. Now, I vaguely remember my previous car insurer running a credit check on me when I got car insurance. However, it never really occurred to me that bad credit could raise my premiums.


Can you imagine getting that new Expedition and being denied insurance because of your credit score? As if a $500 car payment wasn’t bad enough, now you have to worry about higher premiums because of a lower credit score? Oh, and in case you haven’t heard, some electric companies are starting to report to credit bureaus also. Now I don’t know about you, but its not unusual for me to be late with a utility bill or two. It’s not that I don’t have the money in my account, I just forget to pay the bill. Better believe that I’m going stay on top of this now.


Personally, I think all of this is really hurting minorities. Historically, Blacks and Hispanics have lower credit scores. The fact that utility companies are starting to report your paying habits to credit bureaus will only make it worse. Today is definitely the day to start getting your finances in order. There is plenty of free information out there to help you get started. A couple of sites that I like are Black Enterprise and I Will Teach You To Be Rich. Also, check out your public library. In today’s world, reading and finances are fundamental.

You Can Have Your Hood Boy, I’d Rather Be A Grown Man

January 10, 2007

To say that Fantasia’s new song “Hood Boy” annoys me is an understatement. Why do music artists insist on repeatedly making ignorant songs as this? Oh yeah, because ignorant people keep buying them. And this is just one of many songs singing the praises of “bad boys”. I swear, I don’t get it. So I asked one of my female friends about her attraction to bad boys. She said it was the excitement, the spontaneity of being with them. The whole “down for whatever”.

Now admittedly, I’m the proverbial “nice guy”. The one your parents love. The educated, intelligent, soft-spoken brother that most of you wouldn’t pay attention to if I were still single. But in my experience, the only exciting bad boys I’ve seen tend to have jail time or an early death in their future. And this is what some females want? There has got to be something mentally wrong with someone that wants a person that they know will mistreat, abuse, and/or disrespect them. Or maybe they naively believe they can change a bad boy. Now where is the logic in that? You want a bad boy so that you can change him into a nice guy? And finding out that your boyfriend, that served a little time, is on the DL must be priceless. Nothing like a little Thuggin’ Love.

Are You Black Enough?

January 8, 2007

I was reading my copy of “The Boondocks: Because I Know You Don’t Read the Newspaper” and noticed something surprising. In one strip, Huey was playing Granddad in a video game. By the dialog, I could tell they were playing video soccer. Wow. Now this comic strip is about two boys that move from the south side of Chicago to the suburbs of Woodcrest with their grandfather, and they’re playing a soccer video game. Just out of curiosity, how many black Americans do you know that have a copy of FIFA 2007 or Winning Eleven: Pro Evolution Soccer 2007? Personally, I’m the only one I know about. All my black friends are busy playing Madden, NCAA Football, NBA Live or NBA 2K7. But soccer? Please.


So, the question is, why are two kids from the “ghetto” playing what is considered a “white” sport? Could it be because soccer is the number one sport in the world? Could Aaron McGruder be a soccer fan? I’m willing to bet that most people that read The Boondocks didn’t even pick up that these kids and their grandfather were playing video soccer. The irony went entirely over their heads.


I, on the other hand, happen to be a huge fan. I have a few kits (jerseys) from my favorite team (Chelsea), watch Fox Soccer Channel avidly, and play in an adult league. Heck, I’ve even scored a few goals, for my team and our opponents. But I digress. Black people in America don’t play soccer, at least not yet. As soon as they start paying everyone like Freddy Adu, we’ll pick it up just as quickly as we do basketball and football.


The reason I mention all of this, is because a female I was sort of dating a few years ago, basically told me I wasn’t black enough because I liked soccer. Needless to say, I was dumbfounded. I’m not black enough because I like soccer? Last I checked, soccer was the number one sport on the continent of Africa. And there are waaaaaaay more blacks there than in the US.


Her statement just shows the continued ignorance that we black Americans still show. Never mind that I went to two HBCUs. Never mind that I volunteer with black youths. Never mind that every day I wake up and look in the mirror, I see a black man. I’m not black enough because I have some interests that are mostly shared with white people in this country. And yes, I even sound “white” because I have a college education and speak all proper. Here’s a secret for you….most educated people speak proper. It has nothing to do with race.


It’s this attitude that is holding us back as a race. We’re too worried about our “blackness” and “keepin’ it real”. I mean, who needs the Klu Klux Klan when we do more harm to ourselves. Instead of being color-struck or jealous of what the next guy has, we need to start working together. There is more than enough for everyone. Who cares if Omar has more than I do. I’d much rather ask Omar how he got to where he is and could he be a mentor to help me get there to. But remember, at the end of the day, to a lot of people out there, no matter how successful we are, or how much money we have, or how great an athlete we are, we’re already “black enough” in their eyes. We’re all just another n*****.

No Frontin’ Allowed

January 7, 2007

My wife didn’t believe me until I showed her one when we were out one day. A Mercedes 100 series. That is total comedy to me. If you have a Mercedes 100 series or even a BMW 125, I have one question for you. Why? Is having a foreign luxury car so important to your broke behind that you’d buy the lowest model available, one that has to be special ordered? Let me let you in on a little secret. Those friends that “ooohhh” and “aaahhh” at your 100 series aren’t green with envy. They’re red from laughter.


All that 100 series says is, “I couldn’t afford the 200 or 300 series, so I had the dealer special order the cheapest one I could afford.” The funny thing is, I never thought someone would actually want a 100 series. But lo and behold, I overhead a co-worker brag about how she was going to get her a new 100 series Mercedes. This is the same co-worker that had to declare bankruptcy about 10 years ago. I guess playing “high post” is important to some people.