You Can Build My House, But You Can’t Have A Credit Card

March 3, 2007

A couple of weeks ago, Bank of America announced that they were going to offer credit cards to people that didn’t have a Social Security number and credit history. Interesting enough, they expanded this program from five branches to fifty-one branches in Los Angeles County. This area just happens to have the largest concentration of illegal immigrants in the United States. In a classic response, some customers closed their accounts in protest because of illegal aliens (read [insert negative adjective here] Mexicans) being able to obtain said credit card.

I’m not exactly sure why people care if illegal immigrants obtain a credit card. Well, other than some racist reason anyways. I don’t see how this is a bad thing. B of A shareholders should be estactic. Just think of all the fee income that will be generated. Actually, most people with a 401K should be happy. B of A’s income goes up, which means their stock goes up, which means peoples’ 401K goes up. Oh, and to get the credit card, the customer has to have a checking account. Since these account holders have to go through the Patriot Act scrutiny, I really don’t see the problem. Plus, you know B of A is going to charge a crazy interest rate.

So I say again, what exactly is so bad about this? All I can see is the positive effect that this will have on our economy. I’ve heard the arguments about Mexicans taking our jobs. Honestly though, I just think White America is worried about becoming the minority. The Hispanic and Black populations are growing at a much faster rate. The interesting thing is, Hispanics tend to take the jobs that no one wants, especially in construction. How long do you think it will be before Hispanics pretty much control the construction industry? Hispanics also start businesses at a higher rate. Blacks need to start paying attention. Instead of trying to be accepted in White America, Hispanics are building a country inside the US. Notice how everything is starting to have a Spanish translation on it? Now that’s power. And that’s really what it boils down to, loss of power.

 

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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.


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?