Friday, December 11, 2009
I could have also titled this.... why I hate being Black or why being Black sucks. But I covered that territory and made that point plenty of times.
The experiences of Black job seekers in a recent NYT report seem to mirror some of my own experiences. I have been under-employed for quite a while now and have often wondered how much of a part race may be playing in my disappointing job search. Race certainly has played a part from a class standpoint, since the legacy of race and class did not provide me with the best opportunity to attend the most exclusive schools and have access to the kinds of networks that would get me in the door. If you are white and come from privileged circumstances, those things are sort of thrown in as perks. Granted, most of my job search interests have been in the government sector as opposed to the private sector (can't stand the private sector) but I have still had some of the same experiences described in the NYT report.
This was also covered on the FN blog a few days ago. (by Philadelphia attorney Wayne Bennett)
For example, I too have felt the need in recent years to "clean" my resume... to wipe clean anything that would indicate race. There has never really been anything too overt on my resume that was "in your face" race identifying... because that's just not what i'm about anyway. From a professional point of view, I have always known that this was not the thing to do...and I never had the urge or interest to do so.
However, years ago I was briefly a member of an organization called NOBLE... one of the most prestigious & impressive Black professional/social organizations in the U.S... but wiped it from the resume. I'm no longer a member...but even if I were... I wouldn't mention it. I also avoid providing too many Black references.... wiped my reference page almost completely....except for one co-worker. There are many great professors who I probably could have added.... but nope.
I have been on interviews where I sense a feeling of disappointment or confusion when I walk into the room (not that i'm not impecably dressed...but i'm not who they thought would walk in). I am not sure that the interview is over at that point, but I can tell that the normal hurdles get raised immediately, and I have to prove why I even belong at the interview. The signals that they give off = who do you think you are? and Why are you even here?.
I also leave the race box blank on any EEO forms that I fill out... or I will sometimes leave the whole form blank. There was one gov't employer that required that the box be filled in (still baffled by that...because I thought they couldn't compel an answer to that question). I will sometimes check the box for "other" just for fun. But I avoid "Black".... because this seems to be the equivalent of admitting to a disease that will prevent me from being hired (in the eyes of the wider society).
I am also someone who wants to avoid the whole victim thing... although I often joke with co-workers that the system is not for us. They don't know that i'm not always joking...they can't even conceive it... because in their minds, the existence of a Black President has made all of these problems magically go away. But I still don't like the victim branding.... because I think (I know) that I am just as good as anyone else, especially for the type and level of employment that I have applied for.
I also find that being Black and male seems much worse...than simply being Black. This seems to pan out in the stats.
And here's a twist... I don't completely blame white society. Sure, it shares most of the blame...but (in my mind at least) I assign some of the blame to so-called Black culture or the "Black Community" for fueling this situation. By virtue of being Black I understand that I am held prisoner to a race (whether I like it or not...and I hate it) that trashes and brings shame to its own image...and feeds the very stereotypes that so many people fought to overcome 40, 50, 60, 100 years ago. Some even gave their lives fighting for the dignity of Blacks.
Sometimes I see my skin as worse than prison bars... metaphorically that's exactly how I feel everyday.