Monday, September 29, 2008

I Want Someone Like Me

As I listen to White people starting to show some erosion on the issue of whether or not Sarah Palin was ever qualified to be nominated for Vice President of the US, I can't help but think about all of the White people I've worked with who've talked about trying to find new hires that were a "good fit," or who were "like us."

The full quotes went something like, "It's really important that we get someone in here who fits in." That's always had racial overtones for me, coming out of an HR background. I remember when ads used to read that companies were looking for qualified AA candidates. And, I remember being told by the compensation and benefits manager that AA stood for "All American." How many times do you think a Black man or woman or any other minority is going to fall into the category of being the perfect All American for a job?

It's not a thing of the past. Racial codes and racial innuendo are still prevelant in the workplace.

We need a good fit!

When people come in for an interview, you don't know that person. You know what you see and you know what they've said about themselves on their application/CV, etc. So, when you set out to look for a good fit, can you really say that race, color, weight, etc. aren't some of the factors that get included in determining if someone BELONGS?

Sarah Palin was supposed to be a good fit because she was All American. No one came out and said it, but they did say, "She's just like us." But, it's funny. Only a White woman could be damn near congratulated on having her unmarried teenage daughter turn up pregnant. Forget teen mothers, Black adult women, who are single, are still bad-mouthed for having had a child out-of-wedlock. But, a White teen does it and now it's something commendable because of the family struggle and unity and a mother wanting the best for her child.

But, it didn't stop there. Sarah Palin was "one of us" because she hunted, and ate mooseburgers, and was a former beauty pageant contestant, and had kids, and--like I said--a pregnant teen. That was all this White woman needed for qualifications. It didn't matter that she flunked out of a couple of community colleges and attended about 4 more colleges before getting her B.A. She was one of us and her qualifications couldn't be challenged.

But, Sarah Palin's not like me. She isn't like anyone I KNOW. Yet, she was being sold as being like us. Meaning being like WHITE WORLD. All American.

It's funny because a Black, Harvard educated man is still being called unready and unqualified.

WHO'S LIKE US? In the workplace, if you get more than 2 applications, this is what people are trying to decide. Are you like us? And, everyone takes it to mean something else. Black vs. White. Educated vs. Limited Education. Educated vs. Educated. All things being equal. Who do you pick?

Bush was "one the guys." He was someone everyone wanted to drink a beer with. That seems to be all you need in White world to get ahead.

I've seen so many people that "fit" come into an office and screw everything up because--like Bush--they didn't know what the hell they were doing, they worked by committee because they needed tons of assistance to do their job, and they caused problems within and sometimes outside their department. I've seen so many "fits" be hired that the entire dynamic in an office was changed. Everyone was the same and it wasn't for the betterment of the department or the company.

Dangerous things can happen, when you look for "fit." You can increase the level of existing racism, elitism, and other "isms" in a company by using the wrong basis for finding who will fit in. You can turn an office into a racial feeding ground. Everything can become Black or White. Race-based harassment, discrimination, and retaliation can go through the roof based on hiring decisions, which may lead to heightened incidences of racism and a stronger tolerance for race-based decision-making.

We need to learn to stop focusing on "fit" as the primary indicator of qualification. This is true in politics and in the workplace.

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Blogger Me said...

I hear you Ms. Mills...I was having a conversation with a friend of mine the other day, and we touched on the subject of waht does it mean to be "American", and we came to the conclusion, that as far as white anyone is concerned, only white people are American in this country. So matter how bad, or nasty, or stupid someone is, as long as he/she appears to be as American or more American than x... he/she is embraced. This is the struggle of racism in this country; that is, that the sense of 'American' belongs to all of us who are citizens. This is why Barack struggles in the campaign; essentially "Americans" only see 'white' people as 'American'; everyone else is a threat to this country. As brown skinned people we are equally (if not more) as American as everyone else, and deserve to participate in every social sphere of this country. The first thing Obama does by winning is: his winning changes the sense of who else is Americna in this country.


8:01 PM  
Anonymous walt235 said...

WWWHHHAAAANNNHHHH! If it's so bad here, save up your welfare checks and drag your nigger ass back to Africa!

5:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous, Why don’t you drag your white ass back to Europe?

4:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The last post was meant for walt235

4:14 AM  

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