“There is nothing more dangerous than an educated black man.” – Unknown
Sorry I’ve been gone so long y’all. It’s been kind of crazy. Two months ago I got a new job and have been busy getting situated there. In this crazy economy, I’ve been blessed to get a really great job fairly quickly. I attribute that to my education and grind (focus).The hiring process was crazy to say the least. I have no problem getting interviews (thanks resume!), but the face-to-face process was a hot mess. Organizations not calling me back, group interviews that felt like firing squads…just the politics of it all.
I was especially disturbed by the power dynamics involving interviewing/hiring a black man. It never really occurred to me until recently, but many people (particularly White folk) have never encountered an educated, self-assured, capable black man and frankly don’t know what to do with us. In academia, we call this “uneducable” (which several of my mentors have called me over the years).
The first organization I interviewed for, the interviewer (a White woman) called me “interesting” and I smiled and took it as a compliment. But when it happened again, I began to realize it was a euphemism for “you’re great, but you can’t be controlled.”
Seemingly harmless/standard job interview questions can actually be very complicated/uncomfortable when you take into account race, gender, age and other identities. For example, when an older White woman asks a younger black man (with comparable education) “Tell me a situation where you had a problem with your boss at work; How did you handle it? What happened?” I can’t help but read that as “Are you one of those (house) negroes that listen to everything your master says or do I have to put you out in the cotton fields?”
In one interview they had the NERVE to ask me (I’m paraphrasing):
Our organization implemented a diversity initiative several years ago. Can you please tell us how you would suggest we include diversity into the mission of this organization?
Dear White people,
If you have to ask black people what exactly diversity means, YOU MAY BE RACIST!
Anthony (the black sex master)
Interestingly enough (no pun intended), a colleague of mine (a Latino male) also interviewed at the same organization and he did not get that question. Hmm.
If there’s anything I learned living in San Francisco the last two years, it’s African Americans are definitely not the preferred minority group to hire. I would argue this is especially true in public health.
It’s much easier to hire a whitewashed Latino, as it’s important to have someone who speaks the language, (especially if the organization does direct services) and besides, they tend to complain less about all that race stuff.
But God is good, I eventually found a situation that works. An organization where I can be myself, in all my educated, uncontrollable glory. And that’s what I’m thankful for this holiday season.
Update: after I wrote this piece, The New York Times published an insightful article on this topic. Check it out here.