Friday, August 24, 2007

Hoops and Ladders for Black Women?

I was talking yesterday with Darla Williams, a local attorney who had been interviewed and featured in the Indy Star's report Promising Black Women Face Barriers. I'd gotten on Darla's radar when I wrote a piece for the Indiana Minority Report about Black Hooliganism. In it, I recounted a disturbing business trend among some in black business "leadership." Elected officials and others create their own lists of "approved" black business people and encourage contract holders to do business with these people, regardless of the host of others who have built solid businesses. They use the power of their position to get contract holders to consider these people over others on government approved lists of vendors, particularly minority vendors. Coupled with this is the fact that some will offer to have you put them on your payroll so that they can broker business deals for you using their Rolodexes. One suggested that I pay him $5,000 monthly and 20% of whatever he brought in. I hoped he was joking. He wasn't.

Now, I'm a fan of free enterprise like the next kid, but there seems to be something a little off here. For businesses that have worked to gain their MBE, WBE or DBE certifications (which is onerous enough), having a separate list that one has to curry favor to get on (or pay for) seems to defeat the entire purpose.

In the article, Darla asserted that "One barrier in my personal experience is African-Americans creating barriers for other African- Americans," Williams said. "If they (black leaders) let you become a leader, you can only be one if you let the other black leaders exploit you. And if you don't, they blacklist you."

One commenter seemed to have it all sorted out: "black females have have special status in the workplace. all they have to do is claim racism and presto, they get the promotion. i've seen it happen too many times, quality, production and customer service go down the drain but the company gets a tax break. the really sad part is that truley capable and qualified people either get fired or have to work for this caricature of a professional. "

Really? Then Black women must be stupid because if "all we have to do" is make a spurious claim of racism to get promoted, we sure have been lying down on that particular job. Be sure to read the rest of the commentary thread on this one. The general tone goes to show that there is bias against Black women in the workplace. Nasty bias.

At one time I was in HR, worrying that I might be a "lifer." It didn't take long for the other white staffers and the secretaries to claim that I was hired for my race and gender. One even went to far as to say "we had to hire you." What was shocking was that I graduated with distinction from Purdue (and a host of other accolades) and have been blessed with an IQ in the 130's. Oh, yeah, and was the very department where (whether I liked it or not) every member had access to my resume, application and transcripts. Trouble was: they didn't care to find out that they might be wrong.

They didn't invite me to meetings (claiming that I was clearly too busy), held lunches where business decisions were made without my input and didn't invite me and they weren't above lying. One secretary claimed that I hit her...she was committed for psychiatric care after her accusations and behavior got even more extreme. The damage to my reputation was immense.

They didn't even want to consider that I had a right to be there. Very sad.

Do we all have ladders to climb? You bet: every one of us. Is there grease on the rungs for sum (added later: "some"...I meant "some")? You bet.


Anonymous said...

I'm not sure how i ended on this page but am completely convinced that your plight is valid...but please tell me that in your last sentence that "sum" is a play on words, meaning something like, "total"

Lalita said...

Some! Some, I meant some!