There is a separation of colored people from White people in the United States. That separation is not a disease of colored people. It is a disease of White people. I do not intend to be quiet about it.
–Albert Einstein, 1946 (speech at Lincoln University)
Ole Dr. Einstein was much smarter than we give him credit for. I’d like to make the argument that this is not an outdated idea…
I contend that racism is not a thing of the past in America. While it is no longer in-your-face and obvious–for aware people of color, it is all around us. And racism is not just for skinheads and extremists in the Midwest and Southern states–it exists among you, even some of you reading this article today. Racism in America is like a disease that no longer hurts or shows up on the outside: Often, those afflicted either are in denial that it exists (within you or among you), or you believe you are in remission from it. That is, until some event arises that pulls it out of you:
Your daughter dates a Black boy
- You witness Black people acting ignorant
- You see a crime committed by Black people
- Someone Black pisses you off
- Someone you trust and respect brings your own actions and words to your attention
Like all diseases that go untreated or ignored, racism will fester like an infected sore until it erupts in some embarrassing, uncharacteristic outburst or action. You may end up like one of these White men on the job, now labeled a “racist”, when you know damn well you aren’t racist–although you may have allowed something to come up you barely realized was there… Or failed to recognize that it was, in fact, racist.
I would like to tell you about two experiences I had that may sound familiar. Actually, it’s something I experience a lot. My name is not a common name. My first name is Muslim, my last name is Filipino Muslim in origin. I have sent résumés to companies with my name that have received no response at all. I occasionally will send a second resume with a race-neutral name that at least gets me an interview. When I returned from deployment–and I tell this story often–I had done exactly this. Same resume and experience, different name. Guess which one got the interview? Well, it was over the phone, and by the time I had received a job offer, no one in the company had seen my face. I stayed there 7 years, promoting several people of color into a previously all-white management team. And I received the Jackie Robinson/Obama treatment: people refusing to call me “Mr. Gatdula”, complaints or reverse racism–although I still promoted mostly White males and very few Latinos and Blacks, it was just too much color for my counterparts and subordinates. The only friends I had was our COO and our Vice President–the latter of whom helped me land my first VP position when I left 7 years later. Well, even then, I was only seen as a Filipino and not Black. I doubt my Black ass would have survived 7 years in this company, and barely in the industry. Today, I work for myself and I only work with minority-owned companies (that’s not by choice) as a consultant.
The second, and the reason for this article: Today I was cold calling in Fair Oaks, CA. Fair Oaks is a majority White area of a predominantly Latino and Asian city, and it’s a mostly upper middle class area. I walked into a lumber yard with a guard shack and barbed wire, while wearing a shirt and tie. As soon as I walk in, the staff is all over me, thinking I might be a customer. When I present my card and introduce myself as a salesman for a security guard company, one man is shaking his head “No”, while his friend proceeds to lie to me about whether they use a guard (they do), whether they have experienced a loss due to theft or burglary, and that his boss is NOT interested in discussing their security. Both men, in fact, refuse to accept my card and both lied and said they have no card. While one was simply hostile, the other (the one who told all those lies) smiled at me the whole time with that “I-don’t-hate-people-of-color-but-I’ll-never-do-business-with-you” look. Black people know what I’m talking about. Asians and Latinos, not so much because they are mostly in denial about their level of (un)acceptance…
On the way out a nice man (and HE is the reason I am not giving the name of this facility) stops me to ask if they had taken care of me. No, I answered, and I gave my spiel all over again. Not only was he in need of guard service, he was interested in what I had to say and impressed that I was familiar with his business. You see, before I walked in, I had read about his burglaries and had seen the damage done to his fence. People of color know this, because we have to: We must be three times more qualified and prepared than the next guy because we already have a strike against us. I cold call constantly because 50% of those I meet will never do business with me simply because I am a man of color. So I work twice as hard to yield the same benefits as the next guy.
This was not about the fact that some guys can disguise their treatment of me as “I don’t like solicitors”, however. It’s about the denial of what is really going on inside their heads, the smile on the face, the passive aggressive door slammed in the face of any applicant with dark skin, or a “ghetto name” whose resume is thrown in the trash, the boy your daughter likes that you disapprove of, because something (oh no, not race!) about him makes you uncomfortable. It is no longer socially acceptable to harbor certain feelings about race, so you must deny that you even OWN those feelings.
^^ And this, my White brothers, is why you are still sick with racism. You cannot cure a disease until you first acknowledge that it exists. No one will lash and flog you. Hell, every BLACK man in America has some level of ill feelings toward White people; that is, especially until you have proven yourself to not be an enemy. But we understand that we are this way, and that is why we aren’t crippled by it. You must admit that when you look at large workforces with people of color but only White managers, it looks strange. You are seeing the world through eyes that have no color man’s filter. You think anytime someone claims he sees racism, he is being unreasonable. You believe that George Zimmerman just might not be crazy, and that Trayvon Martin really was menacing. You don’t want to admit that the thought of mixed grandbabies enrages you. You honestly believe that your company’s Black Vice President is unqualified, and that he got his position by sucking someone’s dick or because of the evil rule called Affirmative Action is taking jobs from White men. If we are ever to truly be ONE America, you must see what we see, or at least understand why we see what we see. And you will have to look in the mirror, and understand that a second pair of eyes is needed to see the man within.
Racism, regardless of how slight it may be, is a disease that America really needs to cure. It’s like cancer; it won’t go away. It is also like a hereditary disease as well–if you aren’t careful, you will pass it on to your children.
Thanks for visiting my blog.