Yesterday evening, I had an experience that I would like to share ...
My wife and I went out to dinner with some family friends. Ru & Brian are White and conservatives. They also own a small electrical contracting business with about 200 employees.
As usual, the topic of conversation turned to race and social responsibility. This led us to touch on Affirmative Action. Brian was doing his usual rant about AA, "How can I be held responsible for the sin of slavery when neither I nor any of my family was even in the US during slavery?" and "Accepting that slavery is at the root of many of the social and economic disparities between Black and White folk, the simple fact is, 'Two wrongs, don't make a right.'"
Well, I thought back to a post that I saw here (I think it was one of nmaginate's posts) and countered with, "In dealing with illnesses in general and cancer in particular, physicians often use medicines to treat the ailment that are toxic to the patient. However, the treatment is measured to address the ailment and not harm the patient. If it weren't for the ailment, the toxic treatment would not have to be applied. But because there is an ailment, there must be treatment or the patient would surely die. In the employment context, there is an illness, racism/discrimination. There is a protocal to treat the illness, AA. Although some may view the protocal as toxic, it's necessary to cure the body."
Both Ru and Brian understood and accepted the argument, but not to be outdone, riled against the government's involvement. He said that it is in private industry's interest to hire the best qualified person for any jobs on the market, without governmental interference.
I agreed with him, but asked, "If the government does not get involved, how would the protocal be applied? You have about 200 employees, how many are Black? Do you have any process for seeking out qualified Black electricians or helpers or even ditchdiggers?"
He said that he didn't and asked why should he. He applies the same process in seeking all employees. He puts an ad in the paper or accepts referrals from his employees.
So I went back to the medical analogy. I told him that putting a process in place to actively seek out qualified Blacks is like during flu season, getting a vaccination against the flu. You know that flu germs are out there, so before you catch it, you take steps to prevent it. We know that discrimination is out there, so before you suffer from it, you take steps to prevent it.
I then said that looking at the demographics of his company, maybe he is already suffering the symptoms of the ailment, but it just hasn't grown invasive enough to cause discomfort.
Brian thought for a moment, then asked what would an AA program look like and how much would it cost.
Changin' 'em one at a time.