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The Black Professional Minefield

If you are a black professional in America, the more than likely you work in an environment surrounded almost entirely by white people. I remember back in the 80’s, speaking before a group of 2,000 of my peers at a corporate conference and being the only black face in the room, along with a half dozen other minorities and women. An executive job in an American corporation is a Fly-Trap. You are there, but the chances of a lateral move to another company to move up, which is a common strategy available to white managers – is difficult, if not impossible. You probably can count on one hand the number of black CEOs, Presidents, or Sr VPs recruited by other companies for executive positions outside of the company in which they earned their position in the first place. An issue which makes the expansion of black CEOs in the Fortune 500 difficult.

It goes beyond just simple watercooler small talk in that black folks are more likely to be fans of Football and Basketball, while whites are fans of Hockey and Baseball. And you are never going to be able to explain the Black College Greek tradition of a Step Show. Being bi-lingual, speaking at least two English dialects…

And learning to love Broccoli and kale as a salad.

And yes, you have to put up with the occasional racial micro-aggression (typically born more of ignorance than anything else), as well as the full on racism. Nor are your white co-workers or peers going to get why BLM has resonance with you, who aren’t living in the poor part of town, aren’t covered in tats, or are speaking in the dialect of the lower class.

Being Black—but Not Too Black—in the Workplace

To be a black professional is often to be alone. Most black doctors, lawyers, journalists, and so on—those in white-collar positions that require specialized training and credentialing—work in environments where they are in the racial minority.

This comes with challenges. Beyond outright discrimination, which many still face, there are psychological costs to being one of just a few black faces in a predominantly white environment. In a study of black professional workers in a number of different occupations, I found that these employees worked to carefully manage their emotions in ways that reflected the racial landscapes they inhabited.

In particular, black professionals had to be very careful to show feelings of conviviality and pleasantness, even—especially—in response to racial issues. They felt that emotions of anger, frustration, and annoyance were discouraged, even when they worked in settings where these emotions were generally welcomed in certain contexts—think litigators interacting with opposing counsel, or financial analysts responding to a stressful day on Wall Street. Interestingly, this often played out at trainings meant to encourage racial sensitivity. Many of the black professionals I interviewed found that diversity trainings—intended to improve the work environment for minorities—actually became a source of emotional stress, as they perceived that their white colleagues could use these trainings to express negative emotions about people of color, but that they were expected not to disclose their own honest emotional reactions to such statements.

One of the most interesting recent contributions to this area of research comes from legal scholars Mitu Gulati and Devon Carbado. In their book Working Identity, they argue that while everyone needs to create and put forth an “appropriate” workplace identity, for members of minority groups—women of all races, racial-minority men, LGBTQ people—this becomes particularly taxing because their working identities must counter common cultural stereotypes. For example, black men may feel compelled to work longer hours as a way to repudiate stereotypes of a poor work ethic among blacks. To make matters more complicated, such strategies can backfire, reinforcing other stereotypes: Working those long hours may lead colleagues to assume that the workers lack the intellectual preparation needed for high-status professional jobs.

Carbado and Gulati also note that minority professionals tread cautiously to avoid upsetting the majority group’s sensibilities. Put simply, they can be visibly black, but don’t want to be perceived as stereotypically black. As Carbado and Gulati write, a black female candidate for a law firm who chemically straightens her hair, is in a nuclear family structure, and resides in a predominantly white neighborhood signals a fealty to (often unspoken) racial norms. She does so in a way that an equally qualified black woman candidate who wears dreadlocks, has a history of pushing for racial change in the legal field, is a single mother, and lives in the inner city does not.

The same is true for professional workers who are members of other racial minority groups. For instance, Latina attorneys may be able to advance further at work if they take pains not to speak with any trace of an accent. These are challenges in addition to the more well-known ones—the difficulties finding mentors of the same race, coping with racial stereotypes, being treated as a representative for one’s entire racial group.

So what does this mean for black workers in professional environments? First, it’s indicative of the degree to which race shapes occupational outcomes. In many circles, people feel more comfortable reducing racial issues to class-based ones, assuming that poverty explains much, if not all, of the differences between minorities and whites.

But for blacks in professional positions, issues of poverty are not the problem. Poverty does not explain biases in hiring, the need for particular types of emotional management, and the careful self-presentation that minority professionals engage in at work.

Second, all of this ought to encourage a rethinking of some of the existing efforts to create more diverse work environments. Do diversity and inclusion initiatives take into consideration how minorities placed in those environments feel? How can policies create not just more equitable hiring processes, but address the emotional toll of being a racial minority in a professional work setting?

In the current political climate, there is generally support for solving race-related employment challenges by focusing on job training and education—in other words, increasing human capital to improve access. Given the research, it’s also important to consider how to create better workplaces for the minority professionals who are already in these jobs.

 
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Posted by on October 15, 2015 in The Post-Racial Life

 

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Ben Franklin Implants – Politician Hides $79k in her Bra!

Dayam! Gotta believe $79,000 in cash, even in hundreds …

creates a bit of a bulge.

This week’s Orange Jumpsuit Award goes to Prince Georges, Maryland County Executive Jack Johnson, and his wife, Leslie. I’ll check and see if I can find a model with a little bit more “room” to hide all that cash!

Jack Johnson, Prince George’s county executive, and his wife, Leslie, arrested

Just after 10:12 a.m. Friday, Leslie Johnson frantically phoned her husband, Jack B. Johnson, the Prince George’s county executive.

Two FBI agents were at the front door of their two-story brick colonial in Mitchellville.

“Don’t answer it,” the county executive said, unaware that more agents were listening in.

Johnson ordered his wife to find and destroy a $100,000 check from a real estate developer that was hidden in a box of liquor.

“Do you want me to put it down the toilet?” Leslie Johnson asked.

“Yes, flush that,” the county executive said.

But what about the cash? she asked – $79,600.

Put it in your underwear, the county executive told his wife.

She replied, “I have it in my bra” – which is where agents discovered the money after she answered the door.

 

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FBI Raids Prince George’s Government Center; Jack Johnson Arrested

Prince George’s County Executive Jack Johnsonand his wife Leslie face up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, according to a federal indictment.

Jack and Leslie Johnson face tampering with witness charges; and destruction, falsification and altering of documents charges.

In an affidavit released Friday afternoon, F.B.I. agents described how they tapped the Johnsons’ phone right before the raid was about to take place at just after 10:00 a.m.

“Tear up the check,” the document stated, referring to Jack Johnson’s demands to his wife, while federal agents were at the door of their Mitchellville, Md. home.

The check Johnson was telling his wife to tear up was a $100,000 bribe from developers, according to federal documents.

When police arrested Leslie Johnson, they found $79,600 in cash, in her underwear, according to the sworn federal affidavit.

The F.B.I. agents also claim Johnson received $5,000 on November 5th, from developers to use his influence to get them bids in projects, according to the document. The documents state Johnson received $15,000 more Friday morning in the first leg of the raid.

Federal agents confronted Johnson after a meeting they say was captured on videotape. They say he claimed the money was for a party he was throwing at the end of his term as County Executive. They let him go.

But agents say Jack Johnson almost immediately called his wife on his wiretapped cell phone and told her to tear up the check in the underwear draw in their room, federal agents said in the sworn statement. She tore up the check and flushed it.

“Do you want me to put it down the toilet?,” Leslie Johnson asked, according to the affidavit. Then agents heard the sound of a toilet flush over the wire-tap.

They each face 20 years if convicted of all charges, and three years of supervised release. They are also facing fines of, no more than, $250,000.

U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein says he expects to charge additional defendents. And FBI Special Agent in Charge Richard McFeely issued a blunt warning: If you’re involved in “pay to play, it’s far better to talk to us now than for us to come knocking at your door.”

The allegations of pay to play involving county officials and developers in Prince George’s go back years. A lawsuit by a New Carrollton developer alleges a number of county councilmembers were involved.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Maryland confirmed Jack Johnson’s arrest earlier Friday. A 9NEWS NOW crew was at Johnson’s home when he was put in a car and driven away Friday afternoon. Neighbors at the scene said they were surprised by the arrest. A plumber outside the home told 9NEWS NOW that he was at the home to “check the plumbing and some toilets…for some evidence, I guess.”

Rep. Donna Edwards issued a statement Friday afternoon about the arrest. In the statement, she says: “The arrest of Prince George’s County Executive Jack Johnson is in the hands of law enforcement and the court system. I am saddened personally by these developments and look forward to a fair and just resolution. However, my primary concern remains that the needs of residents of Prince George’s County continue to be met at all levels of government.”

Johnson’s arrest follows news that the FBI is conducting multiple raids in Prince George’s County.

According to sources, the raids are taking place at the County Administration Building in Upper Marlboroand the homes of several county leaders.

Johnson has served as county executive since 2002. His wife, Leslie, was elected earlier this month to a seat on the Prince George’s County Council.

Jack – I got some bad news…and some really bad news. They got your dumb, greedy ass dead to rights. The really bad news?

You are looking at 10-20 years in an Orange jumpsuit – and so is your wife.

There is a lot more to this one – so stay tuned. And before the black conservative lot begin to jump up and down and celebrate on another black politician going down…

There is more than likely a highway on this one to Michael Steele’s back door , too.

That Award… Your “One Size Fits All”…Family Group Jumpsuit!

Family Jumpsuit Award for Jack Johnson and his Wife, Leslie

 

 
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Posted by on November 13, 2010 in American Greed, Orange Jumsuit Politicians

 

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