Looking Dreamy

These stars
Meet and scatter
These dreams make bright patterns
Then shatter in chaotic thoughts
Life goals replace nightmares
Day time work yields
Hard knocks

I’ve been reading about the dignity of work. “Work is not punishment or a necessary evil, nor is it man’s means of accumulating control, power and wealth. These ideas are contrary to the biblical view of work. We understand work as something intrinsically good. We are co-creators of Gods world and work is part of our contribution. Work is more than a way to make a living; it is a form of continuing participation in God’s creation. If the dignity of work is to be protected, then the basic rights of workers must be respected. People have the right to productive work, to decent and fair wages, to the organization and joining of unions, to private property, and to economic initiative.” The quote above is from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. This statement is part of the social justice doctrine that many faiths ascribe to. However as it pertains to minorities, there are built in barriers.

An education is seen as the quickest way to secure a job that pays well. Many people find that they are not given the opportunity to advance in education due to economic road blocks coupled with bias within the public education system and the college and university admissions. It is not a matter of just choosing a college. Application fees and the cost of the SAT/ACT tests must be met. The cost to get to the starting line is often too much for people living hand to mouth. The money for these are the difference between food or electricity, medicine or gasoline.

The American Dream goes something like “hard work and perseverance will result in success”. This was the narrative at the beginning of the industrial age. Young boys selling newspapers were fed the idea that someday, if they worked hard enough, they could own the newspaper. If they just sold more papers, put in more hours, then they could rise from poverty to prosperity. Many still believe that this is the way for those born into poverty to shed their homelessness and unemployment. Even those institutions that tout their good works brag about how they educate and provide employment opportunities – if only people apply themselves. I wanted to believe too.

The truth is a bitter pill. There is a saying that reflects a parallel reality, “Its not what you know but who you know.” Looking at the fallacy of hard work and education being the difference between success and failure, the truth of having the right connections is hardly recognized. And this is where the prejudice starts to seep into decision making. I’ve seen it. I know it is real. This translates to a college educated and degree toting person of color who is unable to get a job in their field. One who settles for a part-time position in a department store in an effort to pay back student loans. They keep looking for that job, answering newspaper ads and even signing on with head hunters. They send out resumes and do phone interviews and eventually get a couple in-person interviews. The interview goes well and they don’t get the job. Rinse and repeat. The call back, if they ever get one, is the standard “I’m sorry but we filled the position with someone better qualified”. This only works for so long before the lie is exposed. Eventually they bump into a classmate who they tutored, who scraped by and barely graduated, who is working in the job they applied for. The “better qualified” candidate is Caucasian. I’m angry.

I’m retired. I’m not involved in the hiring process any longer. But I can think of a possible strategy. What if people of color were able to concentrate on getting degrees in human resources? What if human resource departments were shifted from all white to integrated to reflect the makeup of the population of the job pool? HR departments love and have ingrained in their culture to promote from within. It might take a couple of decades – because change happens slowly but eventually there would be a shift. I know it is a dream that I can’t change into reality. But I can continue to dream…

60 thoughts on “Looking Dreamy

  1. I like your idea. Let’s take it further. Let’s have black owned companies. More of them. Bigger. Otherwise how does the HR person get hired and keep from getting fired. You know that white people won’t stand for a POC getting a potentially unfair advantage.

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      1. Are you suggesting we hire based on the color of skin? Sure sounds like it. I can tell you that I too went through the same trials and tribulations you described when looking for a job, and at least twice was told no only to find out they hired a younger, far less qualified individual. One was African American, the other Hispanic (because, I was told, they spoke Spanish in a job that did not require a Spanish speaker). Such was life in the affirmative action world.

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        1. I’m not suggesting – it IS done routinely and almost always to the detriment of people of color. Even though affirmative action is to some extent a help, as you have experienced, it has flaws.

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          1. I got that end of your argument, but when you suggest more people of color should be hired, you are advocating for the very thing you are arguing against: hire based on color. As a previous owner of a small business, I can tell you that color was never an issue, but to be the judge of a businesses hiring practices, you would need to have spent time on the hiring side of the table. I would not hire someone with exposed tattoos above their neck. I would never hire someone that had so much metal in their bodies they could trip the sensors at the airport without getting out of their car. I would not hire someone who showed up in jeans that did not fit, a sleeveless shirt, and poor hygiene. These parameters were required of everyone who interviewed, and their qualifications could not save them. If they did not respect the interview, then they would not respect my customers. It was not a color thing. Or an age thing. It was a respect thing.

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            1. I’m advocating for increased participation in educational fields to produce more and better qualified candidates in overwhelming numbers. Your assumption that I have not been involved in hiring is inaccurate.

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      2. I like your outlook, but do not completely feel that it can be reduced down to your observation…. Book learning is great, but knowing about life, and attitude, was a stronger reason for my hiring a person than their effort to impress me, their skin color, nationality, sex preference, or what school they graduated from did not always impress me. A good interview can start with how they dressed, body language, and verbal language, as well as their outlook on life including theirs and the earths future and how they fit in with it. I have hired people just getting out of jail, but at the same time did not give a person a second look who was from a top school. It was just in the outlook on life and would they fit in and be a good person in the company. Often if they were a fast talker, throwing a lot of dirty or simplistic words, it often was a quick turn off to me~! Simple as that.

        Oh with that said I did enjoy and agree with your poem and most of your write up as well~!!!

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        1. It is nice that you were so intimately involved with the hiring. In a large institution the HR department does the screening of applicants. The criteria includes academic qualifications. Those who do not meet the minimum will not make it to the stage in hiring that allows for interviews. So all the OTJ trained persons never get called for an interview. They don’t get a chance to prove their value. Having a degree won’t necessarily get you a job but it will get you an interview at a large company. The small business owner has more control and leeway to select candidates for a position… Glad you enjoyed the poem and the post.

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  2. Our thoughts are running in similar veins, so to speak. Change is indeed coming. Just thinking about AOC makes me smile. & Kamala. Rinse, repeat. 🙂

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        1. Yikes – that is a little too far for a quick jaunt for a visit of a few hours… Sparky wants to take another road trip (after COVID restrictions are lifted and travel is safer) and had mentioned going back south.

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  3. I share your dream of equality in the workplace, that people are hired based on qualifications no matter their skin color, sex or sexuality, religion, etc. The Department I worked for did hire people of color based on qualification and experience, but the process is not foolproof. I learned that sometimes people who interviewed great, who looked good on paper, were not always great employees. I learned that sometimes people with more common sense than education did better on the job. It can be hard to filter and distinguish who will be the best fit for the job.

    That being said, I understand that people of color have not had a fair advantage when it comes to education and employment. It’s not even been 100 years since black people could vote. It’s been a little more than 50 years since black people could sit next to a white person on the bus. Black Americans have been forced for years to only live in areas that whites allowed. So much discrimination that it’s no wonder there is constant struggle for these Americans. We have to start changing this world and hope that generations to come keep up the fight.

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    1. You just summed up exactly what I was trying to say~! Too often employment and even credit comes not by common sense, but rather in an automatic list of “qualifications”, not taking the individual person or background into consideration. So I agreed with MURISOPSIS that this DOES take place (by the numbers) but disagreed with the practice.

      Computers have reduced us to an unrelated set of “qualifications”, which not every person is privileged have, and this I do not agree with. Like you say, many well qualified people never get to an interview. In a way I was once involved in this, and owned a company in which I put together just such a program which was used by Sears Roebuck, in their credit departments.

      They had been sued by the Federal Government, for a practice called “red lining”. This worked on a practice called “point scoring” which even looked at the part of town you lived in, and such odd things as to whether you owned a telephone or not, giving or taking away credit points in the answers you put on an application, in order to either give you credit or not to do so.

      As part of solving the law suit Sears was told to take this decision out of the hands of individuals who could make these decisions. That company then approached me to write and put together a program complete with work stations, which would take this out of the hands of those individuals, and put it in a machine where it would be more uniform and unbiased. Sears used this for years, until big credit card companies took over the task. This was one small case where government did try to equalize the playing field, and took big business to task for their foolishness. A very long story of a very long time ago, bringing back very old memories~!

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      1. Thanks for your story. I know of redlining practices in the housing market, but did not know it was slso used as a hiring practice. And by Sears Roebuck, which shows that any company, big or small, can discriminate toward potential employees. It’s a tough world for those who face it.

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  4. Interesting spin on “work”, but not sure how playing football for $3.4 million a year is a continuation of Gods work.

    Wake up, Clean up. Off I go
    Traffic snarls, this crap blows

    e-mails, short lunch break
    fake smiles I must make

    Screen shot, phone calls
    more meetings and all

    shut down, clean up, home I go
    Traffic snarls, this crap blows

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    1. Yes. The key here is “playing” football. There are some who would disagree but football, basketball and all the other sports are not necessarily work in the traditional sense. The poem is a description of a Type A personality??

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      1. My poem? No, it is about the drudgery and monotony of work. No deep hidden meaning. I am not that good a poet. You are no doubt right about the “playing” thing, but it is subjective. To a tree trimmer, a journalist is playing. To a coal miner, a psychiatrist is playing. It is all a matter of perspective.

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  5. Productive work gives us a way to contribute, a sense of purpose. So much work these days feels useless. I retired early because I was tired of encouraging patients to take meds they didn’t want and spend their precious days checking blood pressure and sugar and weight and recording data for us and submitting to procedures and tests that wouldn’t make their life longer or better. Our protocols said to do it, so we did it. Not sure who it benefited. Drug companies and specialists, I suppose. I couldn’t take it anymore, telling people to do things I myself would refuse to do, things I didn’t believe in. I wanted to make something, use my creative abilities, add something worthy to the world, not just slog along for a paycheck. I write poetry and stories, I live on less, and I’m way happier. As for the disparity between whites and non-whites, I think we need to concentrate on getting non-whites to the starting line. When you start out disadvantaged, poor, hungry, without stable housing or access to advanced learning tools (like computers and internet), you’re lucky to graduate high school and flip burgers at McDonald’s. You never make it into a suit and interview. Things like UBI, increasing minimum wage, equal pay for equal work, and universal health care would help even the playing field. That’s why I’m voting BLUE in November. 🙂

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    1. Thanks Joan. It is true that productive work is a means to be a contributing member of society. And that certainly results in higher self-esteem, self-worth, and confidence. That in turn allows people to be able to resist the pull of drugs, crime, and destructive relationships. This is reflected in both personal and spiritual life. I agree that increasing minimum wage and universal health care would go a long way toward making life better for all Americans (with the exception of a very few 1% who would have to chip in their fair share!)

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  6. Back when I was working on my thesis, my advisor and I were talking about Horatio Alger and the whole idea that his novels essentially created the idea of an “American dream.” We agreed that none of the heroes in those books became a mega-millionaire or a Kim Kardashian (ew), but just achieved the middle class. One thing that happened in every one of those boys’ lives was they met someone who helped them. “Luck is undervalued as a rung on the ladder to success in America,” said my professor. “You just need some good luck, Martha, and you’re on your way.”

    I was thinking about that the other day. I have struggled to remain in the middle class. My “luck” was being born to two people who had good educations and a family that was financially stable. Sometimes it was a real fight to stay in the middle class. I never met the Horatio Alger guy who was going to give me that ONE break, but I did OK.

    I taught kids who believed the billboards advertising community colleges and high school counselors who said that education would lead to a good job, as if it were all guaranteed. At one point in my career I learned that one of the leading exports of the US was higher education. It’s true — international students — especially from China — bring in millions of dollars a year and pay the way for kids on scholarships.

    The ins and outs of educational finances are a tangled mess and, IMO, returning vocational training to high school would be a HUGE step in the right direction, much better than forcing a kid to go into debt so he/she can graduate with an Associates Degree just to qualify for a minimum wage job.

    The whole “education leads to good jobs” idea makes us cogs in a machine and education for the sake of learning something, deepening one’s appreciation of life, has more or less vanished from the curriculum. It’s interesting because most people are NOT going to love their jobs 24/7 for 35 years and without the OTHER aspects of education (liberal education) their lives miss out on depth and diversion. It’s a lot easier to make them puppets when they haven’t had the deeper context of history, geography, foreign languages, all of that “irrelevant” stuff they’re “never going to use.”

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    1. We have a pretty strong vocational training program in the area – everything from automotive and construction trades to cosmetology and nursing assistant. A friend has even developed and is teaching a veterinary assisting program in the HS. A love of reading and an inquisitive mind can fill in many gaps that result from the tunnel vision of some educational programs… No need to apologize for the long post. It was interesting and brought up aspects I didn’t discuss in my post!!

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        1. I can’t speak to what is going on in other places. In Northern Indiana there were lots of jobs in manufacturing that evaporated and a ton of kids who had no aspirations of college – instead thinking they would follow their fathers into the steel plants, the RV manufacturers, or other trades. When those opportunities were not available the schools jumped on the idea of vocational training. I’d guess the majority of school districts have their own programs. For those who are not at a school with a program there is a reciprocity agreement that they can attend classes at a different school to get the hands on education they want. It is all about putting the kids first!

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  7. It’s a good dream and your readers had some interesting comments. I would add that we need to do everything possible to encourage stable families. That makes such a difference. When a child is sure he or she is loved, and encouraged to do the best they can in every area (not pushed, but encouraged) that child has a much better chance of growing up into a confident capable adult.

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    1. True. A stable home life can make a huge difference. A good diet, food security, and a safe home also contribute to a child able to learn. It is very hard to concentrate when you haven’t eaten since lunch the day before….

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  8. wow Val.. just wow

    first, you started it off by introducing the idea of the dignity of work as” Work is more than a way to make a living; it is a form of continuing participation in God’s creation:…this is very beautiful Val, i hope we all get to see this truth and embody and live on to work upon this belief.

    then, secondly, you raise the bar higher by providing a possible way of providing better and job opportunities to all colors, all races…

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  9. But it is ironic that the ability to throw a football lands you a million dollar or more contract. Yesterday, I watched a father in our park instruct his son on running with a football back and forth in the wet grass while he watched avidly. I wondered if he is as dedicated with his son’s schoolwork and limiting computer game time. Some fields do pay more than others.

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    1. I agree that some are paid a disproportionate amount. Many would argue that no football player is worth millions of dollars. The sad part of the story of the man having his son run drills is that very few athletes make it to that level. The majority play a sport in HS or College and never go beyond that. They are wise to get an education so that they have some skills for “life after sports”.

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      1. Yes, not everyone has the perseverance, luck, or timing and good sense to keep the monies after they sign the contract. Some will spend that money on silly things, you may have heard of athletes having too much fun.

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            1. Even the best upbringing can lose to extreme temptation and peer pressure… Giving a kid a million dollars and putting him far from home with a bunch of teammates 10 years older makes it tough for even the best upbringing to withstand the lure of alcohol, drugs, women who want to throw themselves at them – leads to all kinds of bad decisions. A strong mentor is helpful. Parents are an easy target but they can only do so much before the responsibility falls to the individual.

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              1. Yes, this is why for 5 years I was a guardian ad litem. Husband looked into it also but was too busy working with in business crazy hours! Perhaps a good place for you to volunteer now that you are retired.

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                1. In Indiana we have CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) for children. It is a rather involved training process but one that is well worth the effort. I’m not sure my heart could take the trauma – as most of the cases involve children of abuse and neglect. I’ve considered it in the past and may look into it again but I would have a huge problem when children are returned to parents who have committed horrific abuse. I don’t think I could deal well with that…

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  10. I totally agree with this, Valerie. When we’re young we’re all under the misguided rationale that the harder you work, the more successful you are. As we get older, life smacks us in the face and we realize that it’s really about connections and relationships. But they’ll NEVER tell you that because they’re afraid that if you know the truth, you might actually establish those connections and get ahead- even ahead of THEM! Ha! It’s funny how educational institutions don’t teach you what you really need to know.

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  11. In the Teachings of the Baha’i Faith, work done in a spirit of service is an act of worship. As for the vicious cycle of doing well in an interview, and being told “You were great candidate, BUT…..having white, male attorneys as Directors of Human Resources had much to do with this. There was a very narrow frame of reference-much based on looking under rocks to find a flaw in candidates and playing games of “gotcha”, in the course of a first or second interview. I think the training of People of Colour as Human Resources staff is an excellent strategy.

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