A Favorable Review
It is official. I have made the transition from contractor to employee. I would have said something earlier but I didn’t want to count my chickens before they hatched. About two months ago I was sitting in my cube when one of the senior managers asked if I would step into her office. This is it, I thought. They found out that I was doing a little internet surfing on my breaks and I was about to be reprimanded. I can’t help myself! I want to keep tabs on my website.
We went to her office and she closed the door behind me. This is too serious, I thought. My heart started thumping in my chest. What were my options for finding another job? Better make that move to Houston. I was asked if I liked working here. Trick question, I thought. But sensing a trap I replied, yes. Would you consider becoming an employee?
My mind shifted into overdrive. What? That’s not one of the questions people ask when they’re firing someone. I had missed a deadline a few weeks before and I thought for sure people were unhappy with my work. Go figure! But getting back to the question I was asked I was about to be offered a permanent job with complete benefits. The market for database application developers is shrinking. The economy is tanking. I really would like a little job security. I thought all of this in about a tenth of a second. But I should play this cool. See what they are willing to offer before I commit to anything. So I responded.
Earlier this week I went to the orientation process welcoming me along with about twenty other people into the employee fold. The chief executive officer of this company that has well over twenty thousand employees made an appearance to our orientation. It’s standard procedure that he spends an hour with the new employees. He gave his five minute speech telling us his door was open and then we went into a question and answer period where he would take questions and manipulate them to tell us whatever he wanted to tell us. Even with the manipulation he actually was very interesting.
He told us that the success of our company depends on us. Nothing earth shattering there. He told us about how he regularly takes a moment to help others who visit our campus. The company actually sits on something like twenty city blocks. This place is huge and it’s easy to get lost. When he sees someone in the lobby or in the hallway who is confused or who looks like they might be lost, whenever possible he’ll take the time to help them find their way. He admitted that he really doesn’t know the layout of the campus that well. But what he wants to do is establish a rapport with the person. He’ll ask how they’re doing and he’ll ask about their visit. He’ll show some empathy for the visitor and their situation whatever it might be.
By the time they reach their destination, the CEO will take a moment to introduce the visitor to whoever he or she is there to visit. The CEO would say something like please take care of my new friend. And of course, with him being the man in charge, more often than not the person being visited always replies to the visitor, you sure know how to pick your friends. Most of the people at the orientation session responded as if it was one of the funniest things they’ve ever heard. The point of the story is that when we take the time to listen to people, to actually listen to their needs and respond with a sense of caring, more often than not we will make huge steps towards developing a relationship that extends beyond whatever the business relationship and actually make their relationship with our company much more personal. More visitors to the company would be more likely to give the company a favorable review if they had a similar experience.
But the story got me to thinking. What if people took the time to empathize with the people who suffer the conditions in the black community? All too often when people in the racially generic dominant community that is coincidentally predominantly white, there is little compassion for whatever happens in the black community.
Hurricane Katrina was the best demonstration of America’s lack of compassion for people in the black community. I actually had a conservative black man tell me that after watching all those people sitting in the late August, mosquito infested heat of New Orleans, Louisiana, right here in America, without food, water, medication, or hope that it was perfectly understandable that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) took four days before it could respond. More appropriately, before it would respond.
When we tolerate police officers beating and killing innocent, unarmed black people who have committed no crime in our streets, the majority of America does little to empathize with our black brothers and sisters. We are more likely to look the other way and say, well you know it was a black person or you know it happened in the black community. It really is disturbing to see people make such a callous comment as if it alone explains away our national racial disparity.
When black people say we need jobs, people in the dominant community respond with go get an education. As if getting an education is so easy. When black people say okay we need quality education, the dominants will say, show some personal responsibility and pay for an education. Okay, we need jobs to pay for the education. When people from the black community are the subject, the majority of America will respond with varying examples of this circular, self canceling, logic.
It would be wonderful if more people would make the choice to try and develop a more personal relationship or a more compassionate attitude with more people. But while people are more likely to empathize with others, the chances of such empathy being extended to black people are slim to none. The dominant community couldn’t care any less if black people had a positive experience or not. Nationally, our collective attitude is that any problems in the black community are of the black community’s own making and can be corrected if black people would just do whatever. The lack of compassion could not be more stark. And from many black people’s perspective, it’s hard to have a favorable view of a country when we as a people are more likely to support police officers for using their guns and batons and their authority to subjugate against black people at the slightest whim.