July 9, 2020 Opinion

Written by:

Lauren Morgan Patrick is a native Southerner and the editor of Pretty Southern.com. She's on a mission to change the world. #LovetheSouth #GoDawgs Follow Lauren on Twitter

Editor’s Note – a brief intro to the powerful words by Quay Bowen. We connected with Quay through a marketing group on social media. After hearing her story, we asked Quay to share her experiences with our audience here at Pretty Southern. It has been edited with her approval and based on the personal history of what she has experienced as a Black woman in the American workforce. Our mission at Pretty Southern has always been to question what does it mean to be a Southerner in the 21st century, and to share stories that may otherwise not have had a platform. It’s been an honor to work with Quay and we hope you respect her for sharing her truth.

I chased the American Dream, what I got was a nightmare.

My name is Quay. In 2011, I graduated from a top 20 college with a 3.67 GPA (3.9 if you count transfer credits). I have a Bachelor’s degree in Neuroscience and Human Behavioral Biology with a minor in Science, Culture, and Society. I also have an Associates in Psychology (High Honors) and a concentration in Media Studies.

During my time in college, I started a charity, held grassroots fundraisers for nonprofits, worked on organizing committees for large-scale conferences, worked for a kids show, was the keynote speaker for several fundraising galas, helped organize college tours for aging out foster kids, and connected student groups with foster care organizations for tutoring efforts. I did all this while working full time at Blockbuster and raising a kid.

This may sound conceited, but when I graduated, I thought that if I didn’t go to med school, I would be able to walk into my chosen career path and take the industry by storm. That wasn’t the case. I struggled to find an open door to start a career. A decade later, I am still struggling.

Since entering into the “professional” workforce, I’ve experienced often horrific instances of workplace racism in nearly every company I’ve worked for: from bosses screaming at me “why are your people so stupid!” to coworkers hiding vital computer systems needed to do my job and laughing as I hobbled around the office on crutches (I’m disabled) looking for it ‘til I cried from the physical pain; to being told by supervisors they “preferred uneducated black people to educated black people because at least uneducated black people knew their place.”

I was asked to write about these experiences and follow it up with how I feel we can fix the issue of racism in the workplace. When I wrote it all out in a first draft, I stopped at 12 pages and still wasn’t halfway through my experiences. Yes, this is a complicated issue, and I can be a bit long-winded, but 12 pages? No one should have so much experience with racism in the workforce, especially at only 36.

This video from the Daily Show with Trevor Noah does a pretty good job of summing this up

I’m sharing all this to illustrate how exhausting it is to be black in America.

I honestly feel that we cannot talk about fixing racism without first addressing what it looks like, how it festers, and the systems in place that marginalize people of color and reinforce white supremacy.

At the end of the day, the remedy to every instance of workplace racism that I personally experienced big and small can be summed up with one sentence: Don’t be a jerk to people. Better yet, treat your black (and other people of color) employees and coworkers the same way as you would treat them if they were the person signing your paychecks.

For this essay, I want to talk about discriminatory hiring: an issue that has far greater real-world consequences in the lives of people of color that are more traumatic than, say, having to submit one’s self to daily hair sniffing by the office manager at your place of employment because a nurse at a rural clinic repeatedly claimed it stunk. Then having the entirety of the female staff at the office also sniffing your hair trying to figure out if it had a smell since the manager couldn’t smell anything.

Yes, that really happened to me and as confirmed by basically everyone in the office, I didn’t stink. The nurse was a racist and being racist. I was too young and too naive to speak up for myself and none of the white women in positions of power decided to speak up for me. As I said, it can be exhausting being black.

BLM Atlanta Protest
Photo credit Julieann Tran

Obviously, workplace racism can humiliate and isolate people of color in the workforce; but discriminatory hiring can exclude them from it. It perpetuates poverty and ultimately has the potential to turn fresh-faced rising stars coming out of college, ready to build their career, into bitter middle-aged adults who have to accept their dreams have died and are willing to take any job life throws at them in order to survive.

Let’s talk about affirmative action and quotas

My first experience with Affirmative Action and quotas came long before I entered the “professional” workforce. I was a waitress at Applebee’s. My manager was a black guy with a bit of a chip on his shoulder. I was talking about applying to a two-year college. He shook his head and said, “Do you know why I work here?” I made a joke about discounted riblets. He then told me that he had a Master’s Degree from Duke and nobody would hire him. No jobs.

This was echoed by another black man in an online chat forum back when Myspace ruled the internet. I was bragging like the obnoxious 20-something that I was (at the time) about how I made it through my two-year college with a 4.0 GPA and without even going to high school and how I was “gonna get into Harvard.” He laughed and said, “I have a degree from Rutgers. Guess what I do for a living?” He was a manager at Walmart.

I thought to myself, that was a “them” problem. I was special, smarter, and more determined to succeed. They must have made bad grades or dropped out or something. That wasn’t gonna happen to me. I held on to this thought for a while.

A few years later, as a senior in my not-Harvard but equally prestigious and super pretentious fancy private college, I met with the only black professor in our program’s department. I think I wanted to talk to him about getting into one of his overbooked classes on developmental psychology and cognition. We hadn’t even started our meeting when he began talking to me about race and science. He said bluntly, “You know how I got this job? It’s because I’m black.”

I honestly couldn’t believe he was saying that. It actually irritated me because I felt he was diminishing his own accomplishments. But he broke it down to me. My college looked at its staff, saw it didn’t have any black people in the department, and thus hired one.

Was he the best man for the job? Yes. But that didn’t matter, they only wanted him because he was the best black man for the job. The school would later bring in its only Latinx woman to the department as well.

I didn’t equate what the professor said at the time to what the down-trodden Duke and Rutgers graduates had told me. Then, a few months later, I was just hanging out with my honor’s thesis adviser (an older white guy) after some experiment trials.

I don’t even know how the conversation came up, but he randomly said that I was going to have a hard time after I graduated. “You’re a double minority. Nobody’s gonna want to hire you because Affirmative Action means they can’t fire you. Hell, I wouldn’t hire you. You’re a black female. I already have one of those.” It was a kick in the gut.

As frustrating as everything these men were saying was at the time, they were genuinely trying to prepare me for what it was going to be like for me as a black woman in the professional world. They weren’t wrong.

Why Affirmative Action is a problem

Affirmative Action is a program meant to help minorities get access to fields they had been previously excluded from; yet, instead of creating opportunities, it was used to continue oppression. Once a company met their “token” quota, they didn’t have to bring on any more of those people.

Because Affirmative Action led to quotas, it indirectly pits minorities against each other for career access. A minority in a leadership position would be less likely to bring on another younger, cheaper, minority into the company for the sheer sake of their own job security. It created a Black Swan dynamic. If you’ve seen that movie, you know that can be pretty cutthroat and entirely unnecessary.

Furthermore, when companies limit their diversity hiring to a few tokens of any demographic, it creates environments where unintentional racism festers unchecked.

For example, having a white male coworker giddily come up to the one black employee to tell a ghetto name joke. We get it: L—sha, Orangello, Lemongello har har har. By the way, this also happened to me. Multiple times at different companies. Seriously, it’s super exhausting being black.

And there are workarounds for Affirmative Action. Instead of having the black guy, it’s a “White Latinx” who still meets the quota without going “too ethnic.” Maybe rely on people of Asian descent to fill a company’s diversity quotas; after all, they’re the “model minority” (I’ll get back to that statement in a bit).

What most companies have done since they were forced to stop excluding everyone but White Men from their ranks is to hire White Women who are technically also a historically oppressed group. Maybe this is why White Women have benefited from Affirmative Action more than anyone of any demographic. It’s done great for appearing to have diversity in the workplace, but nothing for changing the upward mobility of other disenfranchised populations.

Let’s talk about name discrimination

There was a study about a decade ago that showed resumes with “black-sounding” names were around 50% less likely to be called in for an interview than white-sounding names with the same resume info. This, of course, gave credence to the time-honored tradition of minorities needing to change their names to assimilate into “American Culture” and pointed out a glaring issue with hiring discrimination for those who don’t.

Let’s ignore for a second the fact that names like Jamal, Kiesha, and Malcolm were on the black-sounding names list, so-called real names with real cultural roots outside the black community but have been associated with black people over the years. Let’s also ignore the complicated history behind the origins of “black names” or the frustration Asians and Native Americans have vocalized about having to whitewash themselves in society, starting with their names needing to be anglicized even for social media.

Why are recruiters judging candidates based on their names and not qualifications? It’s disgusting and the ire of any black person whose parents hopped on the woke wagon in the 80s & 90s and rejected anglo-sounding names for their children.

My experience with this goes beyond just assuming that my thousands of resumes went unanswered because my name is “Quayana” / “Quay.” There have been a number of times since that study came out where I toyed around with the concept on Linkedin.

As an experiment, first I just changed my name from Quay to Quinn and took down my profile picture. That was the only time in my entire search that multiple recruiters contacted me on LinkedIn about positions in their company. Not just in marketing/media, but in science and research as well. The most frustrating part of it was, these were jobs that I really wanted, so when I would send my resume with my real name and didn’t get callbacks, it broke my heart.

Then there was the time where I went full-on and changed my name to Quinn and my profile picture to a photo of a white friend of mine. Quay could send hundreds of LinkedIn messages; she’d maybe get two responses if she was lucky. Every single message sent out by young, white, and attractive “Quinn” got a message reply back, even if it was just to tell her there were no jobs available.

My friend and I came from the same background (foster care, homelessness, etc). That was reflected in the volunteer work and charity efforts listed on Quay/Quinn’s profile. It sucked knowing that if my friend had done everything that I did to better her life, she would have been able to completely transform it and achieve great success. It also killed me that no matter what I’d accomplished, I couldn’t.

Quinn was someone worth speaking to. Quay was invisible.

Equal Opportunity Employment Workforce LinkedIn Recruitment

Why name discrimination is a problem

Sure, black people can technically change our names to be more “hire-able,” but why change such an essential part of one’s identity? Not to mention all the legal headaches with getting our school transcripts and degrees to match our new “job-worthy” identities.

The issue here is beyond perceived in assimilation, or the fact that people just think names like Jaquafious and Kamarisha are stupid. As a society, we do not see white people with names like Bretnyee, Ashleigh, Rainbow, and Neveah and automatically assume they are somehow “lesser than” because their parents got creative. So why do we assume Shamirah and Ty’nisha are?

Ultimately, it’s about the perception of who we feel will be behind the name. It’s about how people perceive others with and without “ghetto” names. Even when powerful black people with names like Barack, Kamala, and Condoleezza stand as counterexamples to the stereotype, “ghetto” is still the go-to schema.

With a name like “Quayana,” the go-to schemas for me is ‘Sha Nay Nay’ and ‘Shaniqua the Welfare Queen’ and I’ve been called them both by coworkers. For personal reasons, Quayana is not a name I go by, yet I’ve had white coworkers use it as an insult on learning it: “Whatever Quay-an-ah.”

There’s no way they could know the childhood trauma that’s associated with that name, but they damn well knew the racist implications of their mockery.

“Those jobs are for little white girls”

The above statement was told to me by a black producer of a TV show I worked on. My only official (paid) gig in the industry. We were talking about my stifled career and what I ultimately wanted to do in the industry (network tv development & acquisitions). For the record, my goals haven’t changed. I refuse to let my dreams die.

That producer chuckled when he said those words. He went on to talk to me about racial discrimination in media and told me the only way I would ever truly get into the industry is to “pull a Spike Lee” and make a movie on my own. Show the world I could do it all before I’d be allowed to do anything.

He contributed to this dynamic by skipping over me for every AP gig on his projects in favor of a young white woman. All of the researchers were supposed to AP our own subjects. To be clear, that was more of a sexual harassment/predatory boss situation for her than racism against me. She was advancing, but she was always complaining about how uncomfortable he made her — so maybe I lucked out?

Anyway, his words (and actions) were true. White women often reference the “glass ceiling” when discussing the frustrating sexism-induced limitations put on their career advancements. For black people, it feels more like a concrete one.

I remember my first “professional” position. Almost two years after graduation, while my white and white Latinx friends were already building careers, I got a 12-hour a week PRN registration clerk job at a children’s hospital. They called me in once in the year I held that role.

When I was finally called in, I noticed the doctors were all white or Asian men. The coordinators and supervisors were all white women, the lower-tier workers (receptionists/clerks) were all black. When I noticed this, I cried. Actually, I had a panic attack in my car. I was three years into my career search and seeing my future — it was one that I couldn’t stomach.

Never was this more evident than at the ‘hair sniffing’ research clinic. I interviewed for a research coordinator role. I was hired as a “patient liaison,” an arbitrary title that essentially meant administrative assistant / lower tier marketing position.

A fresh out of college white guy named “Dallas” was hired just months before me for the same level position (that I originally interviewed for). I had two years of research experience between undergrad internships and a year-long contract gig at my alma mater. I didn’t think anything about the mismatch. I accepted that was what the company needed at the time, and I desperately needed a job.

But then a year later when it became obvious the company needed another coordinator, I jumped at the chance of presenting myself for the role. I was told I didn’t have enough experience & they didn’t have time to train me on the studies. When I pointed out I already knew the studies like the back of my hand and the sponsors love me, they said they couldn’t go without a recruiter.

After a number of interviewees didn’t work out, I brought a resume to my office manager. The resume was for a fresh out of college white girl with a psych degree and zero experience. I thought she would be great to replace me as a recruiter so that I could move up. Imagine my anger when they were discussing her as the favorite for the coordinator position.

Why this is a problem

Here is where I should probably post a half-dozen links to articles about how “despite a drastic increase in educational attainment, degrees aren’t translating to jobs for African Americans,” especially black women.

Or how black and indigenous college grads are more than twice as likely to be unemployed as anyone else.

Or how educated black people have about as much of a chance at getting a job as a white high school dropout.

Or how White and Asian women are disproportionately represented in management roles while college-educated Black women are more likely to be underemployed or unemployed and have harder times finding jobs.

But the data doesn’t tell the full story.

One of my white professors once announced to our class that [my alma mater] prides itself on diversity hiring “but if you really look at the makeup of the employees, you’ll see most of the black people are still in the fields.” The painful reality is this is true for so many industries.

This isn’t a simple artifact of population size. If it were, you would expect at least 13% of any company to be black, 14% to be Latinx, and 3% to be Asian, Native American, or Jewish. Anyone who has ever worked in any professional realm knows that these dynamics couldn’t be farther from the truth.

If you were to go on LinkedIn right now and look at the ethnic makeup of coordinators and mid-levels of any major media company, you’ll see a sea of white faces with sprinkles of Asians, Latinx, and even less black people. If you were to look at the security guards, maintenance professionals, secretaries, and assistants that dynamic completely reverses.

It isn’t a question of skills or qualifications. It’s not a matter of college rank or degrees or experience. It’s about what kinds of jobs people associate with Black and Brown people.

Companies dismiss this discrepancy in their organizations by saying things like they’re looking for the right “cultural fit” when bringing on/promoting team members. Why then, isn’t this a problem in the service industry? Black people seem to fit in with “white culture” just fine in these roles, why not in corporate America? More importantly, what’s going on in “corporate culture” that results in African Americans being underrepresented or excluded at nearly every level?

Let’s Talk About the Limitations of “Networking”

Over the years, I have attended lectures and meetings where people in leadership at various companies who were supposedly looking to diversify their ranks. A lot of them spoke of creating “networking opportunities” for people of color, special events, meetups, and the like.

The problem is that networking rarely ever means getting a job from some random person you met at an event.

It means getting brought on/referred by someone who knew you growing up, or you met in college. It means knowing someone in a position of authority who took the time to get to know you or connected with you through a peer that can vouch for your abilities.

It’s the executive who sees promise in you and has the ability to bring you on to their team and is willing to train you on the ins and outs of the company because they knew you through your father, aunt, sorority sister, or brother’s ex-roommate from college.

From my personal experience, the problem with networking events is far greater than just not being remembered by an exec who was impressed by you enough to give you their business card. That’s frustrating but understandable. After all, you were probably one of 30 people they met in one night.

The bigger issue is what demographics are more likely to be given the attention by the company reps at these events.

I attended a networking event held by my alma mater in Los Angeles. It was a room full of people, all clamoring at the chance to get 15 minutes with executives. Almost all of the execs were old, white, and male. They chit-chatted with the young white guys, made extra time for the young white girls—well the pretty ones—and I got maybe a few seconds of their time.

I thought it was just me. That I wasn’t attractive enough or male enough or just too old (I was 34) to be taken seriously for the entry-level jobs people were hoping for. It felt like I was the only black person there, until I looked to the side and saw a group of black people seated at a table. Most of them were young and attractive, by the way.

I actually approached them thinking maybe among them was the one black executive I must have missed at the event. When I came up to them, I heard one of them say, “These white people ain’t trying to give us the time of day.” I left, crushed. How were we supposed to compete when people weren’t even giving us any attention?

If you do manage to get that much-coveted 1:1 at an event and are still remembered when you send that follow-up email, there is the added issue of whether or not you met someone who in fact can hire you. Or if you will end up passed on to someone else in the hiring chain… someone not as “woke” or “colorblind” as the person who you impressed.

I’ve experienced this so many times, it’s not funny…

But the best example I have for this is when I networked my ass off to get an interview at a Major Network TV/Film/Video Game production company. Eight years of struggle and a cross-country move, I finally found an alumn who was willing to cut me a break. She worked in HR and was able to get me an interview for an entry-level “coordinator” position at one of their new streaming outlets.

I prepared for days, including looking up the person I was to be interviewing with on LinkedIn to find common experiences that I could use for the obligatory chit chat. I showed up for the interview an hour early and sat in my car listening to Eminem’s Lose Yourself, rereading my notes I’d written on the company, and how my experience matched its needs and mission.

The woman I interviewed with didn’t even bother to ask me any questions other than “Why do you want to be an assistant?” So, I tried carrying the interview with the completely disinterested young 20-something who I was supposed to be replacing (she was getting promoted). She made it clear that I wasn’t going to get the job after our 15-minute interview was over. “If the team is interested, they’ll reach out. But I suggest you look for other open positions.”

I was later told that I wasn’t hired because I was late to the interview. I got to the office an hour early, sat in my car, then walked in the door 15 minutes before our meeting time. She was late.

I was also told that I needed more business development experience and the recruiter suggested that I try going through the mailroom or starting as a page to work my way up.

Every role I ever worked involved developing, revamping, or just boosting the output of struggling businesses, and I did a lot of that for free which, if anything, showed my passion for the industry. The job I was interviewing for was an assistant role. My white interviewer’s only experience prior to that same job? Teaching Hebrew school.

And while keeping a bunch of adolescent boys under control is a feat onto itself, it has nothing on leading research project development while simultaneously facilitating communications between infectious disease doctors and the DMID/NIH during the Ebola epidemic or even more relevant, organizing live conferences and working on a kid’s show.

So why was she qualified for the position, but I wasn’t? It was my one true shot at my dream job. My dream life. And it was shredded by some twenty-year-old who decided on first sight that I wasn’t worth being given a chance. I fell apart. I wasn’t just heartbroken, I was completely broken and had a rather embarrassing emotional breakdown that led to me becoming suicidal. I felt I’d never be allowed to amount to anything in this world, so why bother to try anymore.

If only that alumni contact was a hiring manager instead of an HR Rep, maybe things would have turned out different. Maybe I would have had a chance.

The Problem with Networking

They say “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” I guess that could explain the discrepancies in job titles and unemployment/underemployment levels between People of Color—especially African and Native Americans and other demographics.

People tend to associate with others who have had similar life experiences and opinions regardless of race. Because race plays such a big factor in how communities are structured and people’s opinions and life experiences can be drastically different based on the communities they’ve lived in, it’s only logical that as adults, people will know and associate with people of similar race or socioeconomic demographic. The problem of discrimination occurs when those associations are what is necessary for gaining access to jobs.

Due to generations of discriminatory hiring practices, African Americans were kept out of just about every industry. When you consider that companies freely excluded people of color from their ranks well into the 1990s without consequence (and the fact that Affirmative Action programs led to Quotas and Tokenism), this literally means that most black people do not have the social collateral to enter industries through “networking.” Some of us do, but most don’t.

How are we supposed to compete when everyone else has between a 50 – 400+ year head start on “networking”?

If you don’t understand where this range came from, please consider the fact that we are not the only demographic to ever be discriminated against. From the 1920s-1970s, while other marginalized groups (Irish, Jewish, Italians, rural Southerners etc.) were able to gain access to industries that would have otherwise excluded them simply by changing their names and/or tweaking accents, black and brown people didn’t have that option. We couldn’t just change our skin color to hide our “otherness.”

This is where people typically bring up Asian Americans as an example of a once indentured and incredibly oppressed “Model minority” that was able to change their fate simply through hard work and education. After all, they can’t change their skin color or phenotypic ethnic traits either. If “Asians” can do it, why can’t Black people? Well, it’s not that simple.

This video from Adam Ruins Everything expands on the point

If we are going to achieve this level of integration of the workforce, similarly aggressive efforts have to be enacted to equal the playing field for Black people, nonwhite Latinos, and Native Americans.

At this point, the only government incentives to hire most of us are tax breaks companies get if we are veterans or on welfare and willing to admit it. Would you admit to something like that?

The Real Solution: Actual Equal Opportunity Employment

There are a few “facts” that I’ve been told over the years by the career coaches, resume writers, and career counselors that I have sought help from. Less than 10% of jobs are achieved through online submissions, 70-80% of jobs aren’t published online. It’s all who you know.

I have also heard more times than I can count from people at companies that I sought to work with that the jobs I was applying for were already filled (or at least the managers had someone in mind) before they were even posted. Repeatedly I’ve been told that the only reason they are posted online is for companies to “look like” they are meeting EOE requirements.

How is that in any way fair?

Given the aforementioned issues with networking “access” faced by African Americans and other people of color, how is this in any way “equal” opportunity?

Right now, black people are the fastest-growing population group entering college with black women in particular leading this surge. We’re also still the most likely group to face poverty.

Even when you exclude Black people who haven’t gotten degrees and only focus on people who have graduated college — or even better — finished grad school; or if you exclude black people who go into fields like social work and teaching (known for low pay), we’re still the most likely group to live below the poverty line.

Why? Because degrees are not enough. They’re not translating to jobs for us. They’re not translating to upward mobility within the workforce.

Is this to say that everyone in every industry is racist and actively working to keep black people out of the game? Of course not. But there are systems in place that perpetuate this sad reality and it all begins with discriminatory hiring practices. True equal opportunity has to be created.

In an ideal world, this would mean 100% of available positions would be posted on-line, first come first served, the most qualified candidate gets the interview, and a color-blind hiring manager selects the best person for the job regardless of socioeconomic status of the applicant.

Do you have any idea how many times I was asked “what do your parents do” in interviews when I was fresh out of college? How is a foster kid/ex-street teen supposed to answer that question?

I doubt we will ever achieve that, but until we do, we need recruiters and hiring managers willing to go the extra mile to ensure they are committed to getting as close to EOE as possible.

We need recruiters willing to go through resumes that flooded their inbox after a job was posted, not people trying to find their way around doing that with buggy applicant tracking systems and preferential hiring through “networking.” We need accountability not quotas

We need recruiters who judge people based on skills and education, not names. We need hiring managers who will understand the difficult struggle faced by brown and black people in the workforce and who will recognize that not every company is as “woke” as theirs is and that maybe Latisha had to start off in another industry or in temporary/ freelance jobs because she couldn’t afford to just sit around and wait for the “right job.”

When I reflect on my difficulty starting my career, I can blame the obscure name of my interdisciplinary major. Maybe it sounds too “sciency” for recruiters in media. I can blame the fact that I had to leave jobs for pretty disgusting race-based bullying and thus making me look like a job hopper. I can even blame it on the fact that I came from a disenfranchised background and lacked vital industry connections.

But none of that justifies a 10-year struggle to build a career. It’s normal for people to work outside their degree fields and people change careers all the time. And quite frankly, f*ck my background. It doesn’t define me. It shouldn’t derail my ambition. If anything, I should’ve been commended for my dedication to succeed, not held back for not having “the right pedigree” or told I should “just be happy [that I] got an education” — both actually said to me.

I went to college. I made the grades, often higher than most of my classmates who came from exclusive prep schools. This is what people have been telling me and my generation was needed to succeed ever since Sesame Street.

But the reality is, hard work and education don’t actually matter when someone from an affluent well-connected family gets first dibs at all the jobs whether or not they worked hard in school.

If history has taught us anything, it’s that the way to decrease poverty and suffering in a demographic is through educational access and well-paying jobs, not “social programs.”

Maybe if we fix the hiring process, we can fix the poverty issue, and maybe if we fix the poverty issue we can fix the issue with “unintentionally segregated” race makeup of neighborhoods and thus fix the educational funding discrepancies between predominantly black and white school systems. Then maybe the issue of petty crime and drug rates in “urban” communities will decrease as well.

And if that happens, there will be even less justification for police targeting of Black and Brown kids.

Maybe then we’ll stop hearing so many stories of young black men and women being killed by cops. Or at least we can end people easily dismissing those deaths based on preconceived notions of Black & Brown people being criminals, or just “ghetto” thugs and welfare queens who don’t want to work.

If we want to break the chokehold white supremacy has on this country, it starts with changing how we hire.

Closing Editor’s Note – we are so thankful to Quay for her willingness to share her truth. We ask our readers to respect her showcase of strength. Any negative or pejorative comments posted will be deleted.

If you would like to make a difference, please consider donating to these organizations supporting kids in the foster care system:

Multi-Agency Alliance for Children (MAAC) helps kids of all ages through funding them for group homes when the state either does not or won’t pay the full cost of the placement.

CHRIS 180 provides housing and mental health services for youth in foster care from 8-18 and have an independent living program for kids who have aged out of care.

Covenant House supports homeless teens who have aged out of the foster system, DJJ (juvenile justice) custody, or have nowhere else to go with safe housing.

To keep up with Quay’s story, you can follow her on Twitter.

15 Responses to “On The Topic Of Equal Opportunity”

  1. Richard

    Thanks for sharing the raw, hard-to-accept truth. Hope the world can see how brilliant and creative you are and help you surge ahead in your career

    Reply
  2. Jessica

    Wow, being a black professional woman in the workplace sounds very challenging. I’m glad you are bringing light to these situations and hopefully we can all learn from this and change our views and actions moving forward.

    Reply
  3. Zoe

    You should have focused on talking about the actual racism you experienced. People of all races work hard in school only to find out college was a waste of time. It’s classism not racism. Get a trade.

    Reply
    • Shauna

      This mentality is exactly the problem Quay writes about. It’s absurd to tell someone with a degree and 10+ years of work experience that they should just get a trade when they’re very capable of working in their chosen field.

      Quay very clearly articulates the “actual racism” she experienced (and I’m sure this is just a fraction of what she’s dealt with) and backs it up with research and facts. And still you claim her experience has nothing to do with racism? She also explains why classism is only part of the issue. I encourage you to go back and reread this article with an open mind instead of dismissing someone’s lived experience.

      Reply
  4. Darlean Sutton

    I can relate to this article because after receiving degrees, I was discriminated on more. I had more job offers without a degree and hired more quickly. I can also relate to the name thing, you only get hired because you have a white sounding name. I am also a victim of identity theft because I have a clean slate and a white sounding name and by illegal Alliens that want to be socially accepted in the United States. It is not just white America it is Black and Brown America beating down our own race.

    Reply
  5. Kristi

    Thank you both for sharing this powerful, and heartbreaking, essay. I will be passing it on to others and including it in my own racial justice guide. I’m terribly sorry for the experiences you’ve had to face, Quay, but thankful you were brave enough to share your experiences that others can learn from. Wishing you nothing but the best in life and career.

    Reply
  6. Robin Stewart

    Quay did an excellent job in covering all the various aspects of trying to reach your dreams. Her struggles with obtaining employment and getting paid for her worth’s has truly been a challenge. But her story reveals just how broken our employment system’s currently is today. This article was well written and informative. May Quay continue to have a platform to share her talents.

    Reply
  7. Heather

    It was disheartening to read this story to hear about the difficulties you encountered. While my perspective and experiences are different, it’s important to hear from others with different perspectives & experiences so that we can learn from each other, grow together & build a more inclusive future. This was very well-written, I’m a writer myself & was really impressed, nice job!

    Reply
  8. Marie Hartwell-Walker

    Sadly, Quay’s experience isn’t unusual for college grads of color. Why should a brilliant woman with a degree in neuroscience “get a trade” as one comment suggested? Yes, smart people are needed in the trades as well. But why should Quay and others like her who have the ambition and the education to go into professional fields be denied that opportunity? They lose their dream career. Our country loses their talent.

    Reply
  9. Dr Tawanda B Hunter

    Thank you for sharing your experiences. As a Black woman with a Doctorate in Education, I was able to relate to your article. So many of my lived experiences were mentioned. Please stay strong and continue to pursue your dreams!

    Reply
  10. Brian P. Royster

    As a black man with a bachelor’s and master’s degree, I can relate to many of Quay’s employment experiences.

    Reply
  11. Greg Y

    Hearing about people’s struggles like hers just makes me more upset at the system than I already am. It’s like George Carlin said: “It’s a big club, and were not in it.” I truly would love to know what can be done to alter that process. Make EOE actually mean something…

    Reply
  12. Kathy

    Very proud of you for speaking your truth, Quay. Your article was powerful and important. I agree with you. There is much work to be done and each of us can make a difference. I appreciate that you included CHRIS 180. Thank you! We are doing more and more to intervene earlier to strengthen families so kids don’t have to come in to foster care and to prevent kids from aging out of foster care. HUGS!!Thank you for sharing your experiences and for making really good suggestions. Persistence wins in the end. Love, Kathy

    Reply
  13. Al

    Quay packed a lot into this article and it’s twigged on somethings I’ve observed.
    I hired on at a company, at a lower level. Most of my coworkers were black and had been with the company for years. Lot of those folks were great at their job and very knowledgeable on their profession. I signed on as a short time looking to make some decent money before I went on to something bigger. In short it was a job I could have given two shits about.

    Within in a week I was told I was being groomed for a supervisory role.
    I brought up the names of a couple of stellar folks i worked with, one a black man and one a black woman, who I thought would be better at it.

    Both of them were mentoring me in different capacities and I was being told that in a few months I would have been their bosses. Even though they had me on seniority, knowledge, and application of said knowledge. I am white.

    Reply

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