"token black guy" of the boardroom?

The Bermudian government has proposed legislation that would give the Commission for Unity and Racial Equality (CURE) enforcement power over the percentage of Black Bermudians in management positions.  Would such legislation inadvertently do more damage than good?  Would such a policy make it more difficult for hard working Black Bermudians to get ahead?  Could it possibly create a culture of entitlement and potential resentment towards Black Bermudians?  Could such legislation ultimately lead to the creation of a “token black guy” of the boardroom?

The above clip is from the movie “Not another teen movie”, which basically was a comedic parody of teen oriented American movies created in the 90s.  This particular scene outlines the concept of the ‘token black guy’ which is the stigma of American teen movies that feature a sole black character whose only purpose is to make comments like “damn” and “that is whack”, but otherwise stay out of the storyline.  It is this particular scene that comes to mind when reading of the proposed CURE legislation.  While the intentions of the legislation are honourable, could it cause more problems than it hopes to solve?

What would happen to the self-esteem of a hard working black Bermudian who begins to wonder if the promotion he received is largely due to the color of skin as opposed to his hard work?  Would he continue to work hard or begin to doubt the merits of his efforts by wondering if he had truly earned his place in the management realm?

What would happen to those black Bermudians who realize that they do not need to work hard to get ahead?  Would the potential for advancement based upon the color of their skin give them a sense of entitlement to protest at any advancement of non-black individuals on the basis of equality policies over merit?  Would it result in unqualified individuals being advanced into arenas in which they are not suited; essentially putting them there to serve merely as a placeholder or ‘token’ and not a valued member of the team?

Would advancement of black Bermudians above other harder working employees on the basis of race create a rift between black and non-black employees?  Could this promote undesirable resentment towards black Bermudians?   Could such a stigma cause the efforts of hard working black Bermudians to be ignored and potentially make it much harder for black Bermudians to be taken seriously?  Could this do more to damage the efforts and ambitions of those who hold the desire to get ahead purely on their own merit?

The government’s intentions to propose legislation to offer a quick fix to our racial woes is an honourable one, but will it ultimately do more harm than good?  Will it make it harder for hard working Black Bermudians to get ahead?  Could it nurture a culture of entitlement and possible further racial division?  Is it likely that we will see the “token black guy” of the boardroom whose sole purpose is to stay silent and add little to the conversation?  Is this the kind of advancement we’re truly looking for in order to achieve racial equality?

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CERP
Guest

If such a gov policy were put in place, would it mean that a Bermuda Airline would have to promote a “token black guy’ as Captain during start-up…? To my mind, such a policy would quickly plant seeds that I suggest in time will ensure a very bitter harvest! No one should be promoted because of the colour of their skin, and the reverse must ring true! If Gov wants to ensure that talanted, bright, hardworking and ambitious young black men make it in corporate Bermuda, then stop playing with education and start pushing 5 year old’s to achieve all… Read more »

FO
Guest
FO

Unfortunatley the government is quick to implement “solutions” that only create greater long term problems.
There has got to be a better solution like maybe ensuring that businesses have goal specific training programs in place for the promotion of “Bermudians”. I also agree with C ERP’s comments.
Have we not learned from other band aid solutions already attempted like the hustle truck……
The Intl business sector is not one where we can afford to mess it up because if we start scaring them away the trickle down effect to EVERY aspect of Bermudian living will be devastating to say the least.

vanz
Guest

i agree that fixing public education is one of the right long term solutions – but the govt. is proposing this legislation more as a deterrent – there is no one magic bullet solution to the problem of fiscal and professional inequity in bda – like any endeavour in life it takes a combination of things to bring about a desired result – sure the hustle truck won’t cure what is a very complex employment issue but it does move toward something positive. read Malcolm Gladwell’s book the Tipping Point in which he discusses the “broken windows theory” to understand… Read more »

Denis Pitcher
Guest

Vanz, Glad to read your comment. Largely you are correct with regards to small fixes however as I mentioned in the above piece, I fear it may do damage the efforts of hardworking black Bermudians. With regards to the Tipping Point, I’ve had it on my mind for a while to write a piece on it and Gladwell’s other book Blink. The basic premise being that our focus needs to be on 1. education, 2. promotion. One core thing I see is that we fail to recoginize and promote successful blacks in our community. One of the core thoughts I… Read more »

silencedogood
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silencedogood

My response to Vanz is to ask a few questions: What do you think is more damaging to real black advancement/empowerment and why–
1) Smaller numbers of black executives, or 2) Larger numbers of black executives with a higher proportion of unqualified individuals?
I would also ask: If your justification for following the #2 course is because you feel there is discrimination, aren’t there other (better) ways to address it? What options do you see and why are they inadequate?

vanz
Guest

sadly racism has done a number on many people’s psyches, there is one stat that shows that simply if a blk student is administered an exam by a white proctor he/she will test 5% below their average – whereas if that same student is administered a test by a blk proctor they will test 5% above their average – that’s a difference of 10% just based on the colour of skin of the person giving the test. all that is to say often in fighting racism that we are dealing with the sub conscious so yes having a + figure… Read more »

silencedogood
Guest
silencedogood

Thanks for answering, even if only partially, my questions Vanz. Could you please point me in the direction of the study you reference, I’d like to read it. I think everyone can agree that positive messages for kids are excellent. Also, I am a bit curious how you came to your opinion regarding whites being given more opportunity to fail in the corporate environment. Could you elaborate on the basis for this statement? I think you make it clear that you feel there is not the same opportunity for blacks. If that is true I think most people would support… Read more »

vanz
Guest

Winn-Dixie Stores – $33 million; Shoney’s – $132.5 million; Texaco – $176.1 million; Coca-Cola – $192.5 million. these figures are the amount of money each firm has paid in recent years to settle complaints of racial discrimination in terms of corporate advancement of blk workers. and this is just a handful. that means legally these companies have admitted to holding back blk executives based in nothing but race. we can safely assume that the people who benefit from this are white execs. presently White men hold 95% to 97% of the high-level corporate jobs. And that’s with affirmative action programs… Read more »

vanz
Guest

re; the study i referenced, it was on 60 minutes so i will look up old episodes and hopefully post the transcripts

jJ
Guest
jJ

I think you are right Vance. Although I would question whether there are actually that many white kids who want to be rappers versus black kids.Not sure.
Also, are you related to the nut case with the same name who posts on other blogs? You sound far too rational and thoughtful to be the same person, so it must be someone impersonating you.

Denis Pitcher
Guest

jJ,
Please refrain from making defamatory remarks such as “nut case” and try to choose other words to express your differences of opinion with regards to another individual and their comments.
To my knowledge, the vanz here is the individual who posts under the same name on other blogs.

vanz
Guest

if the conversation is rational i will be rational – or as that classic blaxploitation line goes, “we can either be gentlemen about this or get into some ni**er sh*t.”

Andrew
Guest
Andrew

I just recently hired someone to groom as my successor. He’s Bermudian. He’s black. He’s also highly skilled. The last point is what got him his job – not the first two. How could I possibly motivate him if he thought the only reason he was employed was his country of origin or colour of his skin? If laws like this pass, it would be impossible to convince him that his skills, training, and work ethic are what got him the job. The government keeps trying to make the boardrooms of Bermuda reflect the demographics of Bermuda. This is flawed… Read more »

JJ
Guest
JJ

Denis, my apologies. I assume you will also admonish Vanz for using unacceptable language albeit disguised by omitted letters.

Denis Pitcher
Guest

JJ,
I don’t have as much of a problem with language itself. I simply want to avoid any forms of personal attacks that could lead into back and forth arguements that could potentially force me into policing the site or turning off comments.

Martin
Guest
Martin

It seems so easy for the Govt to suggest legislation because that is the easy route.
If the Govt believes that companies are discriminating by hiring/promoting people other than blacks, then go after those companies.
Do not tar everyone with the same brush and impose yet another burden on business by introducing legislation that is across the board.
Out of interest, will “local” companies have to recruit a certain number of white people to give the workforce a correct ethnic balance?

silencedogood
Guest
silencedogood

Vanz, Hope you had a good holiday. I wanted to comment now on our discussion from my perspective. Firstly, it would have been more helpful for me to understand your point of view had you actually answered my questions instead of discussing tangents which, frankly, obscured the issue more than they furthered our discussion of it. Although I can’t comment fully on the exam study you reference or your claim that 95% of corporate america is discriminatory because the basis for those figures either hasn’t been identified at all or hasn’t been identified sufficiently for me to locate it. If… Read more »

vanz
Guest

re; the stats and studies i referenced were all found magazines like blk enterprise and ebony – but google racism in corporate america and you will find many of the studies and stats i mentioned – are they all accurate? it’s hard to tell. is the ingredients list on the pkged food we buy accurate? having been educated in the US for almost a decade – i believe they’re true. re; education – it’s a key but not the key to best empower black bermuda. back in the early 80s many of the bdan students achieving the most o levels… Read more »

Denis Pitcher
Guest

Vanz, Silencedogood’s point is that you should do the legwork and provide a few links rather than just suggesting that we google it for ourselves. If you’re making the case, it’s your duty to support it. “teh most important part of their success was convincing themselves that despite the obvious racist (and other) obstacles” That is the number one point. If success were easy, everyone would achieve it. Success involves hard work and fighting against whatever obsticals are thrown at you. “they would succeed anyway because they saw that another blk person (or woman etc) did it. sometimes the existence… Read more »

silencedogood
Guest
silencedogood

Vanz, In addition to Dennis’ comments, I would ask “Why does a role model have to be the same race?” I ask that in all seriousness. I’m white and have not had either a privileged or unprivileged upbringing and have spent a great deal of time outside Bermuda (primarily the US and some in canada where it may surprise you to learn that being white and male was seen as a negative in many situations such as the admissions process), yet I don’t feel compelled to only draw inspiration from those who look like me. I look often to the… Read more »

vanz
Guest

i’m in the middle of some deadlines so i may ramble but i will rtn and answer both questions in depth – as far as the stats – u r right – i will do the leg work and post links in the future. re; blk role models – oprah winfrey is one of the most + forces on many levels in our time blk or white – oprah has said what most inspired her growing up was seeing diana ross on tv – her glamour and the fact that at a time when blk women were rarely seen ion… Read more »