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Shock Over Richards's Rant is Curious

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Recently, Michael Richards made some "bad choices" while performing at The Laugh Factory in West Hollywood, California.

After being heckled by some Black people in the audience, Richards lost it, asking that the hecklers be removed and, in the process, called them "niggers".

The above isn't something that everyone in the Former United States of America doesn't know and is probably nothing that most people in the so called western industrialized world don't know.

However, the shock over the incident is very curious. It's almost as though people think that racial discrimination is a thing of the past in the FUSA.

One thing that should be very clear in our debate over "illegal immigrants" is the ethnic hatred implied in many of the arguments. The same thing is being said today about Latinos that has been said about Americans of African decent for a long time. They're lazy. They live "off of the government", which means that we hard working white Americans have to part with some of our income to support them. You can't understand what they're saying. They're being hired in place of white Americans, causing so called "reverse discrimination".

I've had an experience that I'd like to share. I grew up in a racist household. Those same points were made in my household on a microcosmic level for years. I was the only one of four members of my immediate family that didn't buy into the hate. This may have been because some of my best friends were African-American. In fact, at one point in my life, my only friends were African-American because we lived in an almost exclusive African-American and West Indian neighborhood.

I wasn't a half bad football player when I was a kid, but, when we played sandlot football, I was always the last to be chosen. The captain of the last team choosing sides would look around, as if there were others to choose from than me, and finally say, "OK, I'll take the little white boy." It didn't bother me. I had fun anyway.

By the time I left the racist household in 1972, Dr. King and those who followed him had done a great deal of work trying to bridge the divide.

By the time I was hired by a Fortune 500 global corporation at the end of 1972, I was beginning to think that race relations had become more than tolerable for most "normal" people. There were some with whom I worked who still used the "n" word, but I figured them to be ignorant red necks that were never going to change.

I did well as a corporate technician and, as the cliche' goes, worked my way up the ladder.

First, I became a Shift Coordinator. This was still an hourly job, but it carried some extra responsibilities with it. It was also a prestigious job among hourly technicians and a stepping stone to further advancement.

I did well in that position and was considered for the position of salaried Operations Supervisor.

The first time I was considered for the job of Operations Supervisor, another person was chosen. I was surprised that I had been considered and grateful for the consideration.

The second time the opportunity arose, I was fortunate enough to be chosen. That was in 1988.

There were three production plants on the corporate plant site and each plant had an Operations Supervisor. The maintenance department also had a supervisory person whose position was equal to production plant Operation Supervisor.

At this particular plant site, the four site Operations Supervisors, along with the Human Resource Manager, served as the hiring team.

My promotion to Operations Supervisor and some staffing modifications led to a chain of vacancies which ultimately resulted in the need to hire more personnel.

This was my first experience with the hiring process.

The first step was for all of the supervisors to meet in a conference room and go over the applications. We did that.

There weren't many official re'sume's to review as, for hourly jobs, applications and a mechanical test were all that were required.

After weeding out some of the applicants because of their experience or lack thereof, it was time for the surviving applicants to come in for interviews.

The Human Resources representative informed us that, "They (the company) are telling us we have to hire at least one "n-word", a "spic" and a "split tail" (that, I imagine, was ignorant slang for female).

I almost fell on the floor. I had no idea that, in 1988, at an official meeting of a Fortune 500 corporation, such disparaging language would be tolerated. I thought that the EEOC (the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) was in place to make sure that, even if a person felt those prejudices, he or she couldn't make it obvious during an official corporate meeting lest there be disciplinary action taken.

For sure, none of the other supervisors were going to turn in the HR rep. In fact, after he made the statement, they all acted as if they were in elementary school and recess had been cancelled.

The reactions ranged from "sh*t" to "(fill in the blank) are as useless as t*ts on a bull."

I was the new guy on the block. I'd finally "worked my way up" to the first rung of management just to discover that, if it wasn't for the government, this huge global corporation may never have hired Black people, Latinos or women as hourly technicians.

In truth, while I was an hourly technician, I had two Black male work mates and one woman work mate. They were all dismissed for performance problems. I didn't pay a whole lot of attention to their personnel problems. I just trusted my management.

In fact, one of the men had a habit of not coming to work. I'd seen white workers fired for attendance problems, so it didn't appear to be out of line.

However, I never guessed that the kind of dialogue mentioned above took place during the official hiring process. It was incredible to me.

Unfortunately, as the new kid on the block who wanted to keep his job, I never went any further with it. I didn't go over the HR manager's head.

First, as I mentioned, I wanted to keep my job.

Secondly, I didn't know what was over the HR manager's head. What if his boss was just as prejudiced? How far up would I have to go to get this type of speech removed from the hiring process? What would happen to me if I kept going up the ladder? What would those about whom I was complaining do?

Nonetheless, I'm not proud of the fact that I didn't at least try.

I remained an Operations Supervisor until 1995 and, as my seniority on the hiring team became more respectable, I had more of a say in what was done or said. Add to that the fact that the social views of new Operations Supervisors were close to my own, by the time I lost my job as an Operations Supervisor, the mentality and language I'd run into in 1988 was no longer an issue.

I realize that 1988 was almost twenty years ago, but it was obvious that getting ahead in life for many Americans was not, as I was told at home, a simple matter of pulling one's self up by one's boot straps and getting a job.

Fast forward to 2006.

Within the last month, we hired a contractor to remodel our bathroom. He showed up to review the job. He said he'd bring his plumber with him next time. He told us not to worry because "my plumber's white."

Michael Richards represents a whole lot more people in the FUSA than many may realize.

By the way, I lost my Operations Supervisor's job in 1995 because the Fortune 500 global corporation for whom I worked globally "delayerd" (Orwell was a genius) the Operations Supervisors position - globally.

I worked for the corporation for two more years before I was personally "delayered", making twenty-five years of my life count for very little. I had three more years before I was eligible for retirement.
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Michael Bonanno is an associate editor for OpEdNews.

He is also a published poet, essayist and musician who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Bonanno is a political progressive, not a Democratic Party apologist. He believes it's (more...)

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