My friend Jeanne just sent me the discussion you brought up regarding minority participation on the job site. I’m right there with you. I saw some of the nasty posts. I’m sorry so many ironworkers are small minded when it comes to race. Frankly, I don’t participate in these kind of group things. When important issues get raised, all these vicious people come out of the woodwork. It’s like to make my eyes pop out of my head. I’m angry enough as it is, I can’t imagine what it would be for me to be black in this society and this union. With my present mindset, I’d have become a bomb thrower a long time ago.
So my hat’s off to you. You are pressing the issue in a venue in which you will find people snapping back because they feel threatened, righteous, justified, etc. I only wish more people, white and black, would have the courage–and perhaps the anger–to do what you are doing.
I’m grateful I work for a Black American-owned company, where I get to work with just-over-the-borders, blackamericans (men and women), urban white guys, and country guys who aren’t crackers. I can only say that having had to listen to racist bullshit from the time I was a small child, I’m glad to be able to work in a place where racist bullshit is not the main topic of discussion.
The unfortunate thing about mandated minority-participation is that it only applies to company ownership, not the number of minority people employed on the job. We have a couple of companies alleged to be owned by minorities. I used to work for one of them, which was owned by the wife of a former NFL player who was black. At the time I worked for them, the black guy was long dead. When they got pushed on the status of minority ownership, they sold shares to the super who was a member of the Choctaw Nation—his grandfather was an Indian but no one else in the entire family was. On their payroll, out of company that often had over 100 employees when I worked for them, they employed one Hispanic man and one blackamerican man. The still get minority participation advantages, even when they don’t hire blacks or other minorities.
It pisses me off. It’s hard enough for minorities and women without people making it worse by stealing contracts that should go to real minority-owned companies that employ minority men and women. I hated working for that company because of the rampant and vicious racism and was glad to get back to where I started with my present employer.
And, as I say, I’m glad to be there, particularly as an urban guy living in an integrated neighborhood where whites are the minority. (I love it that way.) Our local has only a small percentage of members who are minorities, and an even smaller number of women–ten out of a total membership of 1,350. These are issues I press with leadership all the time. I get the whole, “well, if ‘any’ would apply” garbage. But I don’t see us out trying to make things better for all workers. We are not recruiting people in the city who could use these skills and the advantages of belonging to a strong union. Even more distressing to me is when I get my copy of The Ironworker and see that the entire leadership of the International is white. What are they doing to make sure that things are fair and equitable? What are they doing to make sure we have minority and women viewpoints and priorities represented in our International?
As far as I can see, nothing. It’s awful, and I say this to you as I say to every ironwrker I work with, it is unjust, immoral, and unAmerican. Because I am white, I have often had another white ironworker make a joke or comment, or, when they have found out I worked with blacks, immigrants, and women, they have made all the comments that you can imagine and need not be said here. The kind of anger that produces in me has caused me to walk off at least one job, and I am still an apprentice.
I hope you will take my remarks as encouragement. You are not alone in seeing this injustice. I am sorry that so many people on the discussion blame the oppressed in this thing, call you names, dismiss your concerns, and throw disgusting comments your way. The way I see it, those who have to say, “Well, it’s not me,” are the ones most at fault. (It’s kind of like the conservative reactionaries who have to keep telling us they are not racists. If someone has to keep telling me, I already know the score.)
I want things to be better for all of us and do what I can day-to-day to make it so. I want you to keep it up. There are a whole lot of like-minded people who want justice, who see where we have come from and where we still have to go. I only wish I was a better person who did not let anger get the best of me, or I would be in that online discussion with you.
I’ve gone on too long. I hope you will forgive me. I support you and want you to know that you are not alone in this thing.
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