Archive for the ‘bias’ Category

I have failed young African-American girls.

I take no solace in the knowledge that I am not alone in doing so.

You see, I, like most of America have focused my attention on Black boys and young men. And while that is a worthy goal, I think it has been at the expense of our girls.

For the last two years I have primarily focused my attention on the afterschool academy I started for boys. True, this year we started one for girls, too. But I poured most of my attention into saving the boys, as I’ve done for years. I saw this as a life or death mission, particularly for the African-American and Latino boys in the group.

I might be about to spout some heresy here but I think we need to refocus our attention. For most of my adult life we have talked about the need for our young black boys to have black adult male mentors to replace the fathers they don’t have in their lives. We have put so much attention and resources into saving black boys.

But what about the girls?

You’d think as an African-American woman I’d have done better.

I’ve sat fuming as the President, the Attorney General and politicians, scholars and others described the obstacles facing African-American boys and men and each time I whisper to myself, what about African-American women? What about the girls?

I’ve listened to leaders and “experts” talk about the need to save black boys from the school to prison pipeline and I whisper to myself, what about our girls?

When the President announced his new Task Force Brother’s Keeper, I’d had enough.

In announcing his new initiative the President, in February, talked about visiting a program, Becoming A Man (BAM), and of sharing stories with the young men in the program about struggling to do the right thing.

“And when it was my turn, I explained to them that when I was their age I was a lot like them.  I didn’t have a dad in the house.  And I was angry about it, even though I didn’t necessarily realize it at the time.  I made bad choices.  I got high without always thinking about the harm that it could do.  I didn’t always take school as seriously as I should have.  I made excuses.  Sometimes I sold myself short.”

So I’m thinking, as I have a thousand other times, what about the girls? What about those little girls who don’t have a father in the house? Don’t they get angry and act out in inappropriate ways? I’ve long been of the belief that not having a father in the home has a negative effect on daughters, too. I’m not a psychologist and only an armchair sociologist but it stands to reason that if we believe that children need two parents in a household, both children need both parents. If there are going to be problems because a father is absent, both children are going to have problems because that parent is absent. I see African-American girls making bad choices and struggling with making the right choices in school. I see black girls selling themselves short and getting into fights with other girls and flat-out trying to knock out boys who have angered them.

Barack Obama’s own words would seem to support the understanding that girls are just as vulnerable as boys. The emphases are mine, from the same press conference:

“If you’re African-American, there’s about a one in two chance you grow up without a father in your house — one in two. If you’re Latino, you have about a one in four chance.  We know that boys who grow up without a father are more likely to be poor, more likely to underperform in school.”

He says “African-American” and “Latino” without specific reference to gender. But as is typical when anyone speaks of African-Americans “African-American” equates to men and boys and women and girls are left out of the conversation. While the President translates this as a boys’ issue that one in two chance has to apply to girls too doesn’t it? Aren’t they also more likely to be poor if their brothers are poor or are all African-American boys only children?

It has been my experience that little girls have unique relationships with their fathers just as boys have with their mothers. Ever heard of “Daddy’s Little Girl”? Fathers spoil little girls in ways mothers don’t. Believe me, I’ve been there. My daughters enjoyed and continue to enjoy a unique relationship with their father just as I had and have with my son.

Yet we continue to act as if only boys are affected by living in single-parent households.

When girls don’t have those relationships with their fathers, they can spend a lifetime looking for it, and in inappropriate ways such as through sexual relationships. Some of those relationships lead to early pregnancies and perpetuate the cycle of early pregnancies and single parent households. Paul Raeburn, in his new book “Do Fathers Matter? What Science Is Telling Us About the Parent We’ve Overlooked” examines the scientific basis for the importance of fathers in the home. While I disagree that our society has “overlooked” fathers, I can agree with his premise that we have stereotyped their role.

African-American girls deserve to be part of the national conversation and to share resources aimed at helping Black children.

– Photo Joelle Inge-Messerschmidt/www.photographybyjoelle.com African-American girls deserve to be part of the national conversation and to share resources aimed at helping Black children.

Raeburn discards the stereotype of father as “moral guardian, symbol of masculinity for his sons, or harsh disciplinarian,” roles we continue to believe he plays, particularly in black communities. Instead, he embraces a scientific argument for fathers who play many more roles – including genetic ones – “companions, care providers, spouses, protectors, models, moral guides, teachers and, of course, breadwinners” and more. Among the unexplained genetic roles they play, Raeburn says, is in their absence girls seem to enter puberty earlier, which once again leads to that issue of possible early, unintended pregnancies.

We use statistics to bring attention to the plight of black boys when the same numbers ought to have us howling about black girls. The federal government issues statements about inequalities in suspension rates and test scores for and of black students and we act like black girls, as a group, don’t get suspended and aren’t struggling in school even when the numbers say otherwise.

A 2011-12 study shows African-American girls may not be suspended as often as African-American boys but they are being suspended more frequently than everybody else! The gender breakdown shows that nationally, 12 percent  of black girls received at least one-in-school suspension, whereas the rate for white girls is 2 percent , and for white boys it is 6 percent .

…. Overall, black boys are more likely to be suspended than any group, at 20 percent .  The survey looked at 7.5 million black schoolchildren, 24 million white schoolchildren and about 11.5 million Hispanic schoolchildren across the country. Across all 50 states, black girls outpace their counterparts in suspensions.[1]

Right here I would like to introduce some statistics about African-American girls’ specific performance on achievement tests or their academic performance in general but after virtually two days of research I can’t seem to find the statistics that address girls, which signifies another issue. Why are statistics about black girls and women so hard to come by. The best I can do is refer to an article bemoaning the results of African-American boys on national math and reading tests, known as the National Assessment for Educational Progress, which are given to students in fourth and eighth grades, most recently in 2009:

The analysis of results on the national tests found that math scores in 2009 for black boys were not much different than those for black girls in Grades 4 and 8, but black boys lagged behind Hispanics of both sexes, and they fell behind white boys by at least 30 points, a gap sometimes interpreted as three academic grades.[2]

The 2010 report, “A Call for Change” found 12 percent of black fourth-grade boys were proficient in reading, compared with 38 percent  of white boys, and only 12 percent  of black eighth-grade boys were proficient in math, compared with 44 percent  of white boys.

So, back to President Obama:

“As a black student, you are far less likely than a white student to be able to read proficiently by the time you are in 4th grade.  By the time you reach high school, you’re far more likely to have been suspended or expelled.  There’s a higher chance you end up in the criminal justice system, and a far higher chance that you are the victim of a violent crime.  Fewer young black and Latino men participate in the labor force compared to young white men.  And all of this translates into higher unemployment rates and poverty rates as adults.

“And the worst part is we’ve become numb to these statistics.  We’re not surprised by them.  We take them as the norm.  We just assume this is an inevitable part of American life, instead of the outrage that it is.  (Applause.)  That’s how we think about it.  It’s like a cultural backdrop for us — in movies and television.  We just assume, of course, it’s going to be like that.  But these statistics should break our hearts.  And they should compel us to act.”

–          President Barack Obama, February 27, 2014

Is it any less outrageous when the statistics apply to girls? It took me years of psychotherapy to understand that a person’s bad experience is not invalidated because another person has a worse one. Yes, fewer African-American girls than boys end up in the prison system but is that to be the only measure? And fewer is relative. Fewer women end up in the prison system than men period. That’s the nature of the beast. Fewer African-American women end up in the criminal justice system than African-American men but they do end up there. And the consequences can be catastrophic to those women, to their families, to the African-American community and the United States . The more appropriate comparison would be between other groups of women not men.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, at mid year 2010, the incarceration rate for women was 126 per 100,000 population. The rate for non-Hispanic white women was 91, for non-Hispanic black women the rate was 260, and for Hispanic women the rate was 133.[3]

Among female prisoners in 2012, black women ages 18 to 19 were 3 times more likely to be imprisoned than white women. Hispanic women in this age group had imprisonment rates nearly twice those of white women. Black and white female imprisonment rates were closest among prisoners ages 25 to 39, when black women were less than twice as likely as white women to be imprisoned.[4]

According to a 2012 report from The Sentencing Project there were more than 205,000 women in jails and prisons. As of 2010, more than one million women were under the supervision of the criminal justice system, meaning that if they were not incarcerated they were on probation or parole. The lifetime likelihood of imprisonment for women is 1 in 56; however, the chance of a woman being sent to prison varies by race. As of 2001, the lifetime likelihood of imprisonment was:

  • 1 in 19 for black women
  • 1 in 45 for Hispanic women
  • 1 in 118 for white women

In 2010, black women were incarcerated at nearly three times the rate of white women (133 versus 47 per 100,000). Hispanic women were incarcerated at 1.6 times the rate of white women (77 versus 47 per 100,000).

Here’s the kicker, once again using statistics provided by the Sentencing Project. Women in state prisons are more likely to have minor children than are men (62 percent versus 51 percent).

  •  64 percent of mothers in state prisons lived with their children before they were sent to prison compared to 47 percent of fathers.
  • Mothers in prison are more likely than are fathers to have children living with grandparents (45 percent versus 13 percent), other relatives (23 percent versus 5 percent ), or in foster care (11 percent  versus 2 percent ).
  • One in 25 women in state prisons and one in 33 in federal prisons are pregnant when admitted to prison.
  • The majority of children born to incarcerated mothers are immediately separated from their mothers.

Who is advocating for the motherless child?

Perhaps if we want to solve the problems of African-American boys we should start with ensuring that African-American girls get the same amount of attention as black boys. If single African-American women aren’t suitable parents for African-American boys, perhaps we should take better steps to make sure that African-American girls don’t become the single parents of those boys.

I could go on. African-American women experience great levels of domestic and sexual violence. African-American women suffer unemployment woes just as do African-American men. In fact, according to Black Enterprise in May 2014:

Black unemployment dropped from 12.4 percent to 11.6 percent, but is more than double the rate for white people (at 5.3 percent). Black women ages 20 and older trail close behind their male counterparts (at 10.4 percent compared with 10.8 percent.) In March, the gap was a bit wider, with the jobless rate for black women at 11 percent (compared with 12.1 percent for black men). The unemployment rate for black teenagers of both sexes is also at an alarming number at 38.6 percent (reflecting a rise from March and a large gap when compared with white counterparts, whose rate is 15.9, a drop from the previous month).[5]

To sum all of this up, life for black girls and women, to borrow a line from my favorite Langston Hughes poem “Mother to Son”, “ain’t been no crystal stair.”

A Forbes article quotes Dr. Charlotte Pierce-Baker, the author of “Surviving the Silence: Black Women’s Stories of Rape,” as saying:

“We are taught that we are first Black, then women. Our families have taught us this, and society in its harsh racial lessons reinforces it.  Black women have survived by keeping quiet not solely out of shame, but out of a need to preserve the race and its image.  In our attempts to preserve racial pride, we Black women have sacrificed our own souls.”[6]

While Pierce-Baker is specifically referring to sexual assault, what she says applies equally to every facet of the trials of African-American women.

It is time to reclaim our souls and the souls of our little girls, not in place of our boys and men but beside them.

[1] http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/she-the-people/wp/2014/03/21/study-black-girls-suspended-at-higher-rates-than-most-boys/

[2] http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/09/education/09gap.html?_r=0

[3] – See more at: http://www.drugwarfacts.org/cms/Race_and_Prison#sthash.n74RYjlr.dpuf

[4] – See more at: http://www.drugwarfacts.org/cms/Race_and_Prison#sthash.n74RYjlr.dpuf

[5] http://www.blackenterprise.com/career/report-jobs-added-african-american-unemployment-april/

[6] http://www.forbes.com/sites/shenegotiates/2012/04/25/black-women-sexual-assault-and-the-art-of-resistance/2/

RELATED POSTS

http://www.theroot.com/articles/culture/2014/06/study_eviction_rates_for_black_women_on_par_with_incarcerations_for_black.html

http://www.xojane.com/issues/obama-my-brothers-keeper-focus-on-boys-isnt-the-problem

http://aapf.org/2014/06/woc-letter-mbk/

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/06/22/billie-holiday-barack-obama-and-the-pain-of-black-women.html

http://www.thenation.com/blog/180272/black-women-black-men-scar-conversation-my-brothers-keeper-heats

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I spent much of the week following the George Zimmerman second-degree murder trial and the not guilty verdict online trying to reason with Zimmerman supporters.

Now, being a trained journalist and a fairly astute judge of people, particularly based on what I have seen and heard following the killing of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed Black youth by an armed, shall we say, non-Black adult, many Zimmerman supporters will already take umbrage with what little I have written above. But I tend to choose (at least most of) my words carefully and I chose the words “reason with” on purpose, knowing that they might offend some.

I do not use this terminology to impart some sense of superiority or to be purposely divisive but to point out that if you say something as (what I think is) innocuous as “Trayvon Martin was just a kid walking home minding his own business” before he was killed, you unleash a stream of passion that no amount of argument seems able to penetrate.

Another way of saying this is, although I expressed no opinion one way or another as to the guilt or innocence of George Zimmerman, people made assumptions about my opinions  as to the outcome of the trial based on that one statement and my race, which, I might point out, was apparent in my postings. One thing is clear in the online “conversations”; if race was not a part of the trial, it is the driving force behind all of the discussions about Trayvon Martin’s death and George Zimmerman’s resultant trial.

What many — not all —White people can’t understand or admit is that it is not just Black people who see all of this as a race issue. They do too. Not only do Black people see this case as having social ramifications beyond one case. White people do too. They are just loath to admit it honestly and openly. They couch their race discussions as presentations of “facts” while accusing Black people of being overcome by “passion”, racial paranoia or worse.

Let me be clear. When I say, “if race was not a part of the trial” I am not saying race did not enter that courtroom or that race did not color that encounter between George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin on that February evening in 2012 when Zimmerman followed and ultimately killed the 17-year-old. I am not saying that race did not enter the jury room as deliberations unfolded. I am saying that just because you don’t speak the word doesn’t

Al Sharpton lynching

This Investor’s Business Daily cartoon by Michael Ramirez, leveled at the Rev. Al Sharpton, civil rights activist and MSNBC host, after the Zimmerman trial verdict, uses racially charged imagery to make its point. Lynchings were used well into the 1900s to oppress African Americans, a fact that remains close to the consciousness of many Black people.

mean it isn’t there. I am merely acknowledging those who state that race played no part in this case. I hear you, but you’re wrong.

So, on the one hand you have people — White and Black — saying this trial outcome offers an opportunity for an honest conversation about race and on the other hand you have White people saying “What are you talking about? This case wasn’t about race, why should we talk about race?”

This is how you know this case and its aftermath was and is about race for the White people who say it is not about race or those who have charged Black people with making a racial issue where none existed. They dredge up every racial grievance against Black people they can think of even though those grievances have absolutely nothing to do with Trayvon Martin, the Zimmerman case or themselves! They rant about O.J. Simpson, President Obama (he’s not only racially divisive, he’s a socialist), the Duke lacrosse team, Tawana Bradley, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Rodney King  and any other story they have ever heard or read that even remotely involves a Black person in a negative light. They cite “facts” promulgated from every White nationalist blog on the Internet by rote as proof that Blacks as a whole are bad people and just don’t want to admit it.

Interestingly, those posting these “facts” about African-Americans are either unaware or uncaring that what they are writing (or in the case of television or radio saying) might be perceived by African Americans as insulting, hurtful or untrue. There seems little recognition that Black people are people. That we are, well, humans, just like White people. We have some unique challenges, yes, but we breathe air, we eat food, we bleed red blood and we have thoughts, feelings and problems just as they do. There seems to be an overwhelming attitude that Black people are not entitled to any kind of feelings — whether it is fear of being stopped by police or of being followed by strangers or of being insulted by those emboldened by the anonymity of the Internet or by those earning the millions of dollars they earn from the racist idiocy they spew about us in print and on the airways.

Trayvon Martin

This photo of 33-year-old Jayceon Terrell Taylor aka rapper, “The Game”, is being circulated as a recent photo of Trayvon Martin, the photo the mainstream media won’t show you. Zimmerman supporters are using the photo to support their argument that Martin was actually 6’2″ and 175 pounds and could easily have crushed George Zimmerman in a fight.

So many White people have taken this tragedy to chastise the President as being racially divisive just for saying “if I had a son he would look like Trayvon” when if we truly lived in the post-racial, color blind society they claim we live in they could envision their own son standing in Trayvon’s shoes. Can you ask yourself, what is it that makes you unable to accept that Trayvon Martin was a child, a human being, who could have been your child, your brother, your nephew, who was confronted by a full-grown adult? In a situation involving a child, a teenager, a young adult, who has the ultimate responsibility to act in an adult manner? Those of you who want to proclaim that the President is not Black because his mother is White, pretend he was speaking of his “White half.” Could you then find some empathy toward a family that has been nothing but classy through this whole ordeal?

White people seem extremely comfortable telling African Americans how we should think, feel and act when they would never accept the same from us. Many of them have taken this as an opportunity to do so. Can you imagine the backlash were Black commentators to fill the airwaves every night lamenting the 38.8 % of White people on welfare as obviously only wanting to suck on the government teat rather than work or if they lamented the disintegration of the White family because of those 9.5 million White kids living in single-parent households, and that all of those children (under age 18 who live with their own single parent either in a family or subfamily) were certain to grow up to be thugs? And what about that staggering 84 percent White on White murder rate? Pretty horrifying. Why aren’t White people doing something about that?

To be sure, many White people are aware of their Whiteness and the privilege that attaches to it. Unfortunately these people are often dismissed by other White people as victims of “political correctness” gone amok, as blinded by White guilt or attacked as what used to be called “race traitors”. People like Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, and many of their viewers and listeners would do well to listen and learn from them. Here’s a newsflash: not all of those who see a problem are President Obama supporters or left-wing radicals. Even if they were, that would not disqualify them from understanding what it means to be a White person in America today or from exhibiting compassion or empathy toward people who do not look like them (as far as color goes), traits the exhibition of which have been severely lacking in the aftermath of the death of Trayvon Martin and the trial of George Zimmerman.

Those who are seeking a conversation about race are not trying to take your Whiteness away from you. You are welcome to keep it. You are welcome to talk about it with us. That is not a bad thing to do. We are not willing to accept it as a badge of superiority where you get to use it as your birthright to tell us how we should feel or live. The last thing we need is White people lecturing to us about race and racial issues when they themselves have not come to grips with them. African Americans are forced to live with the consequences every day.

So, my White sisters and brothers, if you’re still not convinced, let me try one more line of argument to try to persuade you that we should talk about race. We should have this talk because you are angry, you’re hurting and you’re afraid. We should talk about it because you have some legitimate grievances but you’re taking out your hurt, anger, fear and grievances on the wrong people. Despite the fact a lot of people are trying to convince you otherwise, Black people are not your enemies. We should talk about race because there are some very important people who don’t want us to talk because they are afraid that if we do we might discover that we like each other and then we will focus our anger in the right places. We should talk about race because we have more in common than you might recognize because we don’t talk. We should talk about race because you don’t seem to know that it is okay to notice or even talk about your own or another person’s race. To notice that a Black person is Black is not in and of itself racist. It is what one does with this knowledge that determines whether one is “racist,” a term which is really of limited value in a conversation about race.

This case could provide an opportunity, but it won’t unless something drastic happens — and it hasn’t yet. At least it hasn’t for a lot of White people. You can’t have a telephone conversation if the person on the other end won’t pick up the phone. And too many White people aren’t ready to accept the call for an honest racial conversation. They believe the call for such a conversation all by itself is racially divisive. They fear that to accept the call is to accept the label “racist.” Once again, they would be wrong and that is precisely why we need to talk.

So as I see it, we are at a crossroads, one of many we will approach. White people can stick their fingers in their ears and say, “Lalalalalala, I can’t hear you,” or you can be willing to listen before you talk, and learn.

Please read “A Race is a Nice Thing to Have: A Guide to Being A White Person or Understanding the White Persons In Your Life” by Janet E. Helms, Phd

You’re part techno guru, part social butterfly. You’re outgoing. You have amazing energy. You love to talk about cool technology. Well, we have customers waiting to speak to you.

That’s what that the ad said.
This is a job selling cell phones.

Based purely on the description, I thought I could make the cut. However, one might suspect that the ad is filled with code for only 20- or 30- young somethings to fill the position and that anyone older than that need not apply. Why do I suspect that? The words we use have meanings. “Techno guru,” “social butterfly, “amazing energy” “cool technology.”  Be honest. These are not terms that would bring to mind for most people a 50-something year old. I’m thinking Paris Hilton and Justin Timberlake. Snookie or the Situation.

But companies can’t discriminate in hiring people over 40 based on age unless there is a bona fide reason to do so for the position. So they can’t be advertising for young people, can they? We’ve all heard the assumptions that if you are over 40 you can’t or won’t want to fulfill these types of job requirements.

The requirements, and I quote,

 The successful candidate will be able to perform the following with or without reasonable accommodation:

·         Ability to work flexible hours, including evenings, weekends and holidays

·         Ability to stand for long periods of time

·         Ability to complete all paperwork completely, accurately, in a timely manner

·         Ability to lift up to 25 pounds

·         Ability to operate a personal computer, wireless equipment, copier and fax

·         Ability to work in other locations as the needs of the business dictate may be required.

·         Complete all aspects of opening and closing the store in accordance with written procedures. Submit all transaction journals on a daily basis.

·         Assists with inventory maintenance

·         May be required to wear a uniform

Everyone assumes that those who have been in the workforce for years are not willing to take on such tasks. Let me tell you about flexibility.

I applied; I attached my resume and filled out their application.

I affirmatively agreed to do all of the above just for an entry-level job selling cell phones and I have not only a bachelor’s degree in Communications but a JD as well. I’m a licensed attorney and I said I’d be willing to wear a uniform to sell phones. How much more flexible can you be?

They say among the reasons “older” people remain unemployed longer than those under the age of let’s say 45 is that we are inflexible.

Turns out, I am “not qualified on testing” for the position for this full-time retail sales consultant position.

I was (and am) more than a little perplexed.

How could I not have qualified? I’m one of those people who always has to have the latest technology and I’m one of those people my friends and co-workers have always called on when they needed help with their computers or gadgets. As far as sales experience goes, I’ve sold everything from a package of chewing gum to diamond rings worth thousands of dollars. Surely, I can sell a cell phone.

You won’t find anyone more customer-service oriented than me; and I’ve always been an outstanding employee. This same company had given me outstanding reviews AND on my exit interview five years ago told me I was eligible to be rehired.

Now the required qualifications were:

If you enjoy… (All emphases are mine)

·         Using competitive spirit to meet and exceed assigned sales goals

·         Staying up-to-date on the latest data/entertainment technology and devices, such as Wi-Fi, data devices, TV entertainment tools

·         Understanding customers’ needs and helping them discover how our products meet those needs

·         Multi-tasking in a fast-paced team environment

·         Working a variety of hours including weekends, evenings and holidays involving occasional overtime

·         Educating and engaging customers through product demonstrations

·         Interacting with customers and providing prompt and courteous customer service to all customers in person, via phone or written note

·         Position may be commissioned and quota based

Tell me who is better able to determine what I enjoy, me or them? That is, how are they able to accurately test for these qualifications?

The test-taker is encouraged to answer the test questions quickly and honestly. I happen to love multi-tasking in a fast-paced team environment. I can’t stand jobs that are otherwise. Does their testing reflect this? I don’t know. If I answer honestly, on a scale of 1 to 5, I don’t “enjoy” working a variety of hours including weekends, evenings and holidays involving occasional overtime, but I would do it and I would do it gladly to get a job. But if I answer that question with a 3, because I’m honest, do I fail the test?

It is certainly legal to test as long as the test has a bona fide relationship to the job and it is not just a pretext to discriminate. In other words, a test has to be internally valid. The skills that are being tested have to be directly and provably related to the job.


I’m always suspicious of pre-employment testing anyway and I am not convinced this was a skills assessment test unless clairvoyance is a skill. I guess I knew I might be in trouble when it kept asking things like how your supervisor or your co-workers would rate you on the scale of 1 to 5. Well, I know how high I know they should rate me based on my performance but I don’t know how high they would rate me. So, I estimated conservatively. I assumed they were going to check. Did that cost me on the test? Once again, I don’t know.

I do know I wouldn’t leave a customer standing there just because it was break time and that I would say, “Someone will be with you shortly,” if I’m tied up with a customer and I see another one that needs to be helped.

Gatekeepers – and that’s what these testers are – serve a purpose and that purpose is to let only select people in. Experience has shown us that the gates, especially when they are imaginary tests, can keep some of the best people out. In this case, I suspect what is being kept out is some experienced people who are willing to swallow their pride and take a job for which they are overqualified.

I’m left wondering who does pass these tests, and I can’t help but wonder if I failed to pass it when I put in my application and resume that showed I had more than 30 years of experience,

I am convinced that this test could not have tested my “skills” in any area listed in the advertisement. None of my abilities were tested and, as I’ve said before, I’m the best judge of what I enjoy.

What could the company have been testing for that I could have failed? Of course they don’t show you your test results, but you’re welcome to retest in six months. And if you “fail to qualify” again you can take the test again in another year.

When you’re my age (in your 50s) and you’ve been looking for a job for more than three years six months is a life time. But, I’m told there are things I can do to bone up for the test the next time around, which we’ll look at in You’re Just Not Qualified (Part II)

If you’re not a soap opera fan bear with me. Even though that is ostensibly the subject this is about much more, though far be it from me to say much more important.

As I’m sure almost everyone knows by now ABC announced last month the cancellation of All My Children (AMC) and One Life to Live (OLTL), each soap operas that have been on television for more than 40 years.

The rationale is that viewers’ habits are changing and that daytime television is facing increasing competition from cable television, the Internet and social media. It has been no big secret that network executives have been courting younger audiences and have been disappointed that their efforts have failed to attract a younger demographic as far as soaps are concerned.

Among the network arguments is that the shows continue to lose viewers and they can no longer justify their huge budgets. Reality and talk shows apparently cost some 30 to 40 percent less to produce than do soap operas. Moreover, reality and talk are what viewers want to see, they say. So, AMC and OLTL will be replaced with the type of programming viewers want, the Chew, a cooking show, and the Revolution, a makeover show.

Now, as a daytime television viewer I don’t watch Rachel Ray. I don’t watch Nate Berkus. I stopped watching Dr. Oz when I figured out he was making me think I was going to die from everything I was or wasn’t doing. I’ve watched The Talk twice; once when Eric Braeden (Young and the Restless) and once when Shemar Moore (formerly Young and the Restless) were on. I’ve tired of The View, so I don’t watch it much anymore. I rarely watch Oprah and she’s going off anyway and I hardly ever watch Dr. Phil, although his fight against violence against women has drawn me in some this season. Why would I watch new versions of dreck I already don’t watch now?

A lot of fans of the cancelled soap operas are asking this same question. What makes ABC think they can replace daytime dramas with reality/talk shows nobody asked for and expect us to just follow like sheep? The answer is because we always do. We accept our plight, we whine a little and we never fight back.

It would seem for once they’ve picked the wrong target; this time the offended do not accept their fate and slink quietly into the night.

Now, here is where this stops being purely about daytime television for me, and more about what I originally intended to write about, although I will continue to use soap operas as the basis for my argument.

Listen. This isn’t about pure greed or finances. It’s not just about ABC/Disney. This is about a culture of ageism and a little bit about sexism. It’s about condescension and ignorance. The people who control the television resources are telling us that our time has passed and they are finished with us. They want 18 to 49 year olds and that age group doesn’t want soap operas. If you are older than that – even if you do have the majority of the spending power – they don’t care what you want to see. They are telling us we have no real power. They are moving on and there is nothing we can do about it. Of course, they don’t put it quite that crassly, but the message is there just the same.

I’ve watched as thousands of protestors have commented on Facebook pages, websites and blogs about the cancellations. They’ve shared stories of how they grew up watching the shows, how they’ve watched them for 40 years, how they have watched them with their children, mothers and grandmothers. They’ve demanded that ABC rescind its decision, praised Hoover (vacuum cleaners) for its decision to pull all of its ABC advertising and urged other advertisers to do the same, and threatened never to watch another ABC program again. They’ve taken out media advertisements to ask Disney/ABC to reconsider its decision.

Disney, of course, has taken the attitude that there’s nothing anybody can do to make them change their minds; even though thousands of viewers are telling them they don’t want another talk show, another food show, another makeover show. Viewers are telling them, we’ll desert you. ABC is saying go ahead. We don’t believe you.

Hoover is only hurting the cause by pulling its advertising from ABC, not helping, ABC says. Do you think for one minute that if Poise, Activia, Vesicare, Reclast, Juvéderm, Bayer, Symbicort, Colonial Penn, Advair, Clinique, Miracle Ear and others pulled all of their advertising from ABC and spent it at, say CBS, it wouldn’t hurt? Do you think for one minute ABC would maintain its haughty attitude? It’s too late. There’s nothing anybody can do about it? I don’t think so.

My point is this. Although it is clear not all soap opera fans are over the age of 50, a great many of them are. The networks have decided – as has the rest of society – that this is a disposable market, rather than an age group to be courted. They’re wrong. We are strong in numbers and in buying power, and we are going to be around for a long time. You should not ignore us, take us for granted or condescend toward us.

I am heartened to see that so many people will fight for a cause they believe in. Generations watch these shows together. I’ve recently discovered the dozens of soap opera message boards that discuss the comings and goings and plot lines of the various soap operas. I think of how before her death my mother would call my sister to discuss episodes of the Young and the Restless. It brought them closer together. G-d knows this society needs things that keep us connected.

My hope is that win or lose the AMC/OLTL fight – and I hope ABC sees the light and does change its course – we continue to believe that we have the power to change the course of big business decision making. We have great battles ahead in the name of fighting ageism and we need each other more now than ever. I hope we will carry this spirit over into the fight against ageism in other areas, particularly ageism in hiring decisions.


President Barack Obama named 49-year-old rock star Jon Bon Jovi to his new Council for Community Solutions. According to AARPORG/Magazine Bon Jovi is the only entertainer appointed to the council which brings together 25 “noteworthies” of diverse backgrounds to find ways to reduce youth unemployment.

What this means of course is that when Jon Bon Jovi – who has leant his voice to several significant causes – says we need to do something about a problem people listen because he is a celebrity. That’s why the President appointed him.

What I want to know is this, where is my Bon Jovi?

I need a job and no one’s out there stumping for me. I need a Bon Jovi (or a George Clooney or Denzel Washington) and an elite group of foundation heads, CEOs and academics to figure out how to get me employed. Where is my Council for Community Solutions that was formed to do something about unemployment of people over the age of 50?

The appointment is a slap in the face because many of us were there at the beginning of Bon Jovi’s career and all the way through the “big hair” era, attending his concerts and buying his records, making him the superstar he became. Many of us are still there among his biggest fans. And now when it comes down to the time when we could use his help – and this is not entirely his fault – a man that is closer in age to this over-50 crowd that is struggling in this horrible employment environment to find jobs, has been tapped to use the fame we helped to build to help a generation that really doesn’t need his help.

Yes, youth unemployment is high. It’s always been a problem as I understand it. But young people are going to get jobs eventually. At the very least, they are going to stop being teenagers and they are going to become young adults. Once they become adults everyone will want to hire them. This is, after all a youth culture; which is the problem for people over 50 who are trying to find jobs now.

People over 50 aren’t going to get younger. They can’t wait it out and expect that someday they’ll stop being too old. Each year, each month, each week they are out of a job works against them. What we’re seeing more and more of is the “older” generation, the baby boomers, being kicked to the curb.

The President’s appointment is a slap in the face also as even when the unemployment numbers show any small improvement, the unemployment and reemployment for those over 50 continues to be dismal.

Try sending out a resume or a few dozen resumes showing a few years of experience and see what response you get. More and more the answer is less and less.

· You respond to a job posting for which you have the listed qualifications and you’re told, send us your resume and we’ll contact you if anything matches your skill set. You never hear anything; or

· You hear you have too much experience for this position; or

· You’re told you wouldn’t be happy/satisfied in this position; or

· We’re afraid you’d leave as soon as a better paying position (or one in your field) comes along; or

· Nothing period. Resume launched into the ionosphere never to be heard from again.
The same thing is happening to so many people it cannot be coincidence; it cannot be purely the incompetence of the jobseeker and it can’t be just a few lazy people whining.

You can blame it on the “seniors”, as many are wont to do, but that doesn’t change the fact that something catastrophic is going on. What else could you call a whole generation that is being written off right before our eyes?

Something has to be done and it can’t be done on an individual basis.

No matter how many times I tell a prospective employer as an individual that I’m willing to start at the bottom and I don’t need to make $80,000 a year, he still doesn’t believe me. No matter how many resumes I send out – and I’ve sent out plenty – I still can’t impact the stereotypes in a meaningful way. Not by myself. Hiring managers can still reject my applications, without ever giving me a reason and there is nothing I can do about it and no way I can prove what I know to be the case – that ageism is playing a primary role in the hiring decision.

All across the nation, the media has been reporting for at least the last three years about the job situation for people over 50 who have been searching for jobs for months — for years — with no luck. If you pull together all of the reports the message is clear, we people over the age of 50 need help. As a group. And we need to help ourselves.

As a useful segment of society we still have much to offer. We’re not dead yet and we’re probably not going to be for another 20-30-35 years.

Again I ask where is my Council for Community Solutions. You say we have the ADEA. We have the EEOC. We have governmental interventions that prevent age discrimination in hiring. They’re not working.

Re-training “seniors” isn’t the answer. Re-trained seniors that hiring managers won’t hire are just as bad off as they were before being trained. Hell, thinking of us as seniors isn’t helping either. That just sets us apart in a way that says our skill sets are inferior to those that are needed in today’s markets, and therefore justifies the decisions of hiring managers to seek younger employees. Seniors can’t do the same things younger employees can. They’re slow and set in their ways; and they take too long to learn.
I know you’ve got a lot on your plate Mr. President, and you’ll soon be running for reelection which will make you even busier, but I’m calling on you to give us our version of Jon Bon Jovi and the Notables.

I’m also challenging Congress and other politicians, the legal system, business, academia, those with jobs, those without jobs and every other thinking person to help us recognize that this bias exists, and is being imposed full force. Help us find a way to put “older” people back to work now.

We’re going to be around for a while and we can either be a drain on the country’s resources or (what we’d prefer) contributing members of society.

I sincerely believe we – CEOs, politicians, job seekers, celebrities and others – will come together on this issue and figure out a way of putting people who want to work and already have the skills to work back to work.

If all of the people I’ve recently read about in the media and on the Social Networks were to band together and not only share their experiences but demand action, we could affect a meaningful change. I’m challenging those of us older than 50 who are unemployed or way underemployed to stop whining about it and band together to demand action to do something about it.

Mr. Bon Jovi was quoted as being a big believer in the power of “we.”

So am I.

I am only one person but with you I am one more. Or we.

I believe we have power. Let’s use it. If you believe as I do don’t just comment. Lend me your name. Commit to action. E-mail me your contact information. Let’s get something started.