Almost every day I see comments on the County Executive’s Facebook page decrying the hiring of so many African Americans to leadership positions. It seems perfectly acceptable for these people to suggest that, because Calvin Ball is a person of color, his hiring of other people of color is a scheme, a scam, some kind of racial nepotism. Oddly enough, when previous County Executives hired mostly whites, these people weren’t online complaining.
I wonder why.
I am put in mind of this quote from Supreme Court Ruth Bader Ginsburg:
When I'm sometimes asked when will there be enough [women on the Supreme Court] and I say, 'When there are nine,' people are shocked. But there'd been nine men, and nobody's ever raised a question about that.
It has become increasingly apparent to me that many white people are just fine with an all-white world into which one or two “minorities” are slotted to show how open-minded they are. The truth of the matter is that there are enough qualified, even far more than qualified people of color to fill many many positions in the County, yes, even all of them. And they have been there, long before Dr. Ball was County Executive.
Calvin Ball didn’t invent qualified Black leadership. It has been here. It’s not a plot, it’s not a scam. He doesn’t get nefarious kickbacks from some kind of Black people cartel. The individuals you see working for his administration have been among us all along but the systems designed for hiring have systematically sifted them out. Not because they are unqualified but because those systems were designed by white people looking for white people.
You know those people who say “it shouldn’t matter what color the person is, it should be the most qualified person who gets the job?” How blissfully unaware they are that the process is set up from the get-go to make the white candidates more visible and keep those of color at the fringes. Even though many of these decision makers would claim they are not racist, the fact remains that the system and the process for hiring remain systemically racist. If we don’t challenge that, we are complicit.
The recent history of this country has been “allowing” one or two people of color to be in the same space with the rest of us and calling it diversity. How many of us stop to think how exhausting and fearful it is to be one of only one or two, day after day, year after year? As whites in the United States we move largely in spaces that are designed with our comfort in mind. When we feel the racial balance change, we may subconsciously feel a sense of discomfort.
I am learning that 1) that discomfort is nothing to what my colleagues and friends of color have been feeling all of their lives, and 2) it’s good to feel that discomfort. It’s teaching me something.
Although it’s unlikely, it would be completely possible to fill every position of leadership in Howard County with highly qualified people of color. And maybe that would make us uncomfortable.
When all of them were white nobody raised a question about that.