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Late Night Thoughts

 

June 17, 2013

RTWT Response to: Danielle Powell, Grace University Student Kicked Out For Being Lesbian, Must Repay Thousands

This is not “…a witch hunt” nor is it discrimination. This is about policy and rules. Upon accepting the scholarship to Grace University, Ms. Powell knew the policies and rules of the school. It is inconsequential that upon admission she was not a lesbian. During her time at the school she engaged in behavior that was in opposition to the rules of Grace University. This school is so religious that she had a “spiritual adviser.” Now I am not saying that Ms. Powell should hide her sexual preference. What I am saying is that Ms. Powell should accept the consequences of going against the order of things. This happened in 2011. I personally don’t feel Ms.  Powell was completely clueless  about her attraction to women before accepting entrance into a religious school. That would be like me accepting entrance into a school that prohibits drinking alcohol. Firstly, I would not do that and secondly if I did and got caught; I would go graciously. I fully understand the rules and decided to break them. I feel Ms. Powell wanted the scholarship but also wanted to live her life without restriction. Yes I have heard the saying “rules were meant to be broken.” But I have also heard “there are consequences to your actions.” Let’s keep emotions out of this. This is about blatant disregard for the rules of the institution.

May 16,2013

RTWT Response to:

I”m wrapping up the chapter on The Fear Of Being Alone! But I have two questions I need insight on, “What exactly are women afraid of when it comes to being alone? And do men fear being alone?

You perspective on these two issues would be appreciated. Be as detailed as necessary to make you point.

Thanks ~ Michael

RTWT Response:

I have never felt loneliness and it is not because I was born a twin. I have lived  a part from my sister and I thoroughly enjoyed it. As a matter of fact, she spent the last week with me and my co-worker stated that it must be nice to come home to someone and I stated “I like coming home to my home exactly the way I left it”. Loneliness is a weakness. The reason why I believe this is because people have made poor decisions all in the name of “I don’t want to be alone”. Sadly, what these people did not think about was something called “personal joy”. I don’t know when it happened, when the memo went out that happiness…true happiness was contingent on another person. For me, when people speak of loneliness they are speaking of happiness. I wake up each morning and choose happiness.I smile at children and animals.  I do not automatically smile at old people because young cruel people likely become old cruel people. Aging is not a return to innocence.  I feel this question is phrased with an allusion to romanticism. I can’t help but to recall a story (true story) of a man who was disabled and was confined to a wheelchair. He  was being taken care of by two friends. They are all in their 70’s. The man dies and his two friends were sad but also panicked as their friend did not only keep away the loneliness but his social security supported them. They wheeled him to the neighborhood check cashing and they attempted to cash his social security check. Before he passed, they were all in accord. They supported each other. They kept the loneliness away. I can’t help but to quote that song from Seal “It’s the loneliness that’s the killer”. So in concert they helped each other. It is in this vain that they brought his deceased body in the wheelchair to cash the check. They were discovered by the police but eventually they were released. What is my point? Let’s not relegate “loneliness” to romance. For I do not believe I was promised eternal happiness with one specific person (a man). I could possibly end up a Golden Girl and that would be fine by me because though they were fictional characters, their message translated perfectly to the “real” world. There is no exact way to find joy and happiness and keep the loneliness at bay. It could be a man, a woman, a child, a dog, a bird, or a mystical being you have never seen or heard called God.

 

February 12, 2013

Response to Are Two-Year Colleges Better for the Next Generation?

For this article, I did a line by line thought process.

Where does this “hate” come from? Is it a matter or love or hate when it comes to higher education? If one “hates” school then one could deduce that one hates learning.

In my opinion college degrees do not assure a job. It assures that you are qualified for a job within your field if said job is available and more so it is proof you have the ability to acquire knowledge and/or skill (you can learn).  Learning is not solely for the purpose of getting work. It is also helpful when navigating the world around you. Believe it or not higher education can help you better deal with customer service , your cell phone provider, understanding your energy bills, dealing with other parents on the PTA and simply having a fruitful conversation with your friends, co-workers, significant others and your boss.

Moving home because you cannot afford to take care of yourself has nothing to do with Higher Education and everything to do with the economy and the availability of jobs in one’s field.

Ok perhaps it will “largely” benefit middle-to-high income borrowers but lower income will not be completely left behind. In most plans there will be a group who will largely benefit.

Technical degrees are great if you have the talent, and desire for a technical job. If you want to be a teacher, a Professor, or  Counselor  you will need a bachelor’s degree. Now, a two year school is a great start. It is more affordable and therefore you will have less loans to payback as you will only spend two additional years in a four year university. So it is a very useful stepping stone.

Once again, it is a useful stepping stone. If you are uncertain of what you would like to do in the long term, using a two year college to figure it out  is very wise.

Two year colleges are not only about skilled jobs. You can earn AS, AA., AAS and AAB to name a few. It’s not just about Electricians, Mechanics and Nurses.

What are these “general skills” they speak of? Could they be: Influencing and persuading, Writing and oral communication skills, Synthesizing information, critical thinking, Working with others, Managing information etc? Oh yes these are so over-rated for employers.

This is to say that a two year degree would not make your mother proud?

. See this link for my comment box version two year universities

 February 5, 2013

Response to PBS celebrates Black History Month with special programs and new black culture website

I must preface this by saying I am a friend of PBS. I have donated in the past and most certainly will in the future. If I did not need to shell out one hundred dollars or more just to watch the one channel I want, I would most definitely have a television in my home. But the other three thousand channels are just not worth it (well maybe Discovery or Investigation Discovery). So why did I feel the need to preface my response? Because my  issue with their programming is at the beginning of the press release, “PBS today announced an on-air lineup commemorating the contributions of African Americans in music, dance, television and civil rights”. What’s my problem? It seems when it comes to black history the default is to celebrate “music,dance, television and civil rights”. Considering there is a cry out for African Americans in Science, Technology, Engineering (STEM) why not push that agenda when planning a monthly celebration of the important contributions of blacks in this country. I am so tired of hearing about who  can sing the best and dance the best and oh we invented Jazz. It is a sad truth that I am shocked when I hear of life changing inventions by blacks. WBLS (107.5) radio in NYC does a great job of highlighting these particular achievements. Inventors such as:  Frederick McKinley Jones, Norbert Rillieux, and David Crosthwait Jr. Scientists such as: Emmett Chappelle and Rebecca Cole and so many more. Yes we enjoy being entertained and great talent ought to be recognized but can we please diversify the areas of recognition? Also can we please look at the present? There are many black community leaders, scientists, educators, authors and engineers who are making great contributions in these areas TODAY and these contributions can be life changing to many. I guess my late night thoughts about this comes down to one word “DIVERSIFY”.

November 15, 2012

Response to T.J. Holmes’ ‘Don’t Sleep’ cuts back on airings; BET exec says viewers ‘don’t show up’

RTWT has an excuse as to why I don’t watch “Don’t Sleep”; I don’t have a television. I do however, as my blog is evidence of, read copious amount of news from black newspapers, and blogs around the world. With that said, I am a fan on the “Don’t Sleep” facebook page and at one point I did ask myself the question “Does this program have any guests who are women?” Well they are sparse but they are there. I can’t help but to think this might be one of it it’s failures. Another is the BET viewer as a whole. I find African Americans can accept this type of programming from the oldies (Sharpton, Jackson, Dinkens (yes David Dinkins former Mayor of New York) but when it comes to having an intellectual conversation about the state of African- Americans in this country, the audience are…dare I say ageists? It doesn’t help that people out there believe that black leadership is dead. I suppose if you are looking for it on a macro level, but it most certainly is not dead if you are looking from a micro level. Evidence of black leadership can be found in every professor in the African Diaspora. It can be found in every black small business owner, and in mentors in this country. It’s alright to do things small. Everything does not have to be a production. The Civil Rights Movement became a production because that was needed in order to shed light and television was still in it’s nascent phase. There are so many ways now to reach out and influence or aid. My point in regard to Holmes’s program, give the young guard a chance. Age, intelligence and leadership  are not mutually exclusive.

October 2, 2012

Response to White Firefighters rally at Brooklyn federal court over FDNY hiring

For months I heard the announcement on WBLS radio station “If you are black or Hispanic and took a written exam to become a NYC firefighter between 1999 and 2006, you must act now to protect your rights in a lawsuit. The Court has ruled that the City’s use of two written exams (No. 7029 and No. 2043) given between 1999 and 2006 for entry-level firefighter jobs discriminated against black and Hispanic applicants.  The Court has ordered the City to pay up to $128 million in backpay damages to black and Hispanic victims of the City’s discrimination.” My understanding of that announcement was that these blacks and hispanics did not pass the written exam due to a discriminatory element on the exam. The first question that came to mind was, how can a written exam be discriminatory? Either you can read, write and comprehend the data or you can’t. Right? Wrong! Partially based on discrimination charges filed by the Vulcan Society and three individual firefighter applicants with the  Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the United States filed a lawsuit against the City of New York. The lawsuit alleged,  “The Court found that the City’s use of the two written examinations as an initial pass/fail hurdle in the selection of firefighters was unlawful under Title VII [ of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq. (“Title VII”).]. The Court also found that the City’s use of applicants’ written examination scores (in combination with their scores on a physical abilities test) to rank-order and process applicants for further consideration for employment violated Title VII.” (United States v. City of New York). Well firstly lets look at the section of Title VII that was violated:

UNLAWFUL EMPLOYMENT PRACTICES

SEC. 2000e-2. [Section 703]

(a) Employer practices

It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer –

(1) to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin; or

(2) to limit, segregate, or classify his employees or applicants for employment in any way which would deprive or tend to deprive any individual of employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect his status as an employee, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

According to the United States, the NYFD written examination had an unlawful disparate impact:

“These facially neutral practices include the use of some written tests by employers, which have, intentionally or not, screened out people of a particular race, national origin or sex who are in fact qualified. Although using written tests to screen applicants may present the appearance of objective, merit-based selection, written tests often do not actually identify applicants who will be successful at performing a particular job. If appropriate analysis finds a test to be a poor assessment of an applicant’s ability to do a job, then the test stands in the way of identifying the best qualified candidates. As a result, it is in everyone’s interest to find a better measure.

In United States v. City of New York, Judge Garaufis found: (1) that the City’s use of two written examinations screened out black and Hispanic applicants at a significantly higher rate than white applicants; and (2) that the City’s use of these examinations did not predict which applicants would be best able to perform the job, which means that the use of these examinations was not job-related and consistent with business necessity. As a result, the Court found the City liable for disparate impact discrimination under Title VII.”
With all that said, how do you design an exam that can guarantee a particular race fail? Alright, so the exam has nothing to do with firefighting and more to do with “cognitive and reading skills” (CNN); Are blacks and hispanics weak in these areas? Isn’t a potential firefighter with strong cognitive and reading skills a great candidate?
Perhaps this will help:

In essence, my ruling is premised upon two basic conclusions.  First, Plaintiffs have

shown that there is no triable issue of fact as to whether the City’s use of Written Exams 7029

and 2043 has resulted in a statistically and practically significant  adverse impact on black and

Hispanic firefighter applicants.  Black and Hispanic applicants disproportionately failed the

written examinations, and those who passed were placed disproportionately lower down than

white candidates on the hierarchical hiring lists resulting from their scores.  Second, although the

City has had the opportunity to justify this adverse impact by showing that it used the written

examinations to test for the relevant skills and abilities of entry-level firefighters, the City has

failed to raise a triable issue on this defense.  Under Second Circuit precedent, the evidence

presented by the City is insufficient as a matter of law to justify its reliance on the challenged

examinations…In rendering this decision, I am aware that the use of multiple-choice examinations is typically intended to apply objective standards to employment decisions.  Similarly, I recognize

that it is natural to assume that the best performers on an employment test must be the best

people for the job.  But, the significance of these principles is undermined when an examination

is not fair.  As Congress recognized in enacting  Title VII, when an employment test is not

adequately related to the job for which it tests—and when the test adversely affects minority

groups—we may not fall back on the notion that better test takers make better employees.  The

City asks the court to do just that.  Regrettably, though, the City did not take sufficient measures

to ensure that better performers on its examinations would actually be  better firefighters.

Accordingly, the court grants the Motions for Summary Judgment and finds that Plaintiffs have

established disparate impact liability. (Memorandum & Order)

On Monday, October 1, 2012, two hundred white firefighters protested the court’s order to fix the NYFD written exam (NY Daily News). One firefighter Michael Butt said ““I feel I’m being discriminated against because I’m Caucasian.” Well imagine how the miniscule minority (2000 Census 8.4% black, 8.6% Latino) firefighters on the NYFD feel about the fact that over 80% of their co-workers are white. In a city as diverse as New York, this large percentage certainly should raise an eyebrow, or two. In my opinion, diversity or lack thereof is a choice. The NYFD chose a larger percentage of white firefighters. Obviously there is a lot of information I don’t have. But if the Fire Department did not have a history of racial discrimination, this disproportion would not be so blatant.

July 23, 2012

Response to “Harlem  Book Fair 2012”

I was really excited to attend this year’s Harlem Book Fair on Saturday July 21st. So excited that I planned in my head exactly how the day would go. First, I would wake up at 6am and go for a run no later than 7am. Then I would come back by 9am, check train schedules, shower and leave my 10:30am the latest. My sister is visiting so she came along for the run and the book fair. It had been a while since we walked Harlem together so we decided to get off at 116th  Street and walk it up to 135th. We took Frederick Douglass Blvd. uptown. On 134th and Frederick Douglass we see four RV’s. There was St. Luke’s, New York Blood Center, and two other’s I can’t remember. We figured it was a health fair and kept walking as I had “planned” the day in my head and there was no health fair in my head; there was just books, lots and lots of books. So we kept walking until someone stopped us and asked if we wanted Hep-c and HIV testing. I immediately broke out in a cold sweat. My head was screaming ‘NO” and my sister was saying “yes”. So into the tent (yes there was a tent) we went. As I completed the questionnaire, my sexual past flooded me. I knew that I had not been reckless but still the anxiety takes over. My sister had been tested the week before and all was well but even she was nervous. They told us to wait 20 minutes for the results but I could NOT sit there and wait. We decided to visit the other tables. I had my blood pressure taken, my blood sugar and cholesterol. While going from table to table, I couldn’t help but to be impressed by the professionalism, the efficiency, and simply the presence of these health professionals. Many passerby such as myself and my sister stopped to be tested. There were many elderly people who took advantage of the services being offered.  Forty-five minutes later, I was in good health (well glucose level high) but nothing to stress about. We finally got the to book fair and shockingly, I only purchased one book Fancy, self-published by Vanna B. She was kind enough to autograph it for me. The day continued with late lunch at Cedric’s, a French Bistro on 119th St. and St. Nicholas. I use to live two doors away in 2000. The neighbourhood looks different but the vibe is nice. We then went downtown and walked the Highline with friends and had dinner at Son Cubano’s new location on West 27th Street. The day did not go as I had planned, but it was a great day.

July 20, 2012

Response to “Is Lunch a Waste of Time – or a Productivity Booster?”

I have been working since I was 15 years old. I have had many positions and worked for many companies large and small; I have even worked for myself. From all my experience, this is what is true for me. Lunch hour is not just a productivity booster, it can also be a mental and spiritual uplift. Whether you eat in the office kitchen with your co-workers, alone, or your go out to meet friends or dine out alone, Lunch hour is good for the body, mind and spirit. It is not healthy to spend nine or more hours without fresh air or without taking your eyes off the computer. You open yourself up to health issues such as Computer Visual Syndrome (CVS) which will affect your productivity more so than lunch break. “Computer vision syndrome is similar to carpal tunnel syndrome and other repetitive stress injuries at work. It occurs when you’re carrying out the same motion over and over again. Just like those other repetitive stress injuries, computer vision syndrome can get worse the longer you continue the activity.” http://www.webmd.com  Some symptomsof CVS include headaches, blurred vision, neck pain, redness in the eyes, fatigue, eye strain, dry eyes, irritated eyes, double vision, polyopia, and difficulty refocusing the eyes.

Don’t you think an hour away from your desk (if your work requires you being in front of a computer for extended period of time) is worth it?

July 2, 2012

Since the beginning of my blog earlier this year, I have posted over twenty articles related to HIV/AIDS. Articles like D.C. HIV/AIDS Report Reveals Fewer Deaths, HIV crisis hitting women in Washington DC; Infection rate among poor African-American women has doubled since 2008, or FDA Committee Gives OK to HIV Prevention Drug are constant reminders that although our knowledge of AIDS and how it is contracted has been cultivated; AIDS is still a dire issue. In 1997 there were “ 6.4 million people known dead of AIDS” worldwide. In 2006 “UNAIDS says 25 million people have now died of AIDS.” I follow a blog www.thisisyourconscience.com and his recent post Here’s The REAL Problem With “Slut-Shaming” – Ignoring That There’s Actual SLUTS  got me thinking about just how many people who are RECKLESS with their body.” The facts of HIV/AIDS is out there for anyone with a computer, television, or a library card to look up. It has not changed since 1986 when “U.S. Surgeon General publishe[d] [its] report on AIDS”. Yet more and more people are contracting the disease. People in developed nations. Here are the numbers from the CDC:

New HIV Infections

  • In 2009, black men accounted for 70% of the estimated new HIV infections among all blacks. The estimated rate of new HIV infection for black men was more than six and a half times as high as that of white men, and two and a half times as high as that of Latino men or black women.
  • In 2009, black men who have sex with men (MSM)1represented an estimated 73% of new infections among all black men, and 37% among all MSM. More new HIV infections occurred among young black MSM (aged 13–29) than any other age and racial group of MSM. In addition, new HIV infections among young black MSM increased by 48% from 2006–2009.
  • In 2009, black women accounted for 30% of the estimated new HIV infections among all blacks. Most (85%) black women with HIV acquired HIV through heterosexual sex. The estimated rate of new HIV infections for black women was more than 15 times as high as the rate for white women, and more than three times as high as that of Latina women.

Estimates of New HIV Infections in the United States, 2009, for the Most-Affected Subpopulations (note: the data for White Heterosexual Men is missing from this chart. I am not certain why but for the interested,  79% of white men with HIV are homosexuals leaving 22% heterosexuals)

Subpopulations representing 2% or less of the overall US epidemic are not reflected in this chart. 

The new CDC pilot program may make many uncomfortable but discomfort should not be a reason for careless/recklessness. It is surprising that providing oral AIDS tests at pharmacies is just being tried in the United States. Oral HIV/AIDS tests have been used in Southern Africa since 2008 (Hamers RL et al. Diagnostic accuracy of 2 oral fluid-based tests for HIV surveillance in Namibia. J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr 48: 116 – 118, 2008). Ironically, I find that these “numbers” may be connected to various HIV/AIDS statistics throughout the years. In the early 1980’s it was believed that only gay men could contract the disease. Then drug users who shared needles. Then women, then black men, then youth (13-29), and poor black women. It seems if individuals do not see themselves in  the new HIV/AIDS trend then the rules do not apply to them. When it was suggested that only gay men can acquire HIV/AIDS, heterosexuals felt they had nothing to be concerned about. If you were not a drug user who shared needles you were safe etc. Now the disease is on the rise with youths: “In 2009, young persons accounted for 39% of all new HIV infections in the US. For comparison’s sake, persons aged 15–29 comprised 21% of the US population in 2010.” (www.cdc.gov). Here are the CDC youth sexual risk factors:Early age at sexual initiation, unprotected sex, older sex partners, Male-to-male sex, Sexual abuse,  Sexually transmitted infections (STIs), Substance Use, and Lack of Awareness. These are the prevention challenges that youths face. Among African Americans:

“African Americans face a number of challenges that contribute to the higher rates of HIV infection.

The greater number of people living with HIV (prevalence) in African American communities and the fact that African Americans tend to have sex with partners of the same race/ethnicity means that they face a greater risk of HIV infection with each new sexual encounter.

African American communities continue to experience higher rates of other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) compared with other racial/ethnic communities in the US. The presence of certain STIs can significantly increase the chance of contracting HIV. Additionally, a person who has both HIV and certain STIs has a greater chance of infecting others with HIV.

The socioeconomic issues associated with poverty, including limited access to high-quality health care, housing, and HIV prevention education, directly and indirectly increase the risk for HIV infection and affect the health of people living with and at risk for HIV infection.

Lack of awareness of HIV status can affect HIV rates in communities. Approximately 1 in 5 adults and adolescents in the US living with HIV are unaware of their HIV status. This translates to approximately 116,750 persons in the African American community. Late diagnosis of HIV infection is common, which creates missed opportunities to obtain early medical care and prevent transmission to others. The sooner an individual is diagnosed and linked to appropriate care, the better the outcome.

Stigma, fear, discrimination, homophobia, and negative perceptions about HIV testing can also place too many African Americans at higher risk. Many at risk for infection fear stigma more than infection and may choose instead to hide their high-risk behavior rather than seek counseling and testing.”

As the Founder of Young Professionals for Change Brian Benjamin so fervently stated, “Our degrees, jobs, titles or money don’t protect us..that’s why it’s important for all of us to know our status. It is not just a disease for gay folks and drug users.” Everyone should respect their bodies and their partner’s enough to wear a condom and know their status.

Response to Three African-American-focused nets bow, with more on horizon

April 29, 2012

It is good to see that the African American television audience will have more choices when it comes to viewing themselves on the small screen. As the article noted, thirty-two years ago our only option was BET and the programming was very limited. I can’t help but to notice that the age range of their viewership is 18-49 (BET), and 25-54 (Soul of the South). Where is the programming for young black children (5-17)? They too are looking to “see” themselves but not solely their black selves but also generational representation. Must their needs continue to be satisfied by Disney, Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon? It is my hope that these new networks do not forget about the children and have a time slot set aside for them.

Response to Women as Breadwinners? Nothing New for Black Folks

April 4, 2012

While I do appreciate Zerlina Maxwell’s response to  Liza Mundy’s The Richer Sex, I wish that she had contextualized the history of black women as “breadwinners”. Ms. Mundy’s observation may be controversial for some, but insofar as black women are concerned, this is history. Black women have been head of their household since the first wave feminist movement. Since the Emancipation Proclamation, it was easier for black women to find jobs than black men. They worked as domestic workers or as clerical workers. The very same women (Caucasian) who were fighting for education, employment,and marriage laws were the primary employers of these former slaves. coincidentally, the second episode of Mad Men features “Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce advertising themselves as equal opportunity employers after one of their competitor’s mistreated Black marchers saw a lobby full of Black men and women looking for work by episode’s end. Naturally they turned away all the Black men and acquiesced to accepting resumes for secretaries” (http://blogs.indiewire.com/shadowandact/this-week-in-black-television#) is an excellent reminder.

The employment history of black men in this country boils down to a pithy phrase “last hired first fired”.

response to Domestic Workers in New York City, Yesterday and Today

April 2, 2012

I was so glad that I made this talk. One of the joys of living in a city such as this, is the access one has to a multitude of mentally stimulating events. I did not know what to expect, but by the time I left I was most certainly more knowledgeable about the history of domestic workers in this country. Dr. Premilla Nadsen, Queens College, began the panel discussion with a  very stirring quote:

Rain or shine, cold or hot, you will find them there – Negro women, old and young – sometimes bedraggled, sometimes neatly dressed – but with the invariable paper bundle, waiting expectantly for Bronx housewives to buy their strength and energy for an hour, two hours, or even for a day at the munificent rate of fifteen, twenty, twenty-five, or, if luck be with them, thirty cents an hour. If not the wives themselves, maybe their husbands, their sons, or their brothers, under the subterfuge of work, offer worldly-wise girls higher bids for their time.

Who are these women? What brings them here? Why do they stay? In the boom days before the onslaught of the depression in 1929, many of these women who are now forced to bargain for day’s work on street corners, were employed in grand homes in the rich Eighties, or in wealthier homes in Long Island and Westchester, at more than adequate wages. Some are former marginal industrial workers, forced by the slack in industry to seek other means of sustenance. In many instances there had been no necessity for work at all. But whatever their standing prior to the depression, none sought employment where they now seek it. They come to the Bronx, not because of what it promises, but largely in desperation.“The Slave Market” Ella Baker and Marvel Cooke From The Crisis 42 (Nov. 1935).

Seventy-seven years later the marginalization of domestic worker ie: minorities, immigrants and the poor, continues to plague our society. These “Slave Markets” still exist today except now you find majority men looking for day work. They hang out by moving truck locations, construction sites (hoping the project can hire non-union workers) and many walk neighbourhoods looking for overgrown lawns or un-kept yards in hopes that someone will pick them to work for the day and just like those Negro women in the 1930’s, that at the end of their workday they will receive good pay for their good work. Dr. Nasden spoke of the efforts by then Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia who opened Free Neighbourhood Job Centers that resulted in bringing these women from outdoors to indoors. This provided a level of safety but not fairness from employers. In her thesis, “The Negro Woman Domestic Worker in Relation to Trade Unionism”Esther V. Cooper states that the relationship  between employer and domestic workers ”exhibited all the characteristics of the feudal relationship of master and serf.”  Copper cites long-hours, low wages, poor work conditions, lack of job security, mainstream labor’s neglect of domestic workers, absent job standards, the isolating nature of household labor, and the exemption of domestics from old age insurance and unemployment benefits under the 1935 Social Security Act as major obstacles that black women domestics encountered.

Master’s student Joyce Gill-Campbell, Domestic Workers United presented the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights in New York State (http://www.labor.ny.gov/legal/domestic-workers-bill-of-rights.shtm) and all the provisions under the bill. This bill was signed in August of 2010. The provisions include: The right to overtime pay at time-and-a-half after 40 hours of work in a week, or 44 hours for workers who live in their employer’s home; A day of rest (24 hours) every seven days, or overtime pay if they agree to work on that day; Three paid days of rest each year after one year of work for the same employer; and Protection under New York State Human Rights Law, and the creation of a special cause of action for domestic workers who suffer sexual or racial harassment.

Though there is no doubt this is a milestone for domestic workers, one of the inherent challenges with domestic worker as, Dr. Julia Wrigley, CUNY Graduate Center points out, is the intimacy of the working condition. Author of Other People’s Children, Dr. Wrigley notes that the very space in which they work can be suppressive  and oppressive. These individuals are in other people’s homes and are subject to their employer’s idiosyncrasies which workers may find offensive and/or undignified. Dr. Wrigley tells the story of one worker who had to sleep next to a very sickly dog and provide him with medicine throughout the night. This task the worker found offensive but could not speak out about it. This worker was hired to help with the children not the animals. Dr. Wrigley calls for a centralized place for domestic workers to air their grievance and get support, similarly to the agencies for Au Pairs. The agencies who represent these for lack of a better term, crème of domestic workers,  are a consistent and constant support for Au Pairs. This is what is needed for the average domestic worker.

Dr. Tamara Mose Brown, Brooklyn College, CUNY author of Raising Brooklyn: Nannies, Childcare, and Caribbeans Creating Community, tackles the domestic workers of gentrified Brooklyn. Here are a two areas of interest that she discussed: Public Spaces and how Community is created, Cell Phone and internet surveillance. The workers of gentrified Brooklyn are not as their predecessors, isolated inside the home with no one to talk to. They take to the streets with the child in their care. Their habitat? Public Parks. There nannies of various culture an countries gather and converse. They accompany each other to run errands. They exchange phone numbers to keep in touch. It may seem that they are autonomous however, they are not. They are being surveillanced. Many employers are a part of http://howsmynanny.com/ a service that provides a small license plate with plate number for employers to attach to their child’s stroller. Here is how it works:

Reporter sees the plate and makes a mental note of the number (Example plate #099).

Reporter goes to http://www.HowsMyNanny.com and enters the plate number. (Reporter can remain anonymous if so desired.)

Reporter fills out a brief incident report or praise report indicating the date, time, location and summary of behavior.

The website automatically notifies the member that there is a report waiting for them.

The member logs onto http://www.HowsMyNanny.com and signs in as a member using their password.

Member retrieves the report.

This description is from their website. Notice the language used, “Reporter sees…” this title or Reporter legitimizes the observer. They feel as if they play an important role. They are in an unofficial alliance with the employer. The domestic worker’s job is in the hands of a stranger. They may find themselves defending their actions to their employer but who will be believed? This precarious position that the worker is put in is yet another way employer suppress and oppress their workers. If the worker thought the child did something grossly inappropriate they must suppress the need to shout at the child because they are being watched. This interferes with disciplining the child.

A wonderful panel discussion. My interest is peaked and I will definitely get Tamara M. Brown’s book.

March 30, 2012

I started this blog with intentions of actually exchanging thoughts about the issues of the day, but I found myself  so busy posting that I forgot (how convenient) to give feedback. The truth is, the posts kind of speak for themselves. I find myself at a loss for words these days. Bill Maher in this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IW92RoJLTDg&feature=share said exactly what I have been feeling. I am tired of all the chatter. I am tired of all the responses. Sometimes we should just stay silent. But how do we differentiate these moments from those that demand action and voice? I am referring the Trayvon Martin tragedy. On one hand, I don’t want to say anything but on the other, I am reveling in all that is being said. During times such as this, I can’t help but to appreciate the power of personal press (social networking, blogs, feedback option on website, etc). I recall what a professor once said, that had it not been for the power of the visual media (television) the civil rights movement would not have gained the momentum that it did. It irks me when I hear people talk about social network as if it is in and of itself bad/evil. I believe all things in the extreme pose a danger. They pose a danger to the individual and to society. The adage “the pen is mightier than the sword” is one example that comes to mind. When analyze this closely, I deduce, first, that the pen and the sword are both weapons. Both can cause physical harm, make one bleed. But to say that the pen is mightier…well then you are talking about psychological harm, bloodless warfare/pain. But the word mightier does not evoke pain or blood. It evokes strength and power. Therefore as objects the sword is heavier, and the pen is light. The pen in comparison carries no weight. Yet the “pen is mightier than the sword”. So language trumps physical strength? So perhaps wars must end with communication and not brute force? I don’t know. This is just my late night thoughts.

 

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