I used to be a bike messenger in New York City. I had noticed that anyone white who came to work there quickly mad their way up the line and made a lot of money, while Black messengers spent years there and made mediocre money. It happened that the manager asked me one day why the black messengers all seemed to have bad atitudes. I said 'Leys go into your office and shut the door, and I'll tell you.' I'd been there for four years at that point, and was the only Black guys in the top ten in earnings.
I told him what I'd seen about how messengers were treated different based on race. And I went off to work.
Four hours later, I was called back to the office. To meet with the pesident of the company, the manager's uncle.
Seems in that four hours 20 black messengers (out of 50-60) had quit. Why? Because the manager, a young white guy with not enough sense, had been offended at what I'd said behind closed doors, So he had walked into the messenger room and ranted long and loud about what I'd said and how wrong it was. Only most of the other Black guys hadn't seen the pattern. Now that HE had pointed it out to them, they quit.
The president had called me into fire me, but when I explained that his nephew had beenthe one talking, and I had spoken in confidence, that firing never took place. In fact I got promoted to a part-time dispatcher.
White folks often don't see white privilege when it's right in front of them. Black folks often don't see white privilege when it's right in front of them.
But they react very diffeently when you point it out.
The uncle got the nephew into the office, where upon I asked him 'why the hell did you go off talking about that when I told you not to?' That's when I found out how offended he was by what I'd said. But we went over the employment numbers, and THEN he saw that what I'd said was true. It wasn't malce, per se. But the manager was a suburban white guy and he related to suburban white guys. He didn't relate at all to inner city Blacks, which was what most of his employees were.
How did I wind up in the top ten in earnings?
1) It took three years, twice as long as most people.
2) The same manager got embarassed into it.
He had a new employee, wanted to iimpress him, and asked how long it had been before I'd made $400/week at that company. I replied that I had never even made $300, and I'd been there over two years. I was making $425 before the week was out. You gotta understand that the manager LIKED me. And was completely unaware that race was THE dominant factor the controlled who did well in his company, and who didn't.
And yet, HE was the reason race was so important. His employees ran things inthe way HE was most comfortable. And yet, he'd have sworn he didn't have a racist bone n his body.
As Billy Preston, 'I got a story ain't got no moral'. Except that just because you don't FEEL you're biased, doesn't mean you aren't. That manager was a great guy, a devoted husband and father. Just not very introspective. After I got the part-time dispatching gig, I found there was a whole system of bribes and payoffs going on. Which I ruthlessly subverted. Since I wasn't part of the system, I wasn't even supposed to know it existed. So nobody could tell me to leave it alone. I doubled my pay, and gave the company a system for actually measuring performance, not just allowing the dispatchers to pick and choose.
Okay, okay, the part where I doubled the money I
made WAS corrupt. But I improve the rest of the system. You CAN improve almost any system if you're a bit of a sharp operator, and watch your back. I leaned pretty heavily on not knowing why certain people who had been making alot suddenly weren't. Under my new system of accountability, it all LOOKED fair. It wasn't. But I
was the only person benefitting, not 15 people. So most folks made more money than they had been. And of course, it had the effect of eliminated racial bias in the earning of the employees. There was, of course, Volcana-bias, but hell, what's the point of subversion if you can't steal?
After all, I wasn't stealing form the client or the company. Effectively, I was stealing form other thieves. Where's the harm?