Recently the police department graduated its new 41-member recruit class. The Mayor’s office proudly announced that this was the most diverse class in years, and I for one was really happy and waiting to see just how many. I had heard through the grapevine that seven to nine would be minorities, which would have made it close to the 26 to 30 percent Black population in the city.
When I found out that there were only five minorities and only two of them were Black I was shocked, hurt, and mad. Then it dawned on me. Something that Alma Fox had warned us about, and something I had questioned. What is diversity? Is it the same as Affirmative Action?
Diversity has become the catchall word in today’s society. It has replaced Affirmative Action, which has become a bad word.
When Pittsburgh led the country back during the ‘70s when Sgt. Harvey Adams, as head of the Pittsburgh NAACP, led the fight to get more Blacks on the police force an agreement between the city and the NAACP was formed. For every White male hired on the police department, a White female, Black female and Black male would be hired, until the numbers came close to the percentage of the city population. That sounded very fair.
This became the standard across the country to right 400 years of wrongs against Blacks in this country.
But the same people who supported the Good Ole Boys system before this agreement launched an all out attack on this system calling it a quota system and unfair to the “qualified” White males.
They had no problem when the police, fire, all government and the private sector doors were closed to Blacks. They had no problem with the Good Ole Boy system in which one’s family members; neighbors or friends were hired, because that was how things were done. It was who you knew, not what you knew.
The ultra conservative right wing fought until they got rid of Affirmative Action across the board in colleges and university, government jobs, as well as the private sector, thus forcing concerned Whites and Blacks who wanted to do the right thing to come up with the term diversity.
The problem is that even though we use this term, we must understand and teach our children that in order for diversity to benefit Black people we must make sure that Blacks are included at a percentage representing their population when the numbers are counted. In the past White women benefitted from the term Minorities, and now it’s Asians, Latinos and Native Americans.
Another term in which we must be very careful of is the term People of Color. What does this mean?
Far too often the groups using this term are Black female groups, but just who are people of color? You come up with the same problem—Native Americans, Middle Easterners, Latinos, and Asians. I’m assuming they mean non-Whites. The Middle Easterners’ numbers are rapidly rising in this country, so they may soon out number Blacks and Latinos. They are definitely people of color.
Blacks must realize and understand that these titles are not synonymous with Black or African-American. If other minority groups want to join in this fight for jobs then we can form a coalition, with each group identified. Because if we don’t the Black ghettos, Black drop-outs, Black unemployment and underemployment, and all the other negatives will continue to get worse because everyone but the Black community will be serviced.
Back to the two out of 41 recruits, the city is saying they are trying. Chief Harper says he is trying. What is the problem?
It’s simple to me. Get rid of the Civil Service system. If the Civil Service system has not increased the number of Blacks on the force for all these years, then it is a failed system. And just like any other system, if it doesn’t work, get rid of it, or change the part that is not working to get more Blacks on the force.
Some of the most effective officers on the force came through during the Affirmative Action, or Quota system era. But those officers are retiring now, which is causing the numbers to continue to decrease because the failing Civil Service system is not working to replace them with Black officers.
My solution is find where Blacks are being eliminated and fix it. No more excuses. Either you are committed to a truly diversified department or you are not. This is not just a city problem or a Mayor Luke Ravenstahl problem. This problem is city, county, state, and nationwide, and it has been there since Affirmative Action was killed.
Blacks need to wake up and understand that diversity doesn’t always mean us. A person of Color doesn’t always mean us. When people start using these terms, even if they are Black, we must ask, “What does this mean for Black people? Are we really being included?”
(Ulish Carter is managing editor of the New Pittsburgh Courier.)