When I was in college in the ’80s I worked a summer job in the investment department of a big corporation. This part of the company managed a couple of billion dollars in assets, so they had a lot of MBAs from big-name schools. They were all white and mostly male. The company had a diversity program, so the department’s management was told to hire someone brown.
Management resented that they were forced to do that, so they engaged in some malicious compliance by hiring a black college athlete who had barely graduated from college. He was such a terrible writer that one of the managers hired the English teacher from his kids’ private high school to give this guy writing lessons. He partied hard, came to work late, and generally fucked up. After a few months, he had learned the game and quit because he had found a better job. The now-smarter management scoured the rest of the company to find another black man and gave him a giant promotion. This guy had better work habits and could write, but he knew nothing about investments. More tutoring ensued. For all I know, that guy is still working there today.
The way that this company treated the black men it hired didn’t tell me a lot about African Americans. But it sure told me a hell of a lot about how the older, white managers thought about African Americans. They couldn’t conceive that a black person would be qualified to do a MBA’s job, so they didn’t even bother looking for a qualified applicant. Even though they wouldn’t have looked twice at a white male with the same qualifications, the man they hired was unfireable because they needed a token, and because they were pisspants scared that he would turn around and accuse them of racism.
This was the ’80s, and the people running the department had grown up in the ’30s and ’40s in a very segregated city. If I went to the same company today, I’d be surprised to find the same attitudes. That’s why I just don’t why Michael Steele is still working at the RNC. I thought full-on tokenism of the type I experienced in the ’80s went out with shoulder pads and ankle warmers.