I should not have been working yesterday; after all, it was a National holiday – the celebration of Martin Luther King, one of the most influential people on my life.
“I have a dream when my four little children will one day be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
Most all our country’s State and Federal workers had off yesterday. They were shopping, running errands (you know how working can delay picking up one’s dry cleaning), perhaps even lingering longer at the gym.
“Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. (Amen) Say that I was a drum major for peace. (Yes) I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter. (Yes) I won’t have any money to leave behind. I won’t have the fine and luxurious things of life to leave behind. But I just want to leave a committed life behind. (Amen) And that’s all I want to say.”
My Dad came to this country in 1938; at 16, barely speaking English, he was scared but confident young Jewish boy. He attended DeWitt Clinton High School which produced people such as the writer James Baldwin and Marty Glickman, the Jewish Olympic sprinter (and later, a New York sports announcer) who experienced the wrath of anti-Semitism while Jesse Owens “ran down” Hitler and his Nazi ideology.
Who did my Dad pal with while in high school? Not the white boys who teased him for his accent and religion but the young black boys who felt equally similar persecution and negative behavior. My Dad remembered his friends his entire life.
Growing up, it seemed as if I spent more time in Harlem than in the Five Towns on Long Island. Clothes, haircuts, home furnishings and other things purchased came from my Dad’s high school friends. Even as Dad became more successful, he never forgot his friends and he always worked with him in his professional business and our family’s personal life. One generation passes on relationships to the next one.
Just as bigotry is taught and learned, so is righteousness. Yet there are times when to change people’s attitudes, beliefs, and values, it is necessary to create statutes. Hence, the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
[Within a few hours of passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, President Lyndon Johnson signed it into law in a nationwide television broadcast from Washington, passionately speaking about why the CRA was required.]
“We believe that all men are created equal – yet many are denied equal treatment. We believe that all men have certain inalienable rights. We believe that all men are entitled to the blessings of liberty — yet millions are being deprived of those blessings, not because of their own failures, but because of the color of their skins.”
“The reasons are deeply embedded in history and tradition and the nature of man. We can understand without rancor or hatred how all this happens. But it cannot continue. Our Constitution, the foundation of our Republic, forbids it. The principles of our freedom forbid it. Morality forbids it. And the law I sign tonight forbids it…”
In principle, recruiting is pretty much to most companies about exclusion. You may not want to admit it and HR as a function may not want to admit it, but when was the last time YOU were interviewed and the recruiter actively looked for ways to uncover reasons to include you and move you on to the next step (and further, fought for you because they saw things that the hiring manager has not seen)? Do you actively recruit for inclusion versus exclusion? Or do you bow to the pressures of the hiring manager – or the organization – and (whisper, whisper) keep looking for the perfect candidate?
[Benjamin Mays and the Rev. Martin Luther King promised each other: He who outlived the other would deliver his friend’s last eulogy. On April 9, 1968, Mays made good on the promise.]
“I close by saying to you what Martin Luther King Jr. believed: If physical death was the price he had to pay to rid America of prejudice and injustice, nothing could be more redemptive. And, to paraphrase the words of the immortal John Fitzgerald Kennedy, permit me to say that Martin Luther King Jr.’s unfinished work on earth must truly be our own.”
The fact is that at any point in time, everyone benefits from the CRA. Too young or too old, too black or too white, too tall or too short, too thin or too fat, too much hair or too bald, too placid or too outspoken. As recruiters, we spend too much time working under rules of exclusion as opposed to inclusion. No one said recruiting was easy; you can always find another profession if it’s too much work. Remember what Dr. King died for; remember what LBJ had to do to pass the CRA.
No, I’m glad I worked Monday. As usual, I continued to drill down past the resume looking for reasons to include people. Looking for possibilities is not only civil but it’s my job.