When running for office Tennessee Democrat Stephen I. Cohen pledged that he would join the Congressional Black Caucus if elected. Not an overly dramatic pledge–most politicians pledge something like single handedly bringing about world peace–but a pledge that should be fairly easy to keep. Except for one small problem–Representative Cohen is white.
He represents a district that is largely African American and thought his constituents concerns would be similar to his collegeagues’ concerns in the Black Caucus. They did not want him to join.
Cohen said he became convinced that joining the caucus would be “a social faux pas” after seeing news reports that former Rep. William Lacy Clay Sr., D-Mo., a co-founder of the caucus, had circulated a memo telling members it was “critical” that the group remain “exclusively African-American.”
Other members, including the new chairwoman, Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, D-Mich., and Clay’s son, Rep. William Lacy Clay, D-Mo., agreed.
“Mr. Cohen asked for admission, and he got his answer. … It’s time to move on,” the younger Clay said. “It’s an unwritten rule. It’s understood. It’s clear.”
The same type of exclusionary policies are likely happening at your office. Are you a male that wants to join the “Women’s Leadership Seminar”? Good luck. Several companies I have worked for have programs just for minorities and females. White males need not apply.
This is something I don’t understand. Do white males by virtue of the combination of skin color and Y chromosomes automatically know how to navigate the corporate world? Do people without that blessed combination not know how to do it and need guidance?
My experience has been that very few people have an innate knowledge of how to advance in corporate America. Most people learn by trial and error and seeking out a mentor. Groups that help people succeed are great. But the end goal should be sucessful people, not specialized help for a specific group.