Now THAT's What I Call Racist

There was an article in yesterday's NYT about Calvin R. Darden, Jr., a guy who's facing felony larceny and fraud charges in NY, essentially for bilking several investment firms and famous people of their money, and lying about it. (He also faces well-deserved civil suits by the private individuals involved, among them Nelly and Latrell Sprewell.)

Now, first point, just on a personal note: how bummed would you be if you were Calvin Sr., a respected businessman who currently heads UPS and is on other well-respected public companies' boards because of his business acumen? "I called that little dumbass Junior?!?! Maaaan, that pisses me off!!!" And yet Pops put up Jr.'s million-dollar bail, so apparently blood is thicker than water. (Let me say right here that I'm not sure my folks would bail my ass out of jail if I'd bilked people of millions of dollars.... In fact, I know for a fact that my dad wouldn't, and I'm pretty sure my mom would think I'd gotten my just desserts for being a thief.) (Hermann was willing to bail me out if I'd whomped on a certain English solicitor of our acquaintance, but I think he'd draw the line at financial crimes, and I know Bryan would, too, although I expect they'd both visit me in the pokey, which is nice. Plus, they both smell good, and you need that in prison visiting rooms, as I understand it.)

But that's not my point here today. Here's what bothers me (and you should read the story in the Times online -- registration is required, but well worth it; it was in the business section of Sunday's paper; that's January 16th): this clown apparently got hired by not one, not two, not three, but four really respected and respectable investment houses (including Merrill, Smith Barney and Wachovia Securities), and got huuuuuge starting bonuses against his putative future production numbers, even though he never ever ever delivered on his targets. Even with his dad's business (UPS went public during Daddy's tenure there), and other UPS execs' business, Calvin Jr. never made the grade. What's more, he never lasted at a place longer than about a year and a half, and when he was asked for repayment of the advances, he just said he didn't have the dough.

Here's why he was hired, and hired, and hired again (he had four employers total, and I'm not counting his first hire, because he actually is well-educated and did well in the training program that the first place ran for newbies, and if he'd kept to the straight-and-narrow might actually have made something of himself, more's the pity): he promised to deliver African-American entertainers and athletes to the i-bankers, 'cause he's black, himself. So that's apparently all they needed to hear, and hired him, and hired him, and hired him. Because he is black and said he could bring blacks into the business, which is notoriously mighty pale. Never mind that he'd never even met the people he claimed were his clients (most notably Shaquille O'Neal), never mind that he couldn't even get in the door with their agents, or publicists or business managers, but hey, he was black, they were black, the people hiring him were white, and they thought he must be the shizznit, because he is black and they are not.

[I don't know if you remember Jayson Blair, but if you don't, look up his exploits. Basically, ol' Jayson was a pathological liar, who wouldn't have known the truth if it had bitten him in the ass, and he was a "journalist," and he wrote for the New York Times, except that what he wrote wasn't really factual, and it wasn't based on his own interviews, or visits to places, or actual people. It was more, well, fictional, really, and he got away with it for a long long time. And the reason he got away with it is that he worked for a bunch of white guys who didn't think to question him, largely, it seems, because he was black, and they didn't want to offend him by poking around when other people started asking questions. Like, "Hey, I didn't talk to your reporter.... How come my name's in his story?" Tough questions. But Jayson's sad story is just a prequel to Calvin Jr.'s, in my opinion, although it's part of the same knotty problem.]

Did they think Calvin Jr. couldn't have actually done the work for which he was being so very well paid? Did they think the black kid couldn't have cut it? No? Well, then, what other possible reason could there be for not calling him on the carpet the very first time his numbers didn't add up, and the very first time he didn't produce a meeting with one of his alleged clients?? They might have saved him from himself! If just one person had said, "Hey, Cal, I'm not letting you cash one more check 'til I meet Shaq or Latrell or P. Diddy or who-the-hell-ever, ok?" might it not have put the brakes on the whole operation and made the guy actually do the job he was educated and trained to do?

What a travesty. There is no earthly reason that a qualified person, whether they are a member of any race, either sex, any preferential or "diverse" group, should not be asked the tough questions that would be asked of anyone applying for or holding any job whatsoever. To treat someone differently, to hold them to a lesser or looser standard, is inherently racist, discriminatory, degrading, and reprehensible. If it's not racist to hold someone who's not white to a lower standard, I don't know what is.


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