Monday, July 31, 2006

Series on Black Men in the Post

The Washington Post has been running a series on black men, and I thought that I might be able to post in the Live Discussion with Dr. Michael Eric Dyson. I am not a big fan of his, so I wanted to query him on his vendetta against Bill Cosby.

But after I wrote out my comments before-hand and logged in to post them to the discussion board, someone else had already asked a similar question. And since I am very passionate on this issue, I started on one question and ended up with several that I thought I might pose to Dr. Dyson. They too had been posed by others. This means that I probably will not get to see my question or point of view on the website.

So, yesterday I was contemplating the future of this I am using it as an outlet for one of my rants. Here goes:

I personally think you have capitalized on the Cosby comments, and the longer your “dispute” rages, you continue to make money on book sales. This is not to suggest that there is not a genuine disagreement, but it just seems that the “difference” in your respective opinions is overstated. Unlike the paid black conservative talking heads who act as mouthpieces for reactionary think tanks and politicos, Cosby is speaking his mind to black audiences on his own volition. What profit does he derive from his public appearances?

Bill Cosby single-handedly contributed to the high college attendance rates in the 90s through a popular TV sitcom and several multi-million dollar gifts to HBCUs. Contrary to your assertions that Mr. Cosby has avoided the subject of race throughout his career, I believe that he has made numerous efforts to address the topic, but has done so through subtlety. Must all black public figures thump their chests and set out to be openly defiant?

With respect Dr. Dyson, many rational people, both liberal (like me) and conservative agree with Bill Cosby on the need for more personal responsibility in the black community. That does not diminish the reality of racism—it just accepts the fact that each of us must play the cards we are dealt in life, and that even with a bad hand, the right moves means that one can survive stay in the game. Racism has always persisted in our society; I suspect that it always will. So does it mean that we just give up? When do we become accountable for the condition of the black community?

Well, that was all I wanted to add to the conversation. I do want answers to these questions, but unfortunately the nature of a so-called live chat doesn't really allow one to exchange ideas with the chatter. He gets to be selective and evasive as necessary. So I suspect that my questions, even if he provides "answers", won't necessarily be resolved.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Pondering my Return to the Blog

I needed to take a break, and it took me all month to decide whether to return to my blog. It isn't that I had gotten frustrated with the lack of readership (which I hadn't because I never promoted this thing), but it was a question of futility of a different sort. Was this really worth it?

In terms of other blogs that I've read, I don't say anything especially profound, and when I do, no one ever really sees it. My initial goal was to get into a habit of writing on a regular basis, and for a while it worked. But then I fell into familiar habits and patterns, and my once a day expectation became a once a week, then a once a month visit. I haven't written anything in nearly a month.

So I am torn. Do I give this up or do I stick it out? There are a lot of reasons to give it up, mainly because of the footprint this thing has left. If someone wanted to find out something about me, a quick Google search later and this blog would probably appear. I might have some explaining to do (assuming that a potential employer would care). On the other hand, I think it has been good practice for me to write here, even with the small audience. The feedback I've received has been generally good.

What to do? Why should I even stress over this?

Cause it's my way. If I don't stress over this, I'll stress over something else. It is in my nature.

I'll let you know what I decide. Ciao!

Saturday, July 01, 2006

My Devil Wore St. John's

I saw my younger self onscreen today. My best friend and I saw "The Devil Wears Prada" and it was a bittersweet reminder of what it takes to be a powerful woman in the corporate world. Actually, it could be a metaphor for what most young women in with dreams of wealth, power and success endure.

The trauma often begins with the stress of the first professional job search. Rejection letters, unreturned calls, useless networking meetings and unacknowledged resumes are rites of passage, so when the moment of truth arrives and that first job offer is extended, most of us are ready to walk through fire because we are so grateful to even make it to that point. By the time I got my first professional job, I was willing to do almost anything, as long as I could hold my head up and proclaim that I did something.

I spent nearly 18 months in a desparate post law-school job search. I was intially told that I needed to pass the bar exam, so I studied like my life depended on it, drove everyone crazy because I was determined to pass on the first try. After taking the exam, I continued to send out resumes, but was only able to secure work as a glorified baby-sitter/tour guide for a bunch of high school students for two months. When the good news arrived, I just knew that a "real" job was right around the corner.

To make a little extra money for all of the lawyer clothes I would need, I got a job working at the mall selling high end soap for a little more than the cost of pantyhose. I dutifully continued to send out resumes, and I ate lunch with every single person that someone recommended who might be able to get me a job. This went on for months, and I continued to sell soap for the sister of one of my closest friends in law school. To add insult to injury, one of my classmates from high school, someone whom I knew to be not so swift, came into my store and essentially treated me like a stupid salesgirl. And if that was not enough, my student loan payments became due, and I barely made enough to even make the interest.

Eventually I ditched that dead-end job and flirted with the idea of becoming a solo practitioner. I was inspired by another temporary job I held as a data entry assistant for another lawyer. The big guy heard that I was a licensed attorney, so he sent me over to the courthouse to handle an uncontested divorce. It was exciting, but it was a one shot deal, and my subsequent attempts to recapture that moment were never quite as thrilling (or as successful).

The following year, I was so exhausted from being poor and so demoralized by my lack of business acumen that I took matters into my own hands. On the coldest winter day, I walked the halls of power and personally handed out resumes to every politician who had advertised for vacancies. And my plan B was to repeat the personal service routine until every judge, government agency, and public interest organization in the city had a copy of my resume. Lucky for me, it didn't come to that.

Fast forward to my first week on the job. I got chewed out for answering the phone "incorrectly." Then I got chewed out for writing down notes with a pencil (even though I had just loaned her my only pen). Then she chewed me out for asking her to hold on while I searched for an answer to a question she had just asked. Then she told me that she hoped I had been a better lawyer to my clients than I was to her, because at that moment, I was an impossible incompetent.

Yup, all of this during the first week on the job.

Later, our relationship stabilized to the point where I could speak to her without genuflecting, but those moments were rare. Then one day after a particularly rough week of enduring her demands, I snapped and got so bold as to argue with her in public. In that instant it became clear that I had crossed a line with her that would never be forgotten. She would never fire me, but she would put me in my place by working me harder than everyone else in the office and by paying me less than every other person in the office. For the next six months she tethered me to her like a dog, and berated me incessantly. But because I had developed thicker skin (and a bit of a backbone), I resolved to anticipate her ridiculous demands and act accordingly.

Of course, this relationship has been the single most important professional experience of my career. People generally are impressed that I survived a year with her (actually it was 50 weeks). And while I would never go so far as to call her a mentor, I would say that she gave me more career guidance than the counselors that were paid to do so at my law school.

She taught me that life is about choices. The choice to become a powerful, successful, woman is one that requires more than just the sacrifice of a quiet, tranquil life. It requires everything--your mind, body and soul. You must think about your work all of the time; you must physically be at work all of the time; and you must possess the fanatacism of a religious zealot to keep you on the top of the game. Success is not for the woman who wants to settle into a "normal" life. Success is not for the woman who wants to have time to herself. Success is not for those of us who want to find someone to share it with.

Success is a solitary pursuit. That is why there is only one queen in a bee hive. She is the ace-zero-no-higher. It is her world, and we are just lucky to be in it.

So as I watched this movie and thought back to my own Miranda Priestly, a St. John's suit-wearer, I realize that I am here because I made the choice not to be like her. I wanted to have a husband who would actually like being married to me. I wanted to have a flexible work schedule so that I could do more than just work and sleep day and day out. I wanted to continue to help people, but I wanted to be able to say no when things got too overwhelming. I also wanted to pursue some of my interests, such as dance and writing.

I wouldn't be able to do any of those things if I had followed in the footsteps of my old boss. I wanted to live my life on my own terms, and in the end, if I can accomplish some measure of happiness, then that is all the success I need.