The Obama Presidency: A Case of Double Standards

Article written for ByBlacks.com

As then President-Elect Obama planned his transition to the White House, the challenges facing the United States were overwhelming. 800,000 jobs were being lost per month with an unemployment rate approaching 10%.

The Auto Sector, which employs thousands – was facing a dire financial situation. The Finance and Banking sectors were dealing with the consequences of sub-prime lending. In addition to the economic recession, the United States was involved in two wars that cost thousands of lives and and billions of dollars. Welcome to the Whitehouse, Barack Obama.
While no leader is perfect, it is hard to deny that America and the world economy has improved from the Great Recession of 2008. The American economy has produced over 75 consecutive months of job growth. Obama led many reforms on Wall Street, small business financing, and investments in new industries while increasing America’s energy independence.
20 million Americans now have access to health care due to the Affordable Health Care Act (known as ObamaCare). This has helped stabilized Medicare funding for years to come.
However, if you listen to much of the debate across North America (including Canada) – you’d think nothing has changed since 2008. The key question normally asked after any political leader serves out their term is: “Are we better now than we were 8 years ago?”By all measures, America is better. Not perfect, yet it is better. But Mr. Obama’s legacy is already being attacked by many as if they forgot about 2008.
Let’s go back to 2008. If Mr. Obama was the CEO of a Fortune 500 company that was losing market share, with revenues decreasing rapidly, no innovation agency and profitability shrinking – he would be under constant pressure from shareholders. Now fast forward to 2016. If that same company under his watch improved market share, increased sales, invested in R&D/innovation, and increased profitability by almost 70% – he would be hailed as a brilliant CEO. Mr. Obama would be in line for massive stock options and bonuses. Mr. Obama would be a compared to similar CEOs who turned struggling companies around.
Yet, so many continually attack him. Right wing/conservatives have a list of complaints about Mr. Obama. And many on the left would have liked to see more aggression towards Wall Street and some more drastic shifts in foreign policy.
But the double standard that Mr. Obama has had to deal with is all too familiar to many Black Canadians and Americans. How many times are we put in a near impossible situation, deliver positive results yet are still criticized? How many times have we been punished for taking risks where many of our colleagues are rewarded? How many times are we labelled as rude, arrogant, cocky when we speak of our accomplishments, whereas our colleagues are viewed as confident. And yes, Canadians – we are talking about our experiences in Canada as well.
The difference in how many view President Obama vs. President-Elect Trump – is proof of this double standard. The fact that the President of the United States receives little credit for getting America out of the worse economic crisis since the 1930’s – is a reflection of the double standard many Black Canadians/Americans face in their day to day lives.
Despite this constant double standard, Mr. Obama has continually demonstrated class, elegance and a sense of humour. For that, both he and Mrs. Obama deserve respect and admiration from all of us

 

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Why I cut off my Locs and the politics of Black Hair

On Father’s Day, I posted a picture on my Facebook profile of my daughter and myself.   At her daycare, they were having a small father’s day celebration where the toddlers designed a gift for Dad.

Nia Rad

Well this led to my Facebook inbox blowing up.   Not only due to the fact that my daughter is beautiful (yes I am very biased) – but due to the fact that I removed my locs.   All of the sudden, I am getting offers to attend various churches.   The assumption there is that I did this for religious reasons and that I am no longer an ‘evil’ rastaman.

On the other side, there are some who now believe that I am no longer interested in the forward progression of the Black community in Toronto because I cut of my locs.   Or in other words, “I am conforming to White Supremacy”.

The purpose of this blog post is to hopefully eliminate these misunderstandings and to avoid having to respond to every inbox message individually!

The cutting of my locs represents letting go of the past, and moving forward.

The decision to grow my locs was made in 2002.   I was progressing fairly rapidly in my career as an IT Sales Professional.   At the same time, my political and social views were evolving.   I became more aware of issues surrounding diversity and equality.   This came mainly from volunteer sessions with young people across the Greater Toronto Area.

Growing my locs had little to do with a conversion to Rastafarianism.  I am influenced by certain philosophies that are core to Rastafarianism such as the respect for Africa, knowing one’s self and understanding the spirit that connects us all   Locs were also worn by Ancient Egyptians.  In 2002, during a trip to Egypt with Kemet Nu Productions, I saw this first hand when I saw this Pharaoh with locs in the Cairo Museum.

Instead, I grew my locs in hopes of enabling personal growth.  My locs were a test for me.  A test of my resolve, my strength and my ability to overcome challenges.  I also noticed that my locs became a source of inspiration for many people, in particular young black men who never saw any Black Male in a Professional position, much less a Black Male with locs.

2009 - Beating the Odds Conference Waterloo
2009 – Beating the Odds Conference Waterloo

The other large test was going to be aimed at Corporate Canada.  With all of the talk surrounding diversity and equality, my locs would help determine if all of this talk was hype or reality.   How would Senior Leaders in Corporate Canada deal with a professional black male with locs?   Overall, I found that most Senior Executives had no problem with my locs at all.   They were focused on the value that I would deliver for their organization.

It was middle managers and peers who seemed to have a larger problem with my locs.   As I was told once by a middle manager, “…. you scare a lot of middle managers because when you are in front of an Executive you deliver your message much more effectively than most of us… which means you are a threat.”   

Turns out they were right about my ability to deliver a message.   With my locs, I was interviewed on Canada’s Business News Network-BNN, TVO – The Agenda, CBC NewsWorld, 1010 CFRB and ran a political blog with the Toronto Star for the 2011 Provincial Election.

Overseas, I had wonderful professional experiences with clients based out of Malaysia, Thailand, China, Mongolia, Indonesia, Botswana, South Africa  and Nigeria.

Delivering a workshop in Malaysia
Delivering a workshop in Malaysia

Unfortunately, my most disappointing professional experiences were with leaders in Jamaica or within Caribbean populations here in Canada. Too many Senior leaders in Jamaica had the negative stereotype of locs cemented in their minds. Turns out that in retrospect, that many Jamaicans out of Jamaica have this problem, locs or not.   But that is another topic for another time.

There came a point 2 years ago where the thought of removing my locs starting to enter my mind.   I recalled a conversation with the first stylist, Ruth years before this point.  We were talking about why R&B artist India Arie cut her locs off.   While the patrons at Ruth’s style studio – Strictly Roots, were clearly upset, Ruth stated the following:

“You need to understand why someone cuts off their locs.  The removal of your locs is a serious matter.   The decision normally surrounds a life changing event(s) and/or a deeply personal spiritual matter.   It is a matter of personal, spiritual and mental resurrection.  So don’t  judge why someone grows or cuts off their locs. “

Here was the premier natural hair stylist in Toronto standing up for India Arie in this case.   Where most stylist would have ranted like we did, Ruth did not.   My future stylist,  Glen would repeat Ruth’s thoughts many times.   I would like to thank them both for their friendship and for playing key roles in my growth!

Ruth and Glen – the only individuals allowed to touch my locs!

While facing some very serious challenges and life changing events, I seriously considered cutting my locs off.   However, more challenges of an urgent variety continued to mount.   There was actually no opportunity to prepare myself mentally to go ahead and remove years of history that were represented in my locs.

However, after overcoming these challenges with the help of family, friends and other good hearted people – I finally found the spiritual/mental space.   I made the decision to remove my locs on June 6, 2015.  The number 6 and 13 have played significant roles in my life. Thus the date of June 6th seemed appropriate.

So no, I am not looking to change my faith nor am I now a tool for White Supremacy.

The cutting of my locs represents letting go of the past, and moving forward.  It represents a fresh new start, and an appreciation for the ups and downs of life.  Life will have more tests and challenges and I am ready for them.

On to the next chapter of this journey called life.

Blog Post by Radcliffe Dockery

How many Donald Sterling’s are destroying the lives of Blacks in North America?

Excuse me, as I am sure there are a million blog posts about this topic.  But I figured I would add my two cents.

When TMZ.com released the Donald Sterling audio this past weekend, many were shocked to hear such blatant racism come from an accomplished business/sports personality.  Perhaps even more shocking to many, was the fact that he displayed racism towards the very same group (Blacks/African Americans) who just happen to represent the majority of his team, and league.

Note, this is not the first time Sterling has had ‘race’ problems.   Dan Wetzel of Yahoo Sports highlights this in a recent article

Obama speaks on Sterling remarks
Obama speaks on Sterling remarks

However for many of us who are Black, this is neither shocking or surprising.   Instead, what Sterling has done is underline what many of us feel – That no matter our skill & education level, many in power view us Blacks as inferior being who shouldn’t think, talk or action unless we have permission from our ‘masters’.

This mindset is often found online when the topic surrounds race or ethnicity right here in Canada.   When Blacks speak up on an array of issues, many will speak to us as if we have no right to have an opinion.  The common line of “Freedom of Speech” in invoked, however it is only freedom of speech when THEY have an opinion, not us.

The problem becomes larger however if those behind the keyboards are also the same individuals sitting in the Executive Offices of various places of employment.  As we posted in a previous blog – a job is how many of us regardless or race/gender, provide for our families.   If the people who control your employment have the same attitude of a Donald Sterling or many of these “keyboard haters”, then we start to see racism transform from not only a social issue but an economic one.

At least we know where Sterling stands on this issue as it relates to Blacks.  The deeper concerns are as follows:

  • Why did the NBA wait for this event to happen when Sterling has a history of demonstrating this behaviour?  Why has the NBA protected him for so long?
  • For every Sterling, how many more people in power have this view towards Blacks?
  • How many qualified Blacks are overlooked for promotions, new opportunities and business ventures due to racism?
  • If multimillionaire NBA players who bring in millions for the league and sponsours can be looked upon in this manner, how are everyday, hard working blacks viewed?

From Sterling’s comments, to the racist backlash against President Obama – an increasing amount of blacks at all socioeconomic levels are seeing their worst fears confirmed.   The fear is that even if we are contributing to society; are we still viewed as modern day slaves?

Some will argue that Affirmation Action/Employment equity is making a difference.  However, even TIME Magazine in a recent article mentions that it is not Blacks reaping the benefits of Affirmation Action.

There are millions of people who adore the NBA and its players.   Basketball is a beautiful sport and has helped transform many lives.   Many of those millions are Blacks who work hard and contribute to our society.   Are they getting a fair shake at work?  Are their kids getting fair shake at school?

Maybe we don’t feel the need to speak about this issue because after all, we are “multicultural”.   But as a Black Man born and raised in Canada, I don’t see multiculturalism in the hall of power.  Or even in our media nearly enough.

I would rather deal with someone who is honest about not liking me than with someone who poses with pictures of Elton Brand yet makes disgusting comments like this to this girlfriend about Blacks.  I just wonder, how many Donald Sterling’s are out there and how many lives of good hard working Black People are they destroying?

 

Blog by Radcliffe Dockery

 

 

 

 

The Emotional impact of Job Loss

In various social media banter, I have noticed a discussion surrounding the ways in which employers are ‘terminating” employees.  Whether a terminated employee is walked out in front of their peers, being called into “meetings” unsuspectingly or being terminated without an opportunity to respond – the process has become too cold and too harsh.

Terminations or downsizing are a part of reality in today’s business world.   Every organization has the legal right to end employment.   However, every organization should be ending employment in a respectful manner.   For most of us, a job is the life line that enables us feed, clothe and provide shelter for our family.

The Supreme Court of Canada made mention about the value of work in the McKinley v. BC Tel case of 2001.  Says Justice Iacobucci:

“Work is one of the most fundamental aspects in a person’s life, providing the individual with a means of financial support and, as importantly, a contributory role in society. A person’s employment is an essential component of his or her sense of identity, self‑worth and emotional well‑being.”

Organizations must do a better job of realizing what a job is really worth.  It is not only about salary, benefits and perks, it is also about one’s emotional worth.   When an organization makes the decision to end one’s employment it should be done within the confines of the law and with compassion.

Yesterday’s news regarding the stabbing of four employees at an office in the 401/Yonge Street area has made many in Social Media circles revisit the issue surrounding the emotional/mental strain of job loss.

We certainly hope that the victims of this crime will have a full recovery.  And we hope that justice will be carried out swiftly to the perpetrator of this violent crime.  In one of my former roles, I worked with Ceridian Canada thus the news of this horrific act was more than a news story to me – it was personal.

While we do not know the complete circumstances of this case, the fact that the perpetrator of this crime was a former employee is troubling.  The investigation will provide us with further details into the mindset of the accused.   However, if we look at the larger picture – the discussion about the emotional impact of job loss must be discussed in greater detail across all sectors.

The Supreme Court alludes to this in the above mentioned case:

“not only is work itself fundamental to an individual’s identity, but “the manner in which employment can be terminated is equally important”.

Behind the statistics and reports there are real people who are impacted by job loss.   It is up to organizational leaders to deal with his matter with sensitivity and respect.

 

Blog post by Radcliffe Dockery

The Left and the Right need to get out of their ideological comfort zones

Taken from the Toronto Star...

CCPAOntario has an economic problem, which is leading to great social problems due to financial stress.  And no amount of rhetoric from the left or the right will change this.  What is required is for all stakeholders in our economy from educators, unions, investors, entrepreneurs and politicians to get together and develop practical solutions.

First step, as a service driven economy our education system needs to staffed with educators who have real world experience.   This has to start in high school.  Teachers should be in more intense training or job placements for the subjects they teach whether it be arts, sciences, business and technology.  Our students use smartphones and the interest, they can see through BS quickly – thus our educators must be on prepared with real work knowledge.

Second, the private sector must start telling the truth about the skills shortage.  I know first hand what it is like when you are unemployed and have the skills/experience for 90% of the jobs in your field.  However, it seems as if many companies are posting jobs just to fill their databases with resumes.      Even worse, we often see that a company will post a job, reject all candidates then within 2 months re post the same job again – and continue the cycle over and over again.  We need to stop the hype about skills shortages and ensure that the the shortage is REAL.   Sadly, too many Canadians are spending money on training courses only to remain unemployed. Good for training schools, bad for families.

Third, Ontario has to embrace trade more aggressively.   Recently on The Agenda, there had a a great discussion about foreign markets.   BRICS (Brazil, Russia, Indian, China, South Africa) and MINT (Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria, Turkey).    Lawyer Mark Warner made the key point on the show when he stated “When entering an emerging market, businesses have to be prepared for the unexpected… it won’t be smooth, but the opportunities are there”.   Companies, investors and academic thought leaders have to embrace emerging markets more aggressively.   Export Development Bank of Canada can provide lots of support for companies entering these markets.

Fourth, Ontario has to start investing in the RIGHT sectors.   Yes, the Auto Sector is important to the economy.   However, the attitude of Ford Canada and UNIFOR towards the South Korean Free Trade Agreement is a concern.   While Ford USA embraced the deal, Ford Canada did not.   UNIFOR compared imports/exports of cars between Canada and South Korea as proof of this being a bad deal for Canada.   The focus instead should be about how Ontario plants can 1) Attract more investment from VW, BMW, Audi etc into Canada  2)  making cars that foreign markets would want.

While Ontario continues to invest money in the Auto Sector, even when they don’t want it.    – The information technology, entertainment, logistics and infrastructure sectors do not get enough attention.   Ontario needs to focus more funds on industries that will lead to great exports for our companies.

In Ontario, we are no longer a manufacturing hot bed.  Tim Hudak has a plan however it sounds more rhetorical than practical.  Premier Wynne, speaks in platitudes and Andrea Horvarth doesn’t give us much detail.

The left and the right need to stop sitting in their ideological comfort zones and start focusing on practical solutions to our economic problems.   While both sides continue their rhetoric, way too many Ontario families continue to struggle.   Stop the noise and start getting to work!

blog post by Radcliffe Dockery

 

Black History Personality of the Day – The Hon. Senator Don Oliver

Senator Oliver was the First Black Male named to the Senate of Canada.

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On September 7, 1990, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney summoned him to the Senate of Canada. Since his arrival in the Senate, Senator Oliver has served as a member of the Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce; Chairman of the Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs; Chair of the Standing Committee on National Finance; Chair of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Forestry; Chair of the Standing Committee on Transport and Communications. Senator Oliver was Co-chair of the Special Joint Committee of the Senate and House of Commons on a Code of Conduct for Parliamentarians.  Learn more about Senator Oliver

Blog by Radcliffe Dockery