Do Black Business People understand the concept of Equity in the Workplace?
Does “Black Owned Business” understand the difference between Affirmative Action and Racism? This column is about how work and work opportunities are changing in SA and around the world. As such I want to address the issue of work opportunities for citizens of this country classified as “Whites”. Now, I know that what I am writing about is politically incorrect, but for the sake of our children and the legacy, which we leave them, I want to examine what Affirmative Action means and does not, what BBBEE means and how completely it has been misinterpreted and misrepresented since inception, by design. Having been involved in the initial engagement process on Employment Equity, as one of thousands in the country I distinctly remember terms such as “matching demographics of your customer to your workforce”, “not replacing whites with blacks as an exercise in racial cleansing” and “better balancing the workforce”. I do not see signs in our civil society, of this happening. If anything what I see, particularly in the Public Sector is an abject cleansing of white employee’s. What I see in Private Sector companies, is a hijacking of the employment processes by ill-advised HR practitioners. HR generally being the dumping ground for would-be professionals looking for an easy ride into Management positions. Experience dictates that it is often the safest place to dump Affirmative Action employees. Those HR practitioners, who are not ill advised however, generally have a loudly espoused mission to cleanse the company from within of white employee’s along the “Black Solidarity” strategy made popular in the USA. I see Indian companies reserving key positions for Indian employees. I see the same in “Black Owned Business” in this country. In White owned companies I see panic, guilt and a rush to turn demographics on its head for fear of being found out. As a result, and generalizing, the only section of Industry I see making the right moves towards equity in Employment, is amongst the white owned businesses simply as a knee-jerk reaction rather than strategically. This does not augur well for the future of business or employment trends in SA. Being a BBBEE beneficiary does not mean that Black Employers are absolved from considering the Affirmative Action, Demographic and Racial balances amongst their workforce. What it does mean is that they are charged with a greater sense of responsibility for fairness, equity and racial balances than their white counterparts, given the history of this country and how it affected their parents, grand parents and forefathers. Affirmative Action in any company, Black or White means a leveling of the playing fields in the employment process to the extent that there is a natural and normal distribution of all races amongst that complement, with reference to three factors. The first is the general racial and gender demographics of the country as a whole with particular reference to the provincial differential. The second is the spread of demographics within an Industry and the third is that spread of demographics amongst the client base. It makes no business sense that in some Black-Owned companies all employees are of one race, which has no reference to the race of the majority of the businesses client base. It does not smack of equality, nor fairness. Simply expediency. Generally skewing the racial demographics of employee’s in favor of the historically disadvantaged has less to do with equity and more with redress. This becomes a short-term game which eventuates in a suicidal mission towards destruction and doom. What this type of confusion tends to result in is retribution and the creation of an employment environment restricting opportunities for our children. While some people might believe that this is only fair given the history of our country, it is unacceptable given that our children, white or black are being born into a society that is supposed to be fairer and more equitable than the millennium we have emerged out of. This problem of reverse racism is however here to stay I believe. At least in the short-term. It is what will give the “Born Free’s” that warm and fuzzy feeling that they are benefitting for their parents sacrifice. Eventually however these businesses will realize that they cannot survive on their own. The need for Competency does not allow for a race-sensitive culture of apologism and excuses. The customer does not care about redress and retribution and quite frankly owners and managers (White and Black) very quickly become disillusioned with the “apartheid” legacy of excuses in business. If you cannot cut it, you will be out of business. White owned business must learn quickly that the time for managing with shame and embarrassment as driving forces is past. Black owned business must understand that they are entitled to nothing except a fair commercial exchange for service and product. Employee’s must understand that they cannot hide their continued incompetency under a veil of “the consequence of our apartheid past”. Grow up South Africa!