By Larry Elder |
On a beautiful Sunday morning, I was out of town for a business meeting in the city of Santa Barbara, California, a affluent area where the rich and famous live. Demographically, it’s not exactly Wakanda. Before I went on Highway 101 for the long drive back to Los Angeles, I pulled into a gas station to fill up.
As I got out of my car, I heard a male voice constantly shouting, “Hey, want a banana?” My head jerked to find the racism. Turning to the man named stood next to his SUV, waist open, where I saw a large bag of bananas. The man was talking to a homeless guy who was picking up trash from a nearby trash can. Both the SUV driver and the homeless were white.
Once I put it all together, I smiled and said to the driver, “Hey, I thought you were talking to me! I was about to accuse you of systemic racism. “The driver started laughing. Then I said,” I think I’m still going to accuse you of systemic racism. How come you are the only person you have offered a white banana? What about me? “Now the homeless person started laughing. Then I said,” And I don’t even like bananas. “
Both were now laughing, and the homeless guy said, “Man, you’re so funny.” I replied, “Thank you. I’m here all week. Two minimum drinks. Don’t forget to throw something in my tip jar. At this point, both practically doubled over to laughter. As I drove, I said to myself, “Did I just ask a homeless person to leave me a tip? Elder, you will burn in hell. “
How wrong my immediate assumption turned out to be.
This incident reminds me of something that happened years ago. For several years, I ran a small business, based in Cleveland, where we recruited experienced attorneys for large law firms and large corporations. To the best of my knowledge, I was one of the first, if not the first, “headhunting” companies in the Midwest specializing in lawyer recruitment. Starting in 1980, I ran the company for 14 years before selling it to TV and talking radio full time. During that time, I was able to count on one hand how many black lawyers I put up with my clients.
One of my clients was a Fortune 500 energy company seeking general advice. It was a great position and a great salary.
To fill the position like this, the ideal candidate is an assistant or general counsel associate who wants to move and for whom this represents a huge increase in money, course and high. I found an ideal candidate with an excellent academic background and the right experience, who wanted to move and, most importantly, whose family wanted to move.
Before I submitted her resume to my client, I wanted to meet this candidate, and we arranged to meet together at a Philadelphia hotel. I was there for other businesses, and he worked nearby. This was pre-internet and pre-zoom calls, and we only spoke several times on the phone. We agreed with an 8 am breakfast and that I would meet him in the hotel lobby.
When I arrived in the group at 7:50, there were at least 15 other men all waiting for people to come down and out of the elevators for their meetings. The minutes ticked by, and many people got off their elevators and left for breakfast. After a few extra minutes, no more than three or four people were still in the group, all glancing at our watches and looking up from time to time as the group continued to thin.
Finally, I walked over to a man who was constantly looking at her and looked up. I said, “Excuse me, are you John?” He said, “Are you Larry?” We both laughed. It was black, but I was expecting a white. I’m black, and he expected the hunter himself to be a white man.
We both made correct assumptions.
He said laughing, “So what’s the lesson here?” I said, “I’m not sure, but I really want some bacon and eggs. Let’s go.”
Larry Elder is a best-selling author and radio talk-show host.