E Pluribus Unum

At a Library Association luncheon, I sat with a slight acquaintance just hired by a library system as an assistant director. A smaller system hired me.
Ostensibly, our engagements were motivated by impressive resumes. We were competent professionals. But we both agreed our hiring was inspired by an organizational need to show diversity. He was the first African American hired in a senior position. I the first Latino.
He mentioned that his new office was being built custom for him right out in the central circulation area. A principal feature of the office was a glassed-in front. The office design placed him on view continually. I was greeted with an important-sounding title and name for the center I would head. We both snickered.
The typical hamfisted American mode of looking at race and ethnicity had missed the true diversity we represented. He – descended from African Americans, Cherokee, English, and German ancestors. Me- descended from Spanish, Hungarian, British Caribean, and Scotch. Neither of us planned on being in glass cages for long. We snickered again; both sides could play at manipulation. Our organizations took count.; That was tokenism.
The future was recognizing diverse heritages. We were the future.

2 Replies to “E Pluribus Unum”

  1. I can’t imagine being in a glass box all day exposed to people. I do understand tokenism and it seems somewhat unkind. When will we stop noticing the differences? But a job is a job if it puts food on the table I suppose. I can be the token old lady. 😉

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    1. In those days especially, right after a major recession in our region of the country, a job was a job. It sometimes helps to accept the irony of your situation while banking the paycheck. You can always look for something else later.

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