One would think, given the ingrained history of discrimination and prejudice Blacks have had to endure in America, that all Black employers and supervisors would be committed to ensuring that discrimination is not present in critical areas and dimensions of their organizations. While Black employers and supervisors should not be held accountable for eliminating deep discriminatory views and mindsets of their employees, they should not be the ones guilty of discriminating against anyone. They should also not be guilty of allowing others within their organizations, especially those who hold leadership positions, to discriminate against people. If you are Black and fortunate enough to earn an opportunity to lead an organization and/or hold a supervisory position within an organization, you have a solemn responsibility to make sure that you are not promoting and/or engaging in the same discriminatory thought and actions that have hindered Black people since the day they arrived in this country.
Unfortunately, too many Black employers and supervisors are afraid of hiring highly qualified Black applicants because they view them as threats. They see highly qualified Black applicants as threats who could take their positions and/or learn something while in the organization that can enable them to not only do what they do but also do what they do better. For those Black employers and supervisors who are guilty of this type of discriminatory thought and actions, they have allowed themselves to fall prey to the damaging bondage of psychic slavery.
During slavery, racist White people employed a strategy of “divide and conquer.” The “divide and conquer” strategy was a coordinated and systematic attempt to have Black people to fight against one another rather than against their true oppressors, racist Whites. By giving certain slaves certain privileges, this engendered a jealousy, envy, and division among many of the slaves. Many slaves would be against other slaves because they saw them as threats to the privileges their racist White oppressors granted them. This same phenomenon exists in the postmodern epoch. The “privileges” granted to certain slaves over others slaves have been replaced today by the opportunities that certain Black people have been given to lead and supervise organizations.
Many Black employers fear hiring highly qualified and independent thinking applicants because they have a warped view that any Black person you hire is a reflection of them, the race, and ultimately on the worth of the organization. Many Black supervisors experience a great sense of inferiority when they are supervising Black people who have better credentials than they have. As means of not having to deal with these highly qualified Black applicants, many Black employers and supervisors are doing everything they can to not hire them and keep them out of their organizations. They suffer from such serious self-esteem problems that cause them to view people from their own racial group as threats. These highly qualified applicants are not trying to take their positions—they are simply seeking to gain employment. Some of these Black employers and supervisors feel like some powerful White people are going to come and take away their positions when it is discovered that there are more qualified Black employees than them in their organizations.
Many Black leaders in multifarious organizations need to stop discriminating against their Black employees and Black applicants. Psychic slavery is a real phenomenon that affects many Black leaders of organizations today. They are a part of the problem why Black people as a whole are not advancing at higher levels. Although the majority of the discrimination and racism that Black people suffer from today emerges from Whites, we, Black people, have to deal with the discrimination and racism that is within our own community too. In no way does this article attempt to suggest that discrimination and racism within the Black community is greater than the discrimination and racism that emerges from members of the dominant culture. This article does contend that within the Black community we do have a strong presence of these phenomena that we have to fight against just as stalwartly as we do when we fight against them when they occur from members of the dominant culture.
You need to be careful because some of the greatest threats to Black progression in the postmodern epoch lie within our own community.
Antonio Maurice Daniels
University of Wisconsin-Madison