Preparing our children for racism in the workplace

by Anti-Racist Parent columnist Mike Lee

My wife and I — we are both in the medical field — never really thought about the “glass ceiling” concept because we often see people of varied ethnicities in high positions in our field. However, my wife’s cousins, who are in the business field, recently reminded us that it is still there.

They raised the point that if you look at most major corporations, they are still predominantly run by older Caucasian men. Look at GM, Ford, Procter and Gamble, AIG, etc. I never really thought about it until they mentioned it to me. I just figured it was because these guys were really intelligent and just stood out among the rest. It was just coincidental that they also happened to all be Caucasian.

However, my wife brought up the topic with her friend whose husband is Asian American and a stock broker in New York. Her friend agreed that she too has noticed a “glass ceiling” at his firm, and that minorities are often given analyst/advisor positions, but upper managment is predominantly Caucasian. My wife’s cousin calls it the Old Boys Club, and said it’s really hard for people of color and women to become a part of it. I thought that there were laws on this stuff.

When I look at minority-run corporations, I now realize that many of them are start ups. In fact, I have recently read stories where some of these CEOs were frustrated at their former corporations because they were not being promoted and left to start their own companies. Then I found this article on how physically attractive people get better promotions and jobs, etc. but that’s a whole other issue.

The topic started to make me think about our future son and what challenges he will be going through when he enters the working world. I wonder if my wife’s friend, cousin, etc. are just being hypersensitive and there is no real “glass ceiling” anymore. I am wondering if it still exists in the medical field. My wife’s other friend who is a physician had the board at her hospital ask to consider changing her Asian first name so people would better recognize it.

I wonder if my future son will have to deal with this in the profession he chooses and what he will do about it. I wonder how to best prepare children in recognizing this racism that still exists in the work place, and how to confront it if they ever do? I don’t want my son to be ignorant and never reach his full potential because he is kept from achieving them.

Mike Lee currently works as a family practice physician. He was born in Korea but came to the U.S. after turning 1 year old and spent much of his life in Southern California. He blogs for Rice Daddies, and is very interested in the issue of dealing with the struggle for being anti-racist as both an individual and as a parent. He and his wife currently live in California.

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