Move, Thinking Forward “Rethinking Transformation”

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This is a story of how I lost a job because I don’t believe in transformation, or so I thought. Now please before you become all judgmental, for the record — I will put it out there, I do believe in transformation, just a transformation of a different kind.

It was a typical day as another job interview have been pinned down in my diary. I never prepaid anything as opposed to back when I was a young graduate, not because I know my story but simply because I try to keep an open mind to these things. I did the basics though, like checking what the company does and all.

So I arrive at the interview place, creepy but sophisticated, non-New York style type of setting just how I prefer things to be. The interview proceeds and everything is going well so far until I got asked one question.

“So Nelson” the one guy said, leaning forward, I frowned for a moment as I sensed that a bomb will be thrown at me but tried to remain calm non the less. “Tell us, what’s your view on black consciousness, you know — the idea of holding the image of a black man or woman with high regard?”

Hebanna… I have never been asked such a thing especially on interviews for that matter, what on earth, even so how do you even prepare for such? Because even, their website does not have that corporate culture tab that may give you a hint.

Ok Shap.

“Well” I said. “First and far most I do believe that we are people and we first need to respect, treat and be compassionate towards one another, equally so irrespective of race, gender or culture. However, there are others who hold themselves mightier than others and that is human nature and such narrative has exposed them over time but even so, I still hold that respect needs to be an order of the day and each person should be treated equally” I think I was beginning to lose my mind there so I stopped.

“Hm Ok, interesting” The guy said.

“So now” — he continued “Let’s say you are sitting next to a white guy and he has all that you have on your CV except that he has one year extra experience, who you think, in your honest opinion — should we hire?” The guy asked.

Damn, this was an unfair question, I want a job and I have already exposed myself and I knew well where this was headed. Also note that I do not know what these guys subscribe to.

“Well, in such a given circumstance it is obvious that you should hire the white guy, he’s slightly more qualified for the job than I am” I said.

“Ok Nelson, we hear you” The guy concluded, as he is leaning back, he took a long stare at me. “You see Nelson” He went on. “The thing is, we here at this company are all up for black consciousness, we do believe we have to offer black people an opportunity to showcase themselves as they have been underprivileged for a long time and what you are telling me is that you believe in a rainbow nation, and all people are equal regardless and should be awarded equal opportunity — am I right?” He asked?

Damn. Well, this was not my response.

“Yes” I went.

“So given what you believe in don’t you now feel you will not be a fit to our culture? Because nelson, we are all up for transformation and you are not”

I nodded. “Yes, I do agree in that context you are putting it in, and unfortunately for me I also do agree I may not be a company fit but here is the thing”

Here, I wanted to ask the guy why would he want to hire me if there is a better candidate next to me? Again, another rainbow nation brainwashed type of a question you may say. Sure he is white, he is qualified, and why must I get the benefit of consideration because of transformation while I am unfit to handle the job that is at stake? Not that I have confidence issues but simply because in that context, his argument did not add up.

A mere fact that I was questioning this suggested that something was wrong, at least according to me and I tried to put it out there to the guy to maybe educate him a bit, imagine.

Sure I need a job and I am qualified, and lack here and there. But now, when you appoint someone on certain merits as opposed to him/her being fit for the task don’t you then run the risk of having your company going under? I mean let’s be honest, this is probably the reason why our government keeps failing us, not because there are no white people, simply because someone chose to overlook the “fitness” test and assumed all will be fine with all the unqualified people in senior positions — until maladministration happened, funds disappearing and contractors not getting paid.

Lack of service Delivery: Image M & G

This is not to say black people are unfit the run the government or anything. We must not twist theories to fit our morals just because we can. The moral of the story is, there are far more “clever”, smarter and competent black people who can lead the nation but they get excluded still.

The same goes with the situation I went through. Was he truly going to sacrifice having me at his company even if I can’t deliver? Maybe, but I will struggle, and so will he, for a lengthy period.

I went on and explained myself. Just so I feel better afterwards. I told him, you see, firstly there is a misconception, a fallacy, a delusion in the transformation thinking pattern and that misconception is breeding yet another generation of lazy, non-dedicated and driven individuals, who will always claim to be deserving of opportunities because of transformation and that’s just one. Look at fees must fall campaigns and tell me if you don’t see such a pattern of thinking.

Fees Must Fall Campaign, UJ Students. Image: The Citizen

Yes fees must fall but there are unnecessary demands being made as a result of such misconception.

Secondly, I believe in prosperity, or so I think, a fairy tale theory of prosperity I subscribe to which demands that if the lush fields of plenty grow fallow, we must not fight for dust remaining but instead, plant more seeds ourselves. To simplify this, this just means that if I am one year behind in experience, why must I sulk and cry that there is no transformation — instead of going and up skilling myself (planting a seed), and become slightly better or multi-skilled , whatever the case may be so that next time I won’t be stuck in the same situation. Why must I protest the reasons of my exclusions and not invest the energy in being a little more productive and becoming a better qualified candidate? Why protest fees must fall when we can engage on other modes of tuition funding and alternative schooling system? (A story for another day)

Meanwhile in my interview, I can tell, as I was explaining that the level of thought I was explaining was truly foreign so I stopped and wondered.

Is this how things will be? This is because in their minds they still hold that even if you are skilled, you still need someone to approve you, and give you that opportunity and a white guy may not give you because you are black, and probably because there is a better white dude somewhere out there. This could well be true as black people are doing it too in the name of transformation. Is it not Nepotism?

I know one thing though, if you see greatness in someone, their colour of the skin, race, culture and all of those will never matter. I personally have not met such a person who got shunned or deprived someone an opportunity solely because they were too skilled and slightly too black, I’d love to meet that person.

In the interview case I am the victim. I got shunned and deprived of an opportunity because I do believe I am skilled, slightly black and do not believe in ancient “Transformation” thinking forms. Talk about true BS.

Where do you even begin to fix transformation and the ever so breeding generation of entitlement driven mentality that is plaguing our sense of honour and duty as black people, where do you start?

It’s simple if you ask me. You need to look at yourself in the mirror long before you embark on any journey. It could be in wanting to be a president, going after a CEO or CFO position. You need to weigh the odds, can you truly deliver, and are you really worthy and deserving of what is being presented to you, despite of transformation. From where I see it, this means working ten times harder if you must to get that far because to be all sorts of honest, the system never favoured people of colour.

Whites Only Bench, South Africa. Image: CNN

This means not giving up on your dream because we grew up being fed that a black man can’t achieve anything remarkable.

This means rising every time you fall because the media always screams a black man’s failure and whisper their success.

Image: ENCA.COM

And that does not mean there won’t be black presidents, CEO’s, and CFO’s. It just means we will have more qualified, adequate and competent presidents, CEO’s and CFO’s.

We as black people owe ourselves that sense of self-reflection to avoid growing and breeding a generation that is filled with a sense of entitlement, even under circumstance that do not permit. We as black people I repeat, we owe ourselves a good sense of integrity, honor and respect if we are to be the true qualified, adequate and competent presidents, CEO’s and CFO’s.

And this is what I call transformation.

Let’s move, thinking forward.

Nelson Moropana

Jo’burg.