Saturday, November 05, 2005

A Voice

Sincerest apologies to the few of you who pay me nearly daily visits for a read ... I've just started a new job you see--teaching--and have had only enough time to myself to maybe get a little extra sleep in, smoke one or two cigarettes and, if I'm very lucky, peruse a couple of pages of this.

That being said, I have about fifteen minutes for you on an absurdly busy Saturday. So this'll be relatively short, I'm afraid. And it'll have to suffice for a little while ... But rest assured that I love you, darlings, and think of you often.

As I say, I've recently been hired by the York Region District School Board--at the school of a dear friend, who managed to pull a few strings to get me in. In spite, I should say, of an appallingly bad interview. Indeed, it might amuse you to know that this farce began, much to the amusement of nearby teenagers, with me frantically trying to get a load of dog buns off my shoe in the school parking lot five minutes before what was to be that sweating, burbling blushfest. To offset this ill-omen, later on that day a bird excreted on my face (directly between my eyes) as my wife and I were taking a casual stroll down Roncesvalles ... Not a word of a lie.

Anyway, so I'm with York Region now, but was, I should say, also eligible to hire with the Toronto District School Board. I make mention of this because, as a consequence of being on this 'eligible' list, the strangest and most unsettling thing happened to me last Friday. I'd just finished an end-of-the-week celebratory kip, and was dazedly stumbling about the apartment trying to think of what bit of business I should attend to first, when the phone rang:

EMG: Hello?

Voice: Hello. EMG?

EMG: Yes, speaking.

Voice: Oh, hello. This is Ms. Cindy X, Principle of Y Collegiate Institute. How are you?

EMG: Very well, and yourself?

Voice: Well, thank you. Well. EMG, I'm calling to see if you would be interested in a full time English position that's recently come open here at Y Collegiate.

EMG: Oh, I'm very sorry, but I've just accepted a Long Term Occasional with the York Board. I've just finished my first week.

Voice: Oh, I see.

EMG: Yes.

Voice: But it's an LTO, you said?

EMG: Yes.

Voice: But I'm offering you a contract position.

EMG: Yes, of course. I appreciate that, and normally would leap at the opportunity. Only, you see, a friend went to a great deal of trouble to get me the job, and it would be putting him in a very awkward position were I to back out now.

Voice: Well, I understand that, EMG, but you are entitled to give preference to contract positions.

EMG: Which, like I say, I would--only there are these extenuating circumstances I mention.

Voice: Right. Well, we really need someone and ... Well, this might sound unprofessional, but ... You're black, aren't you?

A short beat.

EMG: Um ... No ... I'm not.

A short beat.

Voice: Oh.

EMG: Yeah. No.

Voice: (fumbling) Well, of course, that wouldn't have affected anything, I, uh ... I just thought that perhaps we had met before.

EMG: No, no--we haven't.

The conversation went on in this, now, incredibly awkward vein for a little bit longer, and ended with polite well-wishing on both sides. I--very foolishly--felt awful for her; and she, in what little defense can possibly be given her, was for her own part very clearly embarrassed.

Time restraints prevent me from anything like the attention this terrifying episode deserves. I can only wonder: in the last, say, 40 years, do you think "you're white, aren't you?" has ever been asked in a job interview--let alone, in the phone call prior to a job interview? Angry in the Great White North has spent some time discussing the very real dangers associated with the new movement pushing so-called Afrocentric learning (I give the links in the footnote to this post), and I myself (in the same post) have given some attention to the proposals now being entertained by the TDSB for "black only" schools ... But who could've known that all this pseudo-academic racializing should've penetrated so deep the simple minds of the-powers-that-be as to affect the very hiring practices of a public school board?

What was all this supposed to mean, I wonder:
I look forward confidently to the day when all who work for a living will be one with no thought to their separateness as Negroes, Jews, Italians or any other distinctions. This will be the day when we bring into full realization the American dream -- a dream yet unfulfilled. A dream of equality of opportunity, of privilege and property widely distributed; a dream of a land where men will not take necessities from the many to give luxuries to the few; a dream of a land where men will not argue that the color of a man's skin determines the content of his character; a dream of a nation where all our gifts and resources are held not for ourselves alone, but as instruments of service for the rest of humanity; the dream of a country where every man will respect the dignity and worth of the human personality.
He spins in his grave.