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Black Opinions

Viewpoint: Silent Elimination

Dennis EdwardsBy Dennis Edwards
Editorial Page Columnist
New Journal and Guide

There’s absolutely no warning. In most cases the people involved never say a word. They simply observe certain behaviors, sometimes from a distance, then make a decision to eliminate, to not hire. What do they see that’s so undesirable? What is it about a potential job candidate, or possible spouse for that matter, that decision makers don’t want to deal with?

Could it be something they’ve heard? Possibly, but more likely it’s something they see for themselves. Is it something more subtle, more difficult to hide like attitude, rolling eyes, loud and confrontational talking, interrupting and cutting across those who are talking, drama, defensiveness, having to have the last word and/or a total disregard for the feelings and thoughts of others?

Not long ago during lunch at a major fast food restaurant something fascinating happened. The dining room area was packed with teenagers looking for a job. Managers checked everyone in. Had them sit together, left them to talk among themselves. Around the corner and off to the side several employees stood in specific spots watching the interaction.

Later, a manager came out to call a list of names. You couldn’t help but notice those called forward were among the loudest, and most disruptive in the group. There was a polite thank you for coming, a coupon for a free sandwich and a gentle notice their presence was no longer required.

Those who remained for full interviews were among the most polite, respectful and well mannered. The group sent home never really knew what hit them, may never have known their attitudes, rebellious spirits, loud talking and/or disrespect for each other cost them a job opportunity. Unfortunately, too many of the dismissed looked like you and me. What a shame!
Could it be the lesson woven into this story is that by allowing our children to talk back to mom and dad, re-negotiate discipline and responsibility, by tolerating disrespectful behavior and co-signing their “I’ve got to have my way” or last word behavior, we are setting them up for “Silent Elimination”?

Think about it. If your Boo gets away with talking back to you, why wouldn’t he talk back to his teacher? Stands to reason he’ll also talk back to his boss. If “baby girl” tells you off, what makes us think she won’t tell the wrong Assistant Principal off, the store manager who just won’t hire her or simply fire her as soon as possible.

Could something as simple as this cost them in their personal lives as well? Over the past few years I’ve shared several conversations with younger women and men with good jobs and careers. These are casual conversations mostly with Millenials and preceding generations about how they react to different groups of potential partners and spouses. Many don’t hesitate to say “I just don’t date” men or women who look like them. The almost unanimous quote is “I don’t want to deal with the drama.”

These kinds of truths don’t bode well for the health and well being of Black families or any others for that matter, do they? When asking the men whether they tell the women they meet how they feel and vice versa the answer is “no way!, I just don’t deal with them.”

There it is again “Silent Elimination” on the personal and professional levels. It appears to be the result of a domino effect starting with talking back to mom and dad, proceeds to talking back to teachers and administrators and ultimately leads to talking back to or otherwise disrespecting police officers and employers as well as potential life partners. At last check rebellion was supposed to be a phase in life not an acceptable way of life?

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Is it possible our sons and daughters are learning the wrong lessons from 3 to four generations of mothers or fathers in the same house still angry with the man or woman who didn’t stay? Have we honestly come to grips with all their reasons for leaving?

If our desire is to prepare our children for productive, independent and self sufficient lifestyles with the man or woman of their dreams, is it wise to encourage behavior that may guarantee a lifetime of loneliness as well as an unexpected return trip home?
Can we afford to set up our sons and daughters, no matter how adorable we think they are, for silent elimination because we want to be their friends and not their “clear and present” parents?

Dennis Edwards is an Emmy Award Winning Investigative Television Journalist who’s worked in Detroit, Baltimore, St. Louis, Richmond and as a Freelance Correspondent for CNN. He’s a graduate of Virginia Union University and its Samuel Dewitt Proctor School of Theology.

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