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Employment Discrimination in Pasadena – Two Steps Backward

I am a veteran of the civil rights struggles of the 60s, 70s, and beyond. I was one of the founders of the Black Student Union at Pepperdine University before I graduated in 1968. That was the year that Dr. King was killed fighting for the rights for Black sanitation workers to be treated fairly in Memphis, TN. Then, I was hired by the Girl Scouts (Los Angeles Council) to develop programs to recruit Black, Brown, and adult leaders and kids into the Scouts. Later, in the early 70s, I was employed in the EEO (Equal Employment Opportunity) and Affirmative Action office of Hughes Aircraft. Since becoming a lawyer, more than 30 years ago (1982), I have included in my law practice criminal Law, personal injury and represented employees in suing companies who practice employment discrimination.

I can spot discrimination in the blink of an eye. In addition to my specializing in anti-discrimination activities in the law, I am a Black man over seventy, in good health, and I can also spot fairness and unfairness when I see it. Like a Supreme Court Justice once said, "I may not be able to describe pornography, but I know it when I see it." Last week I saw what looked like discrimination to me at CHAPS (the Community Health Alliance Program) on North Fair Oaks Avenue in Pasadena.

My day was planned to be an exciting event to visit and write about Pasadena's new dental clinic, the Michael D. Antonovich Dental Clinic, and the diversity that seemed to exist with the staffing. Dr. Eric Walsh and Dr. Melanie Washington's picture were featured on our cover last week (May 2, 2013) and we were happy to see this dynamic duo working as professionals in the medical field. We have Supervisor Antonovich and the city of Pasadena to thank for expanding health services in Pasadena.

The euphoria was dampened when it became obvious that the Journal had made a mistake, thinking the new dental clinic was a program of CHAPS. It was not. We have learned that CHAPS has a dental clinic and this one is under the Pasadena Health Department. We also published the CHAPS telephone number instead of the City Dental Clinic's number. The correct information was printed when we published the grand opening in a previous issue of the paper on April 25, 2013. On Friday, May 3, I went over to the new dental offices, located near the CHAPS office. The office was closed, but the CHAPS offices were open. Upon entering CHAPS, I observed that CHAPS had no visible African Americans on their staff.

I tried out something I learned from my mother. I asked a clerk 'did they hire Blacks at CHAPS.' She said, "We don't hire Mexicans only." I said, "That is not what I asked. I asked if you hired Blacks because I don't see any Blacks working there." She said, "We hire everybody else, but no, we don't hire any Blacks." I repeated, "YOU DON"T HIRE ANY BLACKS." In fact, at that point I said in Spanish, "Negros?" She repeated, "No".

I recognize discrimination when I see it, and I was staring it in the face. CHAPS grew out of a project created by The Black Male Forum, and now there were no Blacks working there. It is my understanding that there are a couple of Black doctors who work there, but where are the clerks, nurses, technicians or even janitors? I called the director, Margie Martinez, but by press time, she had not returned my call. Then I called the Pasadena NAACP and left a message. This issue needs to be addressed by some action, negotiation, or court class action lawsuit. Blacks have made progress, but things like this indicate that we are stepping backwards.

African Americans fought to open doors for Blacks and Browns, and anyone discriminated against, and we shouldn't stand by and suffer silently while those who went through the opened doors discriminate against us. While I am on the subject, I recently learned that El Centro De Accion received a grant to help ex-gang offenders. They hired one African American and then fired him one month later. What is that about, Mr. Ertell? Did you get the funds for only Mexican ex-gang offenders? You want us to participate in the annual march against crime but then act by discriminating.

In a CBS 60 Minutes program, they told about a city's attempt to fight gang violence. The gang violence was about young Black men in the underground economy of the drug trade. An organization of millionaires, called Robin Hood, raised millions of dollars to get kids into charter schools and provide them other opportunities they didn't get because they were poor.

The Robin Hood organization realized, after spending a great deal of money, there was less than satisfactory progress. Upon analysis of the program they realized the lack of success was because they started too late with the young people. They discovered that in order to maximize results in learning, they should have started them when they were very young, not after they were teenagers. Even with this knowledge, the government, responding to Republican pressure, is closing down Headstart and other early education programs. The results are, sadly, predictable. Without the early learning opportunities, they will continue building more prisons. The radical extremist Republican conservatives win, and America loses millions of young Black American people to prisons.

I have only one thing to say: "SOMEBODY NEEDS TO DO SOMETHING!"

Programs need to hire people to provide services for everyone in the community. The staff should be as diverse as the community they serve. I received a letter from an African American senior citizen who felt she was discriminated against, when she visited CHAPS.

I called CHAPS and spoke to Margie Martinez, the Executive Director, who informed me they had numerous Black employees who are not visible because they "work in the back."

CHAPS and El Centro can take a lesson in diversity from Robin's Restaurant in east Pasadena. My wife and I went out to buy some barbeque on Saturday evening and landed at Robin's (see their ad in this paper). You want to see diversity in hiring? Go to Robin's. I count an integrated staff right up there with doing the Lords work. Get some good food while you're there.

CHAPS and El Centro should take their staffs to Robin's. Besides being good food and a lesson in diversity, it's cheaper than having to fight a charge of discrimination.



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