Sunday, September 4, 2011

Unequal Opportunity Employment

I live in Miami, a place jokingly referred to in the streets as another country. The joke goes on to say that in order to visit you need a passport. It is obvious Hispanic culture, namely Cuban culture, influences everything in Miami from politics to street signs to food to radio stations (I dare you to find even 10 English speaking ones on the whole FM spectrum, forget on the AM track). But, now, sadly, the one thread that use to hold Miami on to the tip of Florida has severed-- the ability to find non-bilingual (READ: Spanish)-required jobs. Even sales jobs.

And Assistant Deli Manager positions at a local grocery store.
And bank financial advisors.
And Legal Assistants (the Spanish requirement was mentioned 3x in this job posting).
Sigh. What's a non-Hispanic American-born college-educated student-loan-owing woman to do? Teach? Pssshaw...I'm willing to bet $20 (if I had it) that the bilingual (READ: Spanish) requirement is coming down the pipeline for that job too. Besides I'm already doing that. I may not be underemployed like these people but I'm definitely undervalued. I need something that pays me closer to what I'm worth, something that doesn't feel like going to work or, at least, doesn't leave me feeling financially stressed/stretched.

I received a degree from an accredited four-year institution (the same one as this guy, who makes a TON more money than me) just like other degreed professionals. I've been working since I was 17 so I've got 15 years of experience in the work force. I've got the IQd chops to hack it as a scientist, a medical professional, or a lawyer but, while I was in school, creativity warred with common sense and I ended up with an English Creative Writing degree.

And, yet, my sister, who hasn't even completed her associates degree, makes about $5,000 more than me. Her raises do not consist of just a couple of hundred a year like mine (if the public allows teachers to get a raise). Her job is not stagnant like mine. Hers allows for growth both financially and mentally.

My brother worked his same job for 4 years and just got a promotion and a leap in pay in the tens of thousands. He started out making the same as me before he finished his baccalaureate degree. The next step for a teacher is to become an assistant principal then a principal. No thank you. I'm thoroughly through with education, hence, the reason for my job search.

Still, English is versatile enough that teaching isn't my only option. That is, if I didn't live in Miami.

And I can't help but feel frustration and a growing sense of resentment as I peruse the jobs on EmployFlorida, jobs (not the ones I posted) for which I would be more than qualified if not for the bilingual requirement. And it sucks. What sucks? That I'm not Hispanic? No. That's not what sucks. What sucks is American education, the idea that we are superior to everyone else in the world, therefore, we do not need to spend the money or time educating our youth in a foreign language (READ: Spanish...or French or German or Chinese (Mandarin/Cantonese) or Japanese) to the point of fluency. We don't need to make our young citizens competitive candidates for employment in the land of their birth. This is America, right?

Yes, it is. But it's also the land of PC notions, the land that refuses to make English its national language because of misplaced ideas about the constitutionality of a country declaring a unified language. And it is also the Land of Opportunity. What happens is the very people who seek out the Land of Opportunity make that land live up to the name, creating and seizing opportunities, making, baking, then slicing out their share of the American pie.

And we regular non-Hispanic American-born & raised-English speakers are left with the feeling of being neglected through our own making. We, as a people. refuse to shoulder the responsibility of educating the future, of preparing our children to fight for their own slice of the American Dream. The job market is tough enough without feeling wrongfully disadvantaged for being a native of this country. America has forgotten its own. It has turned a blind eye to the bilingual (READ: Spanish)-required job postings, which, in a way, weed the non-Hispanic members of American society out of the potential applicant job pool. And there is no equal opportunity in that.

**Additional note: Interestingly, a day after I wrote this blog, this very same issue showed up in the Miami Herald in an article written by Jon Silman. Read it here.


"At interviews, he was told he was overqualified, and if not that, then not bilingual, which is in Wallace’s opinion a Miami requirement.

“African Americans have a particular issue with employment -- or anyone who’s not bilingual -- for employers who have a preference for Spanish,” Wallace said." **

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