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Sunday, December 12, 2010

Gays-African Americans & Women (Part 2 of 3)

Gays - African Americans & Women..........

AFRICAN AMERICANS -

I've never been a fan of apoligists who say they are sorry for things they are unfamiliar with. Or people who preach about what they don't know. My next submission deals with a pretty tender topic. My point is to recoed observations and let you decided how you want it to effect the lives of your family and your community.

It is safe to say that Danny Klecko grew up pretty sheltered, I never saw anyone who wasn't white until I was 4. My ignorance was washed away when a garbage man pulled up to my Granddmothers house and a black guy was riding shot gun, he was the dude that would hang off the back of the truck and pop off at each stop,then he empty your can into the back, and then he'd hop back on and roll down to the next stop.

The guy was nice, he smiled and called me "Old Timer", and I can't tell you how good that made me feel, but as much as I was digging the moment, it took back seat to the fact that this guy looked like nobody I had ever seen before.

Sure I'd seen African Americans on TV, but I had also seen Bigfoot, and the Loch Ness Monster! I was so intrigued that I ran up to this guy and I reached out and carefully touched his arm. The guy laughed, but my Granddmother dragged me into the bathroom and made me wash my hands.

In 6th grade Wilson Stanford was the one and only African American in my elementry school, By 12th grade....I think Cooper High School had less than a dozen non white students.

So that's it, by the time I was a legal adult, I didn't have squat in terms of social diversity experience.

When I entered the Hospitality industry that changed dramatically. Remember, this was before the Food Network debuted. People didn't pay 5 digits a year to sling hash, bake bread or cook family dinners. If you worked in "The Show" chances are you were a drop out, an immigrate, out of prison or the armed forces. Basically you were somebody that respectable parents didn't want their children to be exposed too.

Baking was probably the last "Culinary Group" to become segregated. While minorities held jobs as line cooks, wait staff and hotels.....you never saw this practiced in bakeries. In most shops the "N" word was used as an adjective, and without flinching.

Most baking staff's were still last generation Euro's, much like myself.....a Pollack who remembered a childhood where the "Foreign Tongue" was just as common as English, when we tried to speak Polish, it usually produced a backhand or verbal thrashing at the least.We were to grow up American's and pursue the dream.

I've sat in rooms with management staffs of "respectable" companies and listened to "charge" people discuss what they referred to as The Black Strategy. If you have never worn a blue collar, you'd be shocked to know the hiring practices that took place. I remember working at one place where there was over 100 employees and the strategy (or more accurately - the running joke) was to hire 1 African American male, and he was made supervisor of the least impotant division of the company.With pride the manager said that that's all it would take to deflect Liberal's.

People dog on the Germans for remaining idle while the Jews were mistreated, but we (I) chose to not make waves, we chose to keep jobs that paid minimum wage over making a stand.When you worked in the Hospitality industry in the 80's there was no reason to have self esteem.

By the late 80's things started picking up for the African American baker. Most of the Old Euro's had either retired or died. The African American bakers took those jobs. In a 3 year span I worked with a group of black men that opened my eyes to how sick society can be when one group stands in the way of another.Not only did they teach me baking, but life lessons as well.

Jerome McDuffy may of had more impact on me than most. His life and mine were pretty much mirrored reflections of one another. Jerome trained me in at one place on Closing Ovens (this is basically a 6p.m. - 3 a.m. shift.)

This was a position up from working the bench, the hours sucked, and if the packers noticed something got omitted during the nights production, you had to stay late and make that as well, about once a week you'd get off around 7 a.m.

Jerome would be moving into a better position, so on the last night of my 1 week training he told me to be careful....the cops like to pull you over when this shift gets over. Jerome drove a Cadilac and estimated that he was pulled over between 20-30 times going home during that years.......and the white oven guys? Never.
Not even once.

*Sidenote - Jerome left after a few months and I didn't see him for around 10 years. My son was Co Captains with another kid named McDuffy on the 2010 Highland Scot's football team, sure enough....it was Jerome's son. when we saw each other in the bleachers and saw our sons running the squad together, we both smiled so big, I think we might of even hugged, and if you know Klecko....he's not a hug guy.
The Scots ended up winning the Twin Cities title game, both kids were All Conference. McDuffy's kid was Offensive player of the year, and my kid what the Highland Park Male Athlete of 2010.

At the begining of the 90's was when the Hispanic bakers entered the industry and drove out the African Americans, but the "Illegal Aliens" post will have to wait for another day.

I wish this post had a happy ending, or even constructive solution, but I am not the one to offer it. I've seen all to often how many times the African Americans are not afforded equal oppurtunites in the work place. It seems like everytime their community gains the slightest traction.......People outside of their community offer up justifications and excuses.

Not that it means anything....but Danny Klecko wants to be on the record for saying he pays tribute to the African American bakers, they are a noble-noble group of men and women.

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