Column: County’s ‘Affirmative’ Plan to Hire Minorities Reads Negative
It was on March 18, 1969, that the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors ordered that more Chicanos, blacks and members of other racial minorities be placed on the county payroll so as to give them a more meaningful participation in our county government.
With great fanfare the commitment was baptized the Affirmative Action Program.
In December of that year Herb Carter, executive director of the Los Angeles County Human Relations Commission, warned the 14th annual county management conference against hypocrisy.
”... Even as we talk about an Affirmative Action Program,” Carter told the county executives, "(past experience) has caused me to view with a great deal of skepticism that a sign hanging on the door or a note printed on the bottom of a county bulletin really means what it says ...”
When the county made its great commitment the situation was this: though Spanish surname people make up 13% of the county population Spanish surname people make up only 4.7% of county employment, too many of these jobs in the menial category.
Today, the situation is almost identical. Some say it has worsened.
Not much has been said about this because few in county government wanted to rock the boat while the past election was at stake and while the job of L.S. Hollinger, county chief administrative officer, who has decided to resign, is up for grabs.
As a result little information has been made available to such agencies as Carter’s Human Relations Commission on the progress or lack of progress of the county’s Affirmative Action Program.
A check with the county’s personnel office indicated that a report on the Affirmative Action Program would be available sometime in September. However, no one in that office is optimistic that the report will show meaningful gains.
“It’s hard to change a system,” said a weary county bureaucrat.
That perhaps is the crux of the matter. We’re all for doing right but few of us are willing to take the painful necessary steps.
Instead, it appears, we conduct a new survey.
One of the newest is a “racial distribution survey” which went to college placement counselors.
“As Placement Director,” asks the survey form, “how do you feel the County of Los Angeles could maximize recruitment of minority people?”
With the simplicity of one who has broken away from the gobbledy gook of reform language, Joyce Gomez, a placement counselor for Cal State Los Angeles answers:
“Do away with your white middle class exams which are completely irrelevant to jobs minorities seek and very discriminatory.”
Miss Gomez contends, for instance, that there are many minority sociology college majors who could do a good job for the county but have been unable to get jobs because “they were not able to prove their mental” agility “in vocabulary and number progression which are alien in their elementary and secondary educational background.”
Miss Gomez claims that the county turns away many “sharp, highly intelligence and concerned” minority people because white middle class exams make them look unqualified.
The county’s insensitivity does not end with the way it deals with minority sociology graduates.
Recently, the county department of beaches sent out questionnaires to try to determine why Los Angeles could not recruit more black lifeguards.
“In the Southern California area,” reveals the county letter accompanying the questionnaire, “few black swimmers, if any, reach the finals in any top high school or college league. We are also unable to find a black water polo player participating on a top high school or college team. Even when looking toward the national A.A.U. and N.C.A.A. swimming and water polo teams, and the United States Pan American and Olympic water polo and swimming teams, we do not find blacks. Why is this? Yet, black athletes in other fields of competition are certainly outstanding.”
Has it not occurred to the director of beaches and the lieutenant of lifeguards, who sent out the questionnaire, that ghetto alleys might be a good training ground for boxers but not for aquatic sports?
In trying to determine why more blacks do not participate in aquatic sports the county questionnaire asks the question:
“The lack of blacks in competitive aquatic sports is due to:
I. Physical (external)
II. Physiological (internal)
—1. Bone structure
Oh, come on.
Then the questionnaire asks whether maybe the lack of black swimmers is due to muscle tissue. Is it heavy? light? other? Or maybe it’s due to buoyancy. Is it positive? Negative? Or muscles? Long? Short? Other? Or maybe blood. Thick? Thin? Other?
As of now it does not look like the September report on the county’s Affirmative Action Program is going to be revealing. It will probably say the obvious: that the county is as unsuccessful as ever in recruiting racial minorities. But the message will really be that the county is not willing to change the system.
The view from Sacramento
For reporting and exclusive analysis from bureau chief John Myers, get our California Politics newsletter.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.