Two Keishas and Progress

LaDawn LBJ Jones and Keisha Knight Pullam on TvOne’s Roland Martin morning show October 2017.

The winner of today’s run-offs for the two top positions in Fulton County and the City of Atlanta is [drum roll] Rudy Huxtable from The Cosby Show.  Rudy, whose real name is Keshia Knight Pulliam made the name Keshia cool.  Now we have two women with “ethnic” names who are one vote away from holding the power center of the State of Georgia.   Who cares? Well people like me with a very 1980’s, name like “LaDawn” “LaShawn” or “LaQuanta.”  I’m proud of my name with the capital letter.  I am also excited because just like the 1980’s and 90’s, Keisha, Kesha, Keysha, and Kyesha are making America great again.

There was a 2003 study organized by the National Bureau of Economic Research.  The title of the study was coincidentally, “Are Emily and Greg more employable than Lakisha and Jamal? ”   The study conducted by two economists, Marianne Bertrand and Sendhil Mullainathan, examined bias in the job market and exposed one of the facets of systemic racism.  Using responses from 1,300 job ads using 5000 different resumes, the study showed, “resumes with white-sounding names spurred 50 percent more callbacks than the ones with black-sounding names.”  Wikipedia defines “systemic racism” as a type of institutional racism that can be distinguished from racial bigotry because it is made up of policies, practices and economic and political structures which place minority groups at a disadvantage in relation to an institution’s majority.  The study concluded that “These results suggest that racial discrimination is still a prominent feature of the labor market.”

Elections are a little different than corporate hiring practices.  In fact, elections are more important than corporations as it relates to progressing away from race based biases.  Former State Representative Keisha Waites is running against former Commissioner Rob Pitts for Fulton County Commission Chair.  Councilwoman Keisha Lance-Bottoms is in the run-off with Councilwoman Mary Norwood to be the next Mayor of Atlanta.   For months we have looked at thousands of yard signs and dozens of ads for Keisha!

Whether these women win or lose, this election of Keisha and Keisha has solidified Kyshia as household name in the metro area.  I am hopeful we are one step closer to making sure Keisha and Becky both get judged by the content of their resume, body of work and general character.  Now employers must consider that passing on Keisha when looking at a resume means you could be passing on a future community leader.

It took thirty years to see the effects of Kesha Knight Pulliam’s name helping to make Keishas everywhere palatable, normal, accepted for voters.  At this time I do not know if we have progressed since the 2003 study. If so, that is small progress to be celebrated.  If not, it is almost 2018 and we have to do our part to make sure Keisha, Muhammed, Ezra, and Juan will get the same opportunities as Cindy.

This post is dedicated to State Representative Sam Teasley (R).  While talking through a social justice issue with Representative Teasley, he commented on the need to acknowledge progress because it puts the call to make a change into proper perspective.

In the time it took you to read this, you could have voted – GO VOTE TODAY!


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