& Publisher's Notes
Wong is wrong on Blacks in Houston city jobs
by Chido Nwangwu
Houston City Councilwoman Martha Wong's double-speak apology, given Wednesday July 1, 1998 over her misleading quota-based and statistically-skewed arguments against Blacks employed in Houston's Health and Human services department, fails woefully to remedy her gross insensitivity towards promoting racial harmony in Houston. Her damage-control, illogical, non-apology that went thus: "I'm sorry if my views APPEAR TO YOU to be insensitive", in my view, compounds her demeaning views about Blacks.
For those who missed the original Houston Chronicle report, the 59-year old proto-conservative and second-generation Chinese-American, wrote an ill-advised letter to Houston Mayor Lee Brown protesting that too many African-Americans were employed in the agency to the disadvantage of Asians and Hispanics.
Six major issues need to be addressed on Wong's crass distortion of employment opportunities and access in this city.
First, her letter reveals a hypocrisy and inconsistency on the principle of employing people based on qualifications. In a shameless twist, Wong, who was busy last November fighting the determination of Houstonians to have an affirmative and fair access and representation for all, is now arguing for more ethnic representation for her folks. Apparently the choristers, choirmasters and supporting cast singing the moonshine song of a "color-blind society" (whatever that means), change their discordant tune with every turn of the page.
Second, Wong's crass and divisive approach of race-baiting, pitting blacks against Asians and Hispanics, is intended to sustain her claim that Asians in Houston lack employment opportunities and leverage. However, her letter to the mayor failed to cite any qualified Asian who was denied employment at the city's health department.
Third, Ms. Wong cannot have it both ways. Her claims of denial of access by this city against Asian-Americans is ridiculous and contradicts what she said in the international AsianWeek magazine of November 13 - 19, 1997. My records show her as stating " Now we have Asians serving on major boards now--the metro board, the University of Houston board of regents, the sports authority. So we're now in what I'd call major decision-making positions. We're at the table, and that's what it's all about." Great; so what's her fuss and tiff about Black employment in a city agency amounting to a loss for Asian-Americans? Or is Wong's partisan and obviously petty agenda enough justification for her to commence another open season on Blacks and the employment issue?
Fourth, Wong is the least qualified person to raise a grouse about Blacks employed in government. She does not even practice what she is challenging this city to do better. Wong will not tell us how many Africans, African-Americans and Caribbeans are on her staff.
Fifth, whenever she wakes up to to appreciate the fairness of Houstonians to Asians here, she will truly be embarrassed for diminishing the relatively excellent work Houstonians have done to work multi-ethnic coalitions. If she had done her bean-counting accurately she and her patrons such as University of Houston's Prof. Chen, another confused Asian-American foe of affirmative action, could have concluded that Asians in Houston are enjoying a disproportionate "share" of this city's professional contracts. Why? Asians constitute less than 4% of the population of this city while African-Americans, Caribbean-Americans and continental Africans (collectively referred to as Blacks) in Houston are close to 35%. Interestingly, Blacks in Houston have never raised the issue of Asian-Americans getting over 17% of the professional contracts to only 19.5% for the entire Black communities.
Sixth, Wong's anti-Black and divisive distortions are rooted in a foolish and wrong assumption that African-Americans' gains equal Asian-Americans' loss. It is not and need not be so! Hence, Ms. Wong's political arithmetic of divisive powerplay against Blacks dramatizes her failure to understand that although all politics is local, it is, at its core, ennobled and empowered through addition rather than subtraction. One day, soon, she will need Black support. It should benefit her to emulate key Asian-Americans in our city such as MetroBank chairman Don Wang and Lutfi Hassan (both of whom I had the privilege of serving with on Mayor Lee Brown's Transition team). Both men have a record of 10 years of consistently promoting shared economic opportunities and coalitions with Blacks, and others.
With her distorted and slanted perception of the history of the painful quest of African-Americans to be even considered for any form of employment in many parts of the U.S., Wong may not be positively disposed to create a fair-minded atmosphere and legislations affecting "people like me" here. Therefore, while she fails in her civic obligation to foster understanding and to encourage less privileged persons to join in gainful employment rather than become economic outcasts in their own country, her attitude will drive away some businesses.
Finally, it is important Houston Mayor Lee Brown, an African-American, and its council send a clear message, as it did against Lenoria Walker, by denouncing Wong's earlier statement and latest non-apology. Howard Jefferson, NAACP president (Houston chapter) rightfully led the way by denouncing as "reprehensible and insensitive" Wong's comments despite the idiotic drivel some fellows are spewing to insult our community leaders. You wonder where is the outrage from the other non-Black community and civil rights leaders on Wong's ill-thought statement.
I believe that Ms. Wong should, instead of creating division and rancor, THANK Houstonians for all the opportunities for economic and emotional well-being it has offered her constituents. In terms of heritage and cultural roots, recall that she represents the only ethnic community in Houston with street signs in their native language.
While pursuing the goals of Asian-American empowerment, Ms. Wong should also protect and serve all Houstonians. Obviously, Ms. Wong seems incapable of doing so at this time. A suggestion to our dear councilwoman: if you cannot serve all Houstonians fairly, equally and without prejudice, do not isolate and disparage professional men and women of African-American descent who (among other people) pay your salary and support your privileges through their taxes and daily labors.
Nwangwu, member of the board of the NAACP, Houston chapter, is founder and publisher of the first all-business and financial information newspaper here in the U.S., The Black Business Journal, bbjonline.com and USAfricaonline.com. He is winner of The HABJ 1997 Journalism Excellence Award