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toward EQUALITY : EXPLORING A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE : Looking for Work

February 13, 1989|BOB STEWART | Times Staff Writer and Keeping a job or finding one can be difficult for everyone, but it becomes especially hard when you are evaluated on aspects other than your ability to do the work. Times staff writer Bob Stewart talked with these five job-seekers

CARLOS DELGADO

"Discrimination is everywhere you go.

"It's a way of life in this country . . . the way people talk to you, the way people react when you ask questions or when you make a mistake.

"They look at you like, 'Oh, you damn foreigner. You don't know what you're doing,' even though everybody makes mistakes."

Carlos Delgado is a citizen of the United States. Born in El Salvador, he has lived and worked in this country for 17 of his 36 years and for two of them served in the U.S. Army.

He is well-dressed and well-spoken, an accountant by trade, who this chilly December morning is sitting in a chair in the Hollywood office of the state Department of Employment Development. Delgado is seeking temporary employment to fill a gap between assignments from the agency for which he usually works.

"I also lived in other countries. I lived in France. I lived in Germany, England. It's not as bad there as in the United States. I don't know why. But I guess the rhythm of living in this country makes people act a different way."

THEOPEHILUS DEAN

"I was doing some janitor work. The supervisor was Hispanic, and there was three or four blacks who worked there at the time. I noticed he used to make the black people work a little harder than the people of his race. They could go back and lounge around and stuff, and he would try to make us do all the strenuous work. . . .

"I quit after about a week. The supervisor kept complaining about the work that we did and there were only three blacks that worked there. And as far as I know the work that I did, everything was completed. . . . I know the work was good. But he always had complaints." Theopehilus Dean is 21. He wants to make a living playing the drums. But he knows the odds of doing that are long. So he scans the job listings at the South Avalon Boulevard employment office as he explains how he learned that racial prejudice is not restricted to blacks and whites.

FRANCES WESSON

"I was working at this place in Carson. it was called. . . . Dang, what was the name of it? I can't remember. It was a packing company, packing screws and parts for airplanes and stuff like that. The majority of them was Mexicans, and I was the only black there."

Frances Wesson, 24, a school bus driver, is collecting her unemployment check for the two-week Christmas holiday at the employment office at South Avalon Boulevard and 127th Street. A big woman who smiles easily, Wesson recalled that the woman who hired her at the packing company treated her fairly.

"Her name was Julia, and she really liked me and she had got me on. I started working, and she went on vacation. And then everything got hectic because the boss's wife had came back and started taking over.

"She would just find little things that I did wrong, you know, and make up things on me. She was white, OK. She lived in Palos Verdes and stuff, so you know how that is. I could tell she didn't like me. And so a couple of days later (the boss) called me in the office and said, 'I'm sorry Frances. We're going to have to let you go because too many shipments have been coming up wrong,' or something like that.

"But I didn't believe that was true. She didn't want me there. When Julia left, when my supervisor went on vacation, that's when they thought to get rid of me. . . . If you go in there now, you wouldn't even see a black person in there."

PATTI YASUTAKE

"I'm an actress, so it's tough because you're selling your face. You're selling your type."

Patti Yasutake said the pattern of discrimination against women and minorities in the acting profession is a difficult one to track. Is there a dearth of good parts because casting directors are prejudiced, because writers are not encouraged to build the parts into their scripts, or because studio and network executives do not believe that ethnic diversity will pay off at the box office?

At the Hollywood employment office, Yasutake, bundled up against the December chill in a fashionably oversized overcoat, waits to check in with an official who wants to know if she has been making proper progress in her search for work.

"You need the writers and producers. . . . So it carries over to those professions where there aren't enough of us in those positions either. . . .

"And what do you do when the powers that be, who control production and fund all that sort of thing, don't necessarily think that's what's going to sell their product. It's a business to them, and so they're looking at numbers. They're looking at the greatest return on their investment. . . . It becomes a very complex situation."

JEFFREY DAWKINS

Jeffrey Dawkins, a young black man from the East Coast, has spent nine months unsuccessfully trying to find work as a manager of a medical laboratory, the field in which he was trained and has experience. As he waits in line in the Hollywood unemployment office, neatly dressed in stone-washed gray denims, Dawkins said that not all prejudice focuses on race, sex or national origin.

"Believe it or not, I've been discriminated against in the business world for my being young and being from New York. . . . I was a coordinator for medical labs, three labs in New York City. And in my search for employment and dropping off my resumes at jobs which are applicable to what I've done, I've noticed a frown, instantly, the moment I say New York.

"I couldn't say that it's due to my race. Being young, 24, and from New York, it really raises an eyebrow. I know some (prospective employers) who say, 'We need someone who knows more about the laws here in California.' But I have been taking a few courses on my own to find out the differences, and there isn't that much difference."

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