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The Other Side of the Tracks blog by Word Press

Watch Who You Call Qualified

A Socially Speaking Commentary from Perry Redd

A Socially Speaking Commentary from Perry Redd

The Other Side of the Tracks: A Socially Speaking commentary by Perry Redd


Since the current news cycle is going bonkers over the NSA leak scandal, I have to put it in an Other Side of the Tracks perspective.  I’ll justly focus on our chief spy agency, the NSA, and their hiring of Ed Snowden, the professed leaker of sensitive secrets about America’s denial of phone tapping and internet spying on its own people.

The individual responsible for one of the most significant leaks in US political history is Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old former technical assistant for the CIA and current employee of the defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton. Snowden has been working at the National Security Agency for the last four years as an employee of various outside contractors, including Booz Allen and Dell.

Now, though I could focus on the substance of the leaks or something as mundane as where he attended middle school, I want to zero in on an issue that you won’t hear touched by your trusted media: Mr. Snowden’s qualifications.  I have to contxtualize it terms of America’s sordid legacy of white privilege and roadblocks to opportunities.

The NSA arguably has among them the smartest people, not only in the room, but in the country.  These smart people decided to contract with companies that also hire the smartest people in the country.  These same smart people decided to hire a wiry, young, renegade—who dropped out of high school.  Now, I have nothing against hiring high school dropouts.  Some have proven to change the course of American history and commerce, yet America’s standard for achieving success has been, at the least, a high school diploma.  All of a sudden, I see the rules have changed.

Only 7 of 10 ninth graders today will get high school diplomas. A decade after the No Child Left Behind law mandated efforts to reduce the racial gap, about 80 percent of white and Asian students graduate from high school, compared with only 55 percent of blacks and Hispanics.  With those facts in mind, how do high school dropouts get super-sensitive, high-paying spy agency jobs?

We’ve been taught that standardized testing, like SAT’s and ACT’s set the bar—and are the bar—to getting a good job later down the road.  Now I see a white male with no high-achieving skill sets—beside being a computer geek—get a $122k-a-year job.  This only got exposed because a government contractor (welfare recipient) hired someone with a conscience.

More to my point, how many Black high school dropouts do you think will land a $122,000-a-year job with Northrup-Grumman, SAIC, Boeing, or Booz/Allen/Hamilton? Before you answer, remember we are indoctrinated with the “facts” that, absent a high school diploma, one cannot expect to land a job at Home Depot!  What’s wrong with this picture?

This is what happens when you privatize government. Thanks to the political takeover by neo-conservatives, our country has made “smaller government” by giving the work of responsible government—with all it’s bars of the GS system—over to private corporations who don’t give a damn who they hire to do someone else’s work…as long as they get paid.  Republican conservatives have not only perpetrated insecurity in our spy agencies, but betrayed the very doctrine of “success after a diploma” that we’ve been taught.

I was floored when I read that Ed Snowden was making that kind of money! An income 2004 study done by Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Picketty, meshed with the latest 2013 median income data showed:


Median — $26,695 

Top 10% — $87,334
Top 5% — $120,212
Top 1% — $277,983
Top 0.5% — $397,949
Top 0.1% — $1,134,849
Top 0.01% — $5,349,795

“College is the surest way to the middle class,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) on this week’s Republican response to the President address, while talking about raising student loan interest rates.  Well Ed Snowden bypassed that hurdle to jump straight into the top 5% of American income earners. This path is the main reason (we’re told) that Blacks are doing so poorly in earned income in America.  Make it make sense to me, how this guy, Snowden, landed a high-security level job with bare credentials?

This brings me to my point: while municipalities are cutting education funding, robbing urban school districts through privatization, we’re being sold the bogus bill of goods—that Blacks earn less because they do worse in school—that’s garbage.  Though Ed Snowden serves as antecdotal evidence, he is illustrative of my greater point: white people are still beneficiaries of an unequal and unjust socio-economic system.

There are plenty of competent computer geeks among Blacks in America; I dare say you’ll find many cases like Ed Snowden’s, but I know you’ll find many white folks who enjoy Snowden-like circumstances. So while the NSA is watching us, I guess they’ll be watching who they call qualified.

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