Futility of “Colorblindness”: Use of the Word “Thug” Is One of Dehumanization When It Crosses the Color Line

In Baltimore on April 27, 2015, the city police closed the Maryland Transportation Authority’s subway station and bus stop, located close to the Mondawmin Mall. Yet, there were many students and other travelers coming to that place, a major transit area, to go home or other places. The people were stuck in that place without being able to leave. An incident occurred, with property damage.

However, on the same day, was the funeral for Mr. Freddie Gray, who died of injuries sustained while in police custody (the specifics of which is being investigated as of the date of this post). The incident was seen as a result of frustration for the lack of answers for the death of Mr. Gray, but it seems that the incident was separate from Mr. Gray and a direct result of police blocking transit passengers from getting to their buses and subway trains.

An issue has developed as to how the incident is being characterized, namely by the use of the word “thug.” W.E.B. Du Bois in “The Souls of Black Folk” had written about the color line, the very different perceptions of life (and context applied to words) between members of the White society and the non-White societies.

The long history and continuing practice of Black subjugation and dehumanization does not permit for any ambiguity in words, such as for the word thug, once used liberally to discuss the incident in Baltimore on April 27. The situation was already charged with all of the events going on in the city before, on, and after that particular day. It is preferable to deal with the property damage and those that caused it with dispassion, just like the persons with authority have asked people to do while investigating police action around Mr. Gray, which lead to his death.

More specifically, the people causing the damage should be dealt with as human beings that made a wrong decision and allow them to have the ability for redemption and to repair the damage caused to other’s property and to themselves. Careless use of the dehumanizing words like thug needlessly inflame passions and continue to demonstrate the United States’ systemic dehumanization of non-White people.

While condemning others for undesirable acting out of frustration, several politicians conducted themselves in a similar way by generous denial of humanity to people that they criticized.

  • President Barack Obama, April 28, 2015, statement (bold by the blog author): “My understanding is, is you’ve got some of the same organizers now going back into these communities to try to clean up in the aftermath of a handful of criminals and thugs who tore up the place.  What they were doing, what those community leaders and clergy and others were doing, that is a statement.  That’s the kind of organizing that needs to take place if we’re going to tackle this problem.  And they deserve credit for it, and we should be lifting them up.” (Use of the word defended by the White House, April 29, 2015. Of note, Josh Earnest, the President’s press secretary, suggested the dictionary definition, but with the color-line area in the United States of America, clarity, and universally acceptable definitions is far more important. If the White House cannot accept a differing perspective on this issue, one can imagine the uphill battle necessary to change a social structure causing so many to suffer because of not belonging to the social majority group in the United States.)
  • Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake used the word but later clarified her remarks (in sum, treating those that committed errors as human beings).

A member of the Baltimore City Council, Carl Stokes, disagreed with a CNN’s Erin Burnett, stating that thug is shorthand for the N word. (Author’s note: Differing underlying worldviews of Stokes and Burnett are on display in this short interaction. Conflict over definition also lead to an odd situation of CNN personality, Ashleigh Banfield (White), trying to tell a Black person, Mr. Stokes, why use of the N word is wrong (when it is solely applied to Black people)). It is the reason why mere dictionary definition of the word thug is insufficient for the understanding needed for true equality to be placed in practice.)


Federal Reserve Board (OIG Report 2015-MO-B-006): Number of Black Employees in All Other Pay Grades Fell during Period of 2011 to 2013; Reason for the Decline is Unclear

This post contains an additional observation of the audit report of the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) for the Federal Reserve Board, 2015-MO-B-006. (Previous posts on the OIG report are located elsewhere on the blog.)

In Table C-2 of the OIG report (page 65), despite the total number of employees increasing at the Board during the 2011-2013 period, the Black employees in the All Other pay grade category fell 34 positions total during the same period. The reason for the decline is also unclear, but it is a result that requires a full explanation.

There were small increases in the higher pay grades for Black employees. It is unclear whether the increase came from promotions or external hiring. It is interesting to note that the Blacks, All Others category (2012 and 2013), lost 18 positions, but the gain in the mid-level (11) and senior managers (7) totaled 18. This result left the total number of Black employees the same.

Since all job classes are combined, it is unclear what job classes were affected.

Black/African American Permanent Board Employees, Table C-2, 2011-2013
2011 2012 2013
Total Black/African American employees 567 573 573
All other pay grades, FR-16 to FR-25 434 418 400
Mid-level professional pay grades, FR-26 to FR-28 106 125 136
Senior managers and officers pay grade, FR-29 to FR-00 27 30 37
Total employees of the Federal Reserve Board 2187 2279 2353
Source: FRB OIG Audit Report 2015-MO-B-006, page 65.

Federal Reserve Board (OIG Audit 2015-MO-B-006): Performance Ratings Differences Wrongly Diminished; Board’s New Performance Management Approach May Be Based on Grote Approach and Fierce Conversations; Glassdoor.com Review Discussed

I have reviewed a report by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) for the Federal Reserve Board (Board) [The Board Can Enhance Its Diversity and Inclusion Efforts, Audit Report 2015-MO-B-006], and I am disappointed with the weakness of investigatory probing in the part of the report discussing the Board’s performance management policy. Specifically, I question the independence of the OIG when the OIG is following the Board’s performance management policy, yet the OIG does not describe the program in its audit report.

Moreover, the position of the Board’s Chief Operating Officer, Don Hammond, does not inspire confidence. Rather than addressing any signs of unfair and inequitable workplace practices, he makes arguments to defend the status quo. A status quo that includes Artis v. Bernanke (or Yellen) and Robert Auerbach’s observations.

In addition, Mr. Hammond focuses on job level measures, yet ignores that the Board’s policy is implemented on an agency level (in 2011-2013 and after that period). As such, the agency level measures (between Whites and African Americans as well as between Whites and Asians) are relevant measures and need to be further studied and addressed.

Statement of Don Hammond, Federal Reserve Board Chief Operating Officer

Glassdoor.com Review

With respect to the more relevant job level analysis [performed by an independent consultant, see Appendix E of the OIG audit report], the independent consultant concluded that there is no trend of statistically significant differences between White and African American performance ratings when the data are analyzed at the job level. (OIG report, page 100 (carryover paragraph)) (Emphasis (in bold) by blog author.)

[Author’s note: However, the independent consultant did find statistically significant differences at the agency level between Whites and African Americans and between Whites and Asians. (OIG report, Appendix E, page 90 (third full paragraph))

Review submitted 24-August-2013:

I have been working at Federal Reserve Board full-time (more than 3 years)

Doesn’t Recommend Neutral Outlook Disapproves of CEO


Prestige (for what it’s worth), adjacent to National Mall, OK cafeteria, annual leave, insurance (health, dental, vision), raises available (but if you are not one of the 20% “high performers”, you will tread water economically with low raises with 70% of the staff at the “commendable” (nice way of saying average) level.)


Performance evaluations (that is, the dreadful so-called PMP) use the forced distribution, or “rank and yank” method. Google it; forewarned is forearmed. A set percentage are given bad reviews, with encouragement to quit. The internal webpage shows no one gets below commendable; do not believe it. The entire performance evaluation system is a true insult to workers who bravely try to meet impossible-to-satisfy expectations. Again, my fellow human beings–beware.

[To employees (current and future): As low-level managers will be taking notes for the PMP on computer, you must make sure to ask for a copy of any managerial documentation with your name on it. If denied, make note of the denial. Also, take assignments, do well on them, write a success list (for your own eyes only) so that you can update your resume and leave at will. Your heart, soul, and mind will thank you when you leave the building for the last time.]

Resistance to necessary change. Just because it worked in 1970 does not mean the exact practice must continue in the Internet era.

Excessive division between PHD and non-PHD staff. PHD staff advances; the rest languish.

Advice to Management

Complete transparency (that is, sunshine) should be standard operating procedure. Employees have a right to know if managers are making adverse decisions about their careers behind closed doors with a outside facilitator.

Forced distribution ultimately will cause systemic failure, requiring congressional attention to fix the mess.

With regard to the Board’s new performance management process, there is no specific description of the plan provided by either the OIG or the Board. However, there is a Glassdoor.com employee review (August 24, 2013) that provides some idea about what the Board may have implemented–A Dick Grote-style system (see Glassdoor.com review in table). If true, this Grote system will provide no improvement; the annual statistical review (OIG recommendation 3 and management response, page 101 of the OIG report) that the Board questions on a cost basis becomes an absolute necessity.

The new performance management process was piloted in five divisions and the OIG for performance year 2013–2014, with full implementation in all Board divisions in the 2014–2015 performance year. The purpose of the new process is to align staff to the work of the Board, provide greater accountability, support the growth of staff, improve the value of time spent, and increase the fairness of the process. In addition, the new process involves frequent conversations between employees and their managers that are designed to develop and grow employees’ capabilities. The Board contracted for the necessary expertise to assist with the program’s implementation, which includes information sessions, tools and guides, training, and other support. [Page 30 of the OIG report] (Emphasis (in bold) by blog author.)



Percentage (amounts can be adjusted) Effect
A 20 Lavish rewards, encouragement
B 70 Little to paltry increase
C 10 Pressure to quit or firing

Given the Glassdoor.com review, there is reason to believe that the new performance management process, implemented across the Board (including the OIG), is the Grote Approach. In addition, the conversation method is governed by the Fierce Conversations program. Dick Grote favors forced distribution, a system that does not benefit protected class members. (The forced distribution issue is covered in numerous posts in this blog.)

But what if a company’s forced ranking procedure, honestly and objectively done, reveals that the blacks or women or disabled employees just aren’t as talented as the white ones? Should they do what some Harvard professors are said to do and award A’s to all the blacks, just to keep them from squawking?” (Grote, page 4 (a quote from a previous post)).

(Note: Consider this statement from Grote with the ever-present and persistent legacy of slavery and Jim Crow subjugation in the United States of America.)

The general approach of the Grote process is to make the employee responsible for satisfying the whims of the manager. If the employee cannot read his or her manager’s mind, the employee must quit or be fired.

Unique to Discipline Without Punishment is the final step before an employee’s termination – the Decision Making Leave. The employee is suspended for a day with full pay. On this day he must make a final decision: either solve the problem and commit to fully acceptable performance, or quit and find more satisfying employment somewhere else.

The Grote Approach is summarized below (information from Grote Consulting’s website).

Performance Appraisal

Corrective Action


Does everyone know exactly what you expect and exactly how well they’re doing? We can help you create a new performance appraisal system that is simple and effective. Or tune up a worn-out one. And we can train your managers to be masters of performance management. Does your existing corrective action system solve problems, enhance relationships, and build personal responsibility? Does it reflect your organization’s values? Are your managers comfortable holding tough performance improvement conversations? We can help. Calibration systems assure appraisal accuracy, guarantee differentiation, and drive the truth into performance management. We can help you create a successful approach and train your managers and facilitators to use this this deceptively simple procedure skillfully.

WMATA: Search under way for the Next General Manager of DC’s Metro System; Transit Authority Needs Dedicated Revenue Source

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) is searching for another General Manager. Finalists from an initial search were released because of a difference of opinion of what type of General Manager (GM) WMATA should have–a “financial turnaround specialist” or a traditional transit executive. A transit executive would be preferable because (1) transit is a public service, not a profit-generating business, and (2) the system is responsible to the welfare of all human beings using or operating the system each day.

I am skeptical of any financial turnaround specialist because the true test for one was in 2008 during the United States financial crisis. None showed up (excepting the Obama Administration), and, thus, I do not expect any candidates for WMATA.

State Amount of Funding
(components are rounded; in millions of dollars)
FY 2010 FY 2011 FY 2012 FY 2013 FY 2014
Maryland 215.6 228.1 246.4 263.6 279.7
District of Columbia 201.6 214.15 233.3 249.1 271.7
Virginia 129.4 129.7 142.2 156.5 181.0
Subtotal subsidy 546.7 572 622 669.2 732.4
Debt service 27.5 48.7 48.7 37 33.0
Audit adj fy 2011 and 2012 -30.5
Total (budgeted) 574.2 620.7 670.7 706.2 734.9
Actual* [630.7] [722.51] [687.02] [711.10]
(6/30/10) (6/30/11) (6/30/12) (6/30/13)

The difficulty with deciding to take the GM job with WMATA remains the same as specified in a previous post. Primarily, WMATA still does not have a dedicated source of revenue. It is interesting that Maryland supports a financial turnaround specialist for WMATA, yet Maryland provides funds for Baltimore’s subway and light rail system. WMATA’s unique financial and political circumstances make WMATA a challenge, one most incumbents only keep the job for about 3-4 years, excepting Richard White. Even with the challenges, there should be transit executives willing to accept the GM job, well aware of the high stakes (and potentially short-term nature) of the job.

Passenger Fares and Parking Fees
(rounded; in millions of dollars)
FY 2010 FY 2011 FY 2012 FY 2013
Budgeted 702.7 789.5 767.7 874.0
Actual* 727.8 (6/30/10) 804.5 (6/30/11) 816.7 (6/30/12) 856.8 (6/30/13)
*Actual amount comes from Metro’s statement of revenues, expenses, and changes in net assets. This statement does not identify parking fee revenue; I used the total revenue amount in the table.

The financial statements are not yet available for 2014, and the ridership numbers are estimated for 2013. However, I have updated information for WMATA as it was available at the time of this post.

(in number of trips)
2010 2011 2012 2013
Rail Bus Rail Bus Rail Bus Rail Bus
217,219,146 123,670,000 217,052,000 124,173,000 212,188,640 131,780,990 209,000,000* 136,000,000*
* Estimated
Source: Metro Facts.

Interesting Background Facts (source: Metro Facts 2014)

Metrorail system age: 39

Organizational Structure of Metro (Metro Compact Article III)

[Four legislative bodies–Congress (federal government), D.C. City Council, Md. state legislature (Montgomery and Prince George’s), Va. state legislature (Arlington, Fairfax, and Alexandria) (subsidy funding)]

Board of Directors (8 members selected from each jurisdiction [federal government, District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia]) [Note:  There are 8 alternates.]

Officers (General Manager, Secretary, Treasurer, Comptroller and General Counsel and such other officers as the Board may provide.)


328 routes (breakdown by jurisdiction not available)

Metrorail stations (by state)

Total: 91

District of Columbia: 40 (38.3 miles of track)

Maryland: 26 (Prince George’s County (15) and Montgomery County (11)) (38.31 miles) [Note: The state of Maryland operates its own subway in Baltimore, Md.]

Virginia: 25 (Arlington County (11), Fairfax County (11), and the City of Alexandria (3)) (41.47 miles)


Federal Reserve Board (OIG Audit 2015-MO-B-006): Inspector General Issues Audit Report on Board’s Diversity and Inclusion Processes; Board’s Claim of Total “Independence” Unjustified

The Office of Inspector General (OIG) for the Federal Reserve Board (Board), responding to a 2014 Congressional request (Appendix A of the OIG’s report), performed an audit of the Board’s diversity and inclusion processes. On March 31, 2015, the OIG issued a report.

Authors of Board OIG Audit Report, 2015-MO-B-006
Name Title
Anna Saez OIG Manager
Kimberly Perteet Senior Auditor and Project Lead
Sopeany Keo Senior Auditor
Brian Murphy Auditor
Sean Newman Auditor
Timothy Rogers Senior OIG Manager for Management and Operations
Melissa Heist Associate Inspector General for Audits and Evaluations

Overall, I am disappointed with the overall stagnation of the Board; a situation caused by institutional zeal for broad independence through the Board’s citation of 12 U.S.C. section 244. And, I could understand an argument for only the Federal Open Market Committee and only monetary policy making.

But it is unreasonable to expect the people of the United States of America to accept an “independence” stance that requires the Board, a federal agency, to be free from federal employment statutes that were adopted into law long after 1913, including civil rights laws and Title 5 of the U.S. Code. Asking any citizen in the present day to respect employment law from 1913 or to allow the Board to choose which statutes it will follow (or comply with) is totally unacceptable.

The money that the Board, on which it conducts monetary policy, comes from the people of the United States of America, which has a government that possesses authority to govern through the consent of its people. Once the government loses that consent, authority is lost. The Board, in its quest to protect a nebulous independence for non-monetary-policy administrative activities, forgets this bedrock principle and risks institutional failure.

[Author’s note:  Congressional amendment of 12 U.S.C. section 244 is necessary regardless of the history of frustration with the Board. (I am aware of past difficulty with this subject. (See Auerbach, Robert D. (2008), Deception and Abuse at the Fed: Henry B. Gonzalez Battles Alan Greenspan’s Bank, Austin: University of Texas Press, pages 122-124.))]

The Board must come into compliance with all civil rights laws and regulations and conform its policies to Title 5 in order to have full legitimacy. The Board’s “independent” behavior does not inspire confidence for the Board. For example, with the long case (18+ years as of the date of this post) involving employment discrimination, in Artis v. Bernanke or Artis v. Yellen or another employment discrimination case discussed in Auerbach, Robert D. (2008), Deception and Abuse at the Fed: Henry B. Gonzalez Battles Alan Greenspan’s Bank, chapter 8, where an African American employee, holding a position of statistical assistant, ultimately had to sue for a promotion. Successful with the litigation, the affected employee won the promotion, back pay, and compensatory damages.

Litigation is expensive, and most employees cannot afford it. So to expect a rank-and-file employee to have an expensive legal process as the sole procedure to argue against the Board (which has all of its legal expenses are covered by the taxpayer (as the paper money comes from the economic activity of the country, not the Board)) is manifestly unreasonable.

Furthermore, I question the Board’s maintenance for broad statutory compliance exclusions when it fails to voluntarily evaluate its employment practices to ensure a fair and equitable workplace, separate from the Equal Employment Opportunity complaint context. When the outside consultant determined possible disparate impact, the Board argues that focus should be on a narrower ground–job level (page 99 of the report, memorandum from Don Hammond, Board Chief Operating Officer (COO), third full paragraph (citing Wal-Mart Stores v. Dukes, 131 S. Ct 2541, 2555 (2011)). [Author’s note: The Board is a fraction of the size of the Wal-Mart Company; the case does not prevent proactive, introspective inquiry.]

This point from the Board COO might have been a valid point except for the data in figure 4. In figure 4, most of the Black/African American employees are in the lower level of the agency. Also, in terms of performance ratings (Appendix F of the OIG’s report) between White and Black employees, White employees overall get the higher average performance ratings than Black employees. Certainly, an inquiry as to what factors lead to that result and whether bias enters anywhere into the performance appraisal process would be reasonable, if the goal is to maintain a truly fair and equitable workplace.

In addition, the Board’s COO reflects an obstinate attitude because if an agency is interested in a fair and equitable workplace, any receipt of possible disparity should initiate a voluntary, intra-agency inquiry as to whether any of its practices are causing any disparity (and providing any remedies), without waiting for an employee complaint. Such an adversarial attitude causes further distrust of the Board and demonstrates why more accountability to (and compliance with) all U.S. statutes regarding civil rights and federal employment is needed.

Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology: Statement of Robert “Bob” Frye in Washington Post Article about Black Student Applicants Unnecessarily Offensive and Counterfactual

Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJHSST), is a Fairfax County, Va., high school that focuses on science and technology. Admission to the public high school is through an admissions process. It is a school which has been a topic of a few posts on this blog.

In the Washington Post, on March 31, 2015, there was another article about the composition of the class at TJHSST, particularly that the number of Asian students had increased. The article did not mention that the number of White students has been on a trend of general decline since the class of 2015.

Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, Number of Admitted Students
Race Class of 2019 Class of 2018 Class of 2017 Class of 2016 Class of 2015
Asian 346 323 317 308 273
White 102 117 123 126 161
Black 8 10 5 7 6
Hispanic* 12 8 15 13 13

*The term “Hispanic” represents national origin, not race.

Fairfax County, Va. (population: 1,137,538 (2010 Census)

Race Percentage of population Number
White 67.2% 764,426
Asian 18.8 213,857
Black 9.9 112,616
Native American 0.7 7,963

admitted student table 2

The issue of the paucity of Black students at TJHSST has been a concern. “Outreach” is usually provided as the solution; however, mere outreach is not necessarily needed because an earlier post showed that many Black students were passing the admissions test, yet very few were being admitted.

So, upon reading a statement of Mr. Robert “Bob” Frye, a former Fairfax County School Board (FCSB) member (said to be “one of the longest serving black members” of FCSB), I took exception to it as–

  • the statement at once presumed that concern about Black student admissions rate is equivalent to “lowering standards” and
  • the statement is contrary to the admissions data (presented in the charts above).

Mr. Frye is quoted as saying–“‘I have no interest in lowering the standards at TJ,’ said Frye, 78, who served as chairman in 1999 and 2000. ‘I believe even now with the proper amount of preparation and interest the numbers [of black students] could surely be higher than they are now.'”

The numbers have shown a consistent low number of Black student admissions, despite many more Black students passing the test (a complaint to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights on this latter point is ongoing (since 2012)), so this reality contradicts the suggestion that the answer is that Black students (who want to attend a science and technology institute) need better preparation to pass the admissions test.

Had Mr. Frye simply left his statement that the administration should look at admissions process of TJHSST that, alone, would not have provoked a negative reaction (but, notably, Mr. Frye has made such statements before in the past, yet in 2015, the same request is still being made).

The data provided by Fairfax County Public Schools, cited, in part, in the charts above, are not complete as the composition of the student test passers is not provided. That data are needed to see what the issue of the low Black admitted student numbers. Without it, a fair determination or evaluation cannot be made.

But, undeniably, there is a definite shifting in the TJHSST student body composition. It will be interesting to see if TJHSST remains a public school.