Editorial: Black tech workers are available with connections

The Columbus Dispatch

Systemic racism is more than the urgent issues of police profiling and brutality that are roiling American communities. Those might be the problems that need to be addressed most immediately, but “systemic” racism, as the term implies, goes deeper.

Systemic racism also is Bucknell University botanist Tanisha Williams feeling compelled to lug a bunch of field guides with her when she’s doing research in public parks. She doesn’t need the guides, but they help persuade skeptical busybodies, who can’t quite imagine what a Black woman is doing poking around the plants, to leave her alone.

Williams was one of several Black scientists who spoke to the Associated Press for a story about subtle harassment and intimidation they face from people who don’t think they belong. “I’ve been quizzed by random strangers,” Williams said. “Now I bring my wildflower books and field guides, trying to look like a scientist.”

Systemic racism also lies behind the income disparity and educational inequality that make it harder for Black people to get four-year and advanced college degrees and limit avenues for advancement even when they achieve that goal.

In Columbus, that’s where Doug McCollough hopes to come in with Black Tech Columbus. As a Black man who is chief information officer for the city of Dublin with a 17-year career in systems management, McCollough has seen plenty of organizations that say they want a more diverse tech team but fail to reach the tech pros of color who are looking for those jobs.

McCollough and others who founded the group in 2018 are providing ingredients that had been missing: a source of mentorship and fellowship for young Black tech professionals who often find themselves the only Black person in the room — or in an entire company — with all the isolation and potential cultural misunderstanding that implies.

He is quick to stipulate that, while the group’s efforts are helping young Black professionals make connections, they haven’t seen a notable increase in hiring yet. Companies “are failing with the best of intentions,” McCollough said — interested in hiring more diverse employees but not changing how they recruit or how they support minority hires once they’re onboard.

We salute Black Tech Columbus for this important work and urge companies to take advantage of it. A more diverse workforce, especially in jobs with good pay and benefits, will leave all of central Ohio better off.

School for refugees is a bright spot in a difficult time

Fugees Academy students participate in their soccer practice outside of school in Columbus, Ohio, on Sept. 10, 2020. Lewis Makor, the School’s Athletic Leader, drives to neighborhoods where students live twice a week to hold a practice near their homes since school is not having in-person classes for those able to study remotely.

If ever there was a private school deserving of public dollars through Ohio’s school voucher program, it’s Fugees Academy, a Northeast Side school for international refugee children in grades six through 12. How encouraging that, despite President Donald Trump’s merciless push to close the U.S. to all refugees, those who are here have an educational option uniquely capable of helping them feel safe while learning to be Americans, without losing touch with their roots.

Columbus City Schools and other public districts have special programs and schools for international students and those are commendable, but Fugees Academy — the name is a play on the ‘90s hip-hop group as well as the word refugee — is precisely designed for the unique needs of kids who have survived trauma and might have gone without formal schooling for years.

We salute founder Luma Mufleh and thank her for bringing her vision to Columbus.