CLE Means We: Calls to Action
Three things you can do to advance equity and inclusion after reading this article
- Read the Racial Equity Sketch shared by the Commission on Economic Inclusion below for a better understanding of the challenges facing reentering citizens.
The Commission on Economic Inclusion has launched a year-long storytelling project called Racial Equity Sketches, in which they demonstrate how racial equity is interconnected with issues affecting both the business community and our larger community. These fictional stories are meant to imagine what making “an equitable decision” could look like. Through them, they hope to reveal that equity is not always a major comprehensive strategy, but rather the compilation of many small, informed & thoughtful decisions.
Read "The Interview" below:
A door. And behind it, a new beginning.
Khyree’s mind flooded with positive thoughts as he waited in the hallway for his interview. To quiet his nerves, he focused on the granite name plate next to the dark mahogany door in front of him.
Judith Stine, Managing Partner.
Khyree imagined the word “Partner” next to his name one day. The thought gave him the confidence he needed in the moments before he heard a voice saying, “Please come in.”
“Ms. Stine, it’s an absolute pleasure to—”
“Please, Khyree, call me Judy! It’s a pleasure to meet you. I was seriously impressed by your cover letter.”
“Oh, thank you. It was very sincere.”
“I could tell. I’ve never seen a three-page cover letter—especially not for a clerical assistant position! It’s clear that you’re motivated and enthusiastic. To succeed here, though, you’ve got to be good at putting out fires. It’s a fast-paced, high-pressure environment. Can you tell me about a time you were in a high-pressure situation, and how you handled it?”
Khyree gave a polite smile and cleared his throat. He had practiced the answer several times, but his mind still couldn’t help but wander to that day seven years ago, the sound of his buddy Roger’s voice…
“Khy, you haven’t been drinking, right? Can you do me the biggest favor?” Roger explained to Khyree how his mother would get upset if his car wasn’t in the driveway by the morning.
Khyree agreed to help. Life is Good had just dropped, and a friend at the party gave him a tape. The 20-minute drive to Roger’s house was the perfect opportunity to listen.
Two songs in, Khyree noticed the gas was nearly empty. He pulled over at the closest gas station. He hadn’t been sitting for long before he heard noises coming from the car parked at the pump next to him. He lowered the volume. He looked over. His heart dropped.
“Please, please don’t hurt me,” a woman wailed in the passenger’s seat, as the man next to her gripped her neck. Sweat formed at Khyree’s temple as he contemplated what to do.
“Great question, Judy. To be honest, I think high-pressure environments are precisely where I thrive. In my first job on the floor of Procurus Manufacturing, I learned valuable skills in time management and conflict resolution…”
Khyree answered the first question exactly as rehearsed.
Judy looked pleased and jotted some notes. “Seems like you have a determined work ethic. Is there someone who inspires you to be that way? A role model?”
“Let me go, let me go…” the woman pleaded. The man did, but only to get out of the car. He walked over to her side and jerked her out. Khyree flinched as the man screamed in her face and pushed her head violently onto the hood of car. The woman faced Khyree now, looking directly into his eyes.
Khyree thought of his mother. The hardest-working, strongest person on the planet, who raised him and his sisters with the most graceful love he’d ever known. The day he saw Wallace lay his hands on her was the worst day of his life. She escaped that horrible relationship, but the few weeks that Wallace was home, Khyree promised himself he wouldn’t let anyone hurt his mother, or any other woman, ever again.
He got out the car. He walked over. He punched the man once. Twice. Over and over and over, until the man’s screams were drowned out by sirens.
Khyree pushed the memory out of his head, responding to Judy’s role model question with the one he had practiced with his job coach.
Judy was enthusiastic at the answer. “What a coincidence…my high school Government teacher was one of my biggest sources of inspiration as well. So Khyree, from your cover letter, I sense you’re very passionate about justice. Tell me where that came from.”
“I’m afraid we’re looking at something like six to eight years here, Mr. Higgins. The victim is still in critical condition. You mentioned to the cops that you were defending his girlfriend against him, but his girlfriend refuses to verify this. And the security cameras in the area didn’t capture the scene. To make matters worse, a significant amount of marijuana was found in the vehicle you were driving. We know the vehicle isn’t in your name, but you’d still be charged with possession. You also resisted arrest. There are a number of charges here. Unfortunately, your chances don’t look so great if you decide to go to trial.”
“I didn’t do anything wrong,” Khyree whispered under his breath. He was tired and hungry and had been held in jail for nearly three days before meeting with the prosecutor.
“According to the law, you did, Mr. Higgins. But you seem like a good person. I can work things out with you here. If you plead guilty, we can drop some charges, reduce the sentence. You could even have an early release. If you decide on a trial, you might have to spend months here waiting. Your family has indicated they’re unable to make bail. What do you think, Mr. Higgins?”
“I didn’t do anything wrong.”
“Mr. Higgins, I’m telling you because I know how this goes. A jury won’t agree with you.”
Judy’s eyes lit up as Khyree explained the papers he wrote for his classes at the local community college. “It’s great to hear that your interest in justice is rooted in so much research and reading. Any legal scholar you’d consider your favorite?”
“You better read this, son. But don’t let anybody catch you reading it.” Mike, Sr. handed Khyree a copy of Michelle Alexander’s book as they were walking back from their shift at the prison notebook factory.
Mike, Sr. had earned a reputation as "Lawyer Mike," imparting legal advice to anyone who would listen. He was nine years into his 20-year sentence, spending nearly every day reading and writing in notebooks he would bring back to his cell from the factory. Khyree enjoyed talking to Lawyer Mike, who struck him as the most scholarly and intelligent man he’d met. It was through conversations with Lawyer Mike that Khyree became committed to learning about the American legal system. At the end of his two-year sentence, Khyree would do everything he could to follow a career pathway in line with his newfound calling.
This interview was that chance, and as Khyree finished responding to Judy’s last question, he felt strangely calm. He had given this his absolute best shot.
“Khyree, I’ve been absolutely delighted by the opportunity to talk with you today. Based on what you’ve shared, it seems like you are exactly what we’re looking for.”
Khyree smiled too. “That’s great to hear. Does this mean I’ve got the job?”
“Almost. The only thing left to do is draw up the official paperwork, which you’ll need to sign. Oh, right. And there’s also a simple criminal background check. We’ll send you the link to that in our follow-up email. Anyone that works to protect the law has to have followed it, right?”
Judy spoke with a faint chuckle. Little did she know, across from her sat a man about to be denied a second chance, yet again.
To read the afterword for "The Interview" and more information and recommended reading suggestions, please click here.