Homophobia Causes Poverty (at least once or twice)

In the Spirit of the Gracious and Compassionate
Creator of the Heavens and the Earth

Lester A. Knibbs aka Doctor Hakeem

Thirty-four years ago, I discovered great opportunities in word processing, and I wanted to share those opportunities with my African American Muslim Brothers. So, every week, for a couple of years, I had an announcement read in the mosque immediately after the Friday congregational services, so that as many people as possible could hear. Not once, in over one hundred weeks of having that announcement read did any of my African American Muslim Brothers respond. What did happen is that two guys — that I had thought of as friends of mine — registered for courses in word processing at a local business school, and each went $3,000 in debt to pay for those courses. After they had finished those courses and gotten their certificates, they discovered that they could not get jobs. I could have told them, in advance, that they needed to build up their typing speed. Once they could type fast enough, they could get work as typists. While working as typists, they could learn word processing — as I did — on the job.

My experience in 1981, for example: In February, I was working as a temporary clerk-typist at Chase Manhattan Bank. I was getting $5 an hour. There were word-processing machines in the office. I practiced on them, when I had time or when I came in early, and read the manuals that were available. In March, when I had built up my proficiency in word processing, I went to an agency that specialized in word processing temporaries, and took the test. I passed, and that agency began sending me out, and I was getting $10 an hour. One morning, there was a two-hour delay on the subway. As soon as I could, I called the agency, and they apologized to me (!) because they had to send someone else to the assignment when I failed to show up. (My experience as a temporary was that people talked nicely to me; and my brief experience with a permanent job, and my observation of how permanent employees were treated, was that people talk abusively to permanent employees.) So, I was downtown in the Financial District with nothing to do; I decided to visit my friend Tom — a Vice President at Chase that I had done typing for — and he immediately arranged for me to return to Chase as a word processing temporary getting $15 an hour.

Because I had learned word processing, my hourly income had gone from $5 in February to $15 in April.

Even more important to me was what I learned from reading everything that I typed, everything that I input or edited. It was virtually a second university education. Between 1981 and 2003, I did work at commercial banks (such as Chase), investment banks (such as Morgan Stanley), and corporate law firms. I didn’t need to read The Wall Street Journal or go to Harvard Business School. I was learning business and economics where it was happening, before it found its way into the financial columns or the business school courses. I was at Drexel Burnham when they told their employees their jobs were secure — the day before that (too-good-to-believe) Wall-Street firm went bankrupt. I was watching one of the partners at an old Boston-based corporate law firm (established in 1854) attempting to fool their Dubai client — six months before that firm went bankrupt. I read documents intended to be secret. I learned a lot.

But who’s interested? Most of the people I know just want to be comfortable slaves. And when things go terribly wrong, they would rather suffer and blame someone else than accept the responsibility to learn how the world works and take on the burden of government. This is not about having millions of votes or billions of dollars. It is about having knowledge, and using it.

A few years after my two friends had been duped out of their money by the respectable business school they trusted, I ran into one of them in a Toys-R-Us store. He was working as a security guard. He had his nine-year-old son with him that day. The father and I had a brief and friendly conversation, but I felt so much sadness for the boy. His father had foolishly missed an opportunity, and his father’s foolish mistake was affecting the boy’s opportunities in life. So sad.

I regret that I never asked the man why he and his friend had never consulted me after hearing my announcement read over and over in the mosque. If the reason is what I think, I wonder if he would have told me the truth.

May Allah forgive me if I am wrong — but I suspect that the vast majority of my African American Muslim “Brothers”, when they look at me, they don’t see me as their African American Muslim Brother — they don’t see an intelligent, well-educated, honest, dignified, talented, creative scholar (except to be consumed with envy and resentment — and, mind you, all praise goes to Allah for our blessings). No, no, no. They see a faggot.

They have lost not one iota of respect for prominent African American Muslim men who have publicly revealed their fornication and adultery. But when they look at me, they see a faggot. This is one aspect of what I call “heterosexualism” — the idea that being heterosexual is morally superior to being homosexual, regardless of actual behavior.

You Muslims are not reading the Qur’an. I hereby challenge you to a discussion. Because you are wimps and punks, you will not accept my challenge. Your women have more courage than you, so I won’t call you “sissies”. You may become violent, because violence is the last refuge of the cowardly. You are fearful cowards, hiding your cowardice behind a skirt — a huge burka — of self-righteousness. But you will not talk with me.

So, I have laid down the challenge. Talk with me, converse with me, or I will continue to call you out as cowards, punks, and wimps. And your fear of dealing honestly with this subject is crippling your ability to function and be successful in government and economics. This word processing incident is just one example. (The image of a woman at the typewriter was used to sell the typewriter; before the typewriter was invented, all of that work — copying documents — was done by men called scribes and scriveners. Typing has nothing to do with gender or sexuality, except in the minds of superstitious, ignorant and cowardly men.)

One night, 25 or 30 years ago, I went to bed at about eleven. The phone rang at eleven-thirty. It was my agency. First Boston — a major bank in Midtown Manhattan — needed a word processing operator for the night shift. I accepted the assignment. Because it was night-time, they sent a car to pick me up. The car arrived at midnight. It was, as always, either a Cadillac Brougham or a Lincoln Town Car. I was at First Boston, on Park Avenue at 55th Street, by 12:30. When I arrived, the supervisor gave me a look. “Who said I needed a temp?” she said, not expecting me to answer. She waved me in, sat me down at a work-station and said, “I’ll see if I can find some work for you to do.” I sat there for a half hour, waiting. Finally, she said, “Listen. There’s nothing for you to do, so you might as well go home.” So, she called for a car, and I was whisked home in a Cadillac Brougham or Lincoln Town Car, arriving home by 1:30. Whenever a temp showed up as requested for an assignment, it was agency policy that the temp be paid for a minimum of four hours. I had left my home at midnight, arrived back home an hour and a half later, and was paid for four hours. The night shift rate was $25 an hour. I got paid $100 to ride for an hour in a limo and sit for a half hour in an office. Not bad work, if you can get it.

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