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Thursday, March 04, 2010

Cincinnati Declares Malaysians An Official Minority: Placed On Par With African Americans For Jobs

CINCINNATI (TDB) -- Contract language for the city-financed renovation of the downtown Cincinnati Metropole Hotel into luxury accommodations decrees that Malaysians are defined as an official minority for hiring purposes. The contract says the construction workforce on the project -- which includes up to $6.1 million in city money -- should be at least 11.8% minority persons. The contract was approved Wednesday March 3, 2010 and requires developer 21c Cincinnati Inc. to undertake best efforts to recruit minority workers for the 550 construction jobs expected to open. Malaysia is a nation on the South China Sea that had been a British Colony until 1963. Its residents were never enslaved in the United States, nor did they suffer the economic and racial discrimination that black Americans endured for centuries. The city's definition of minorities for hiring on the Metropole project seems to cast an extremely wide net -- besides Malaysians it includes everyone who can trace their heritage back to Asia, the world's most populous continent. Here's the contract language: "'Asian or Pacific Islander' means a person having origin in the original people of the Far East or the Pacific Islands, which includes, among others, China, India, Japan, Korea, the Philippine Islands, Malaysia, Hawaii and Samoa."

Inquiring minds might wonder: Is there a wealth of evidence and history showing Malaysians were subjected to economic abuses by officials in Cincinnati? Malaysians aside, the whole definition of a minority looks somewhat slippery. Under Cincinnati's definition of a minority -- which sweeps up masses of humanity without regard to economic status -- the chairman of Toyota would meet the test, as does the Emperor of Japan. So does Hu Jintao, the president of China.

The issue of minority hiring and government contracting has been percolating recently with the Cincinnati NAACP's concerns that black contractors are not getting their share of school construction work. There has been debate carried in The Cincinnati Beacon here and here. The NAACP has protested at school board meetings, and is raising legitimate points. Perhaps equally as important is a review of who actually gets the label "minority." Certainly, it seems it should be based on more than geography, and should be tied to equalizing or addressing a past wrong inflicted by the government unit awarding a contract or hiring a worker. There is no doubt that black Americans were discriminated against and were shut out for far too long. Malaysians? Koreans? Japanese? Indians from India? Should they be able to seek jobs that probably should be set aside for black Cincinnatians?
The city apparently recognizes that blacks have a special case. It notes: "'Black' means a person having origin in the black racial group of Africa." That wording excludes the North Africans -- the Berbers and Libyans, Egyptians and Arabs. Interestingly, the city's wording does allow some European whites to claim minority status. Besides Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Cubans, Central and South Americans, Hispanic is defined broadly to include all people of "other Spanish cultural origin." The King of Spain seems to meet that test.

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