Flawed commentary disserves community

I have been reluctant to write this piece because I prefer to not air differences with African American organizations or individuals publicly. If I have differences I most often prefer to discuss them privately. I have been reluctant to write this piece because I prefer to not air differences with African American organizations or individuals publicly. If I have differences I most often prefer to discuss them privately. However, several recent articles by Booker T. Hodges that were published in the Minneapolis Spokesman are so inexcusable and inappropriate that I feel compelled to answer them publicly.

Many of you may have read one of Mr. Hodges’ articles in which he castigated the African American CEOs and Executive Directors of our social service organizations for their salaries. He published their salaries in his article and questioned why they were paid what he implied were exorbitant salaries for the positions they hold. He included his own salary and that of one White CEO whose agency services a large African American constituency.

Mr. Hodges’ conclusions and analysis were faulty in several ways. First, he did not describe the qualifications required for these positions nor did he compare them to their White counterparts. For example he did not include the salaries of the head of the YWCA, Catholic Charities, Lutheran Social Services, Big Brother – Big Sister or several other White organizations. As a board member of at least one of the organizations mentioned, I know that these boards take seriously their responsibility to hire qualified individuals and to pay them adequately. His article does not mention that most of these CEOs/Executive Directors have advanced degrees and many years of experience. Most are underpaid when compared to their White counterparts. Does Mr. Hodges believe that these African American men and women should be compensated less than their White counterparts? Does he not believe that education and years of experience should not be considered in salary decisions?

I know that men and women like Peter Hayden, Clarence Hightower, Jim Cook, the late Salima Majeed, Lawrence Borom (the recently retired President of the City, Inc.) are highly trained, hard working men and women who take their responsibilities seriously. They work 12 to 15 hours each day and they’re often found working on their weekends. I know that many are called at home late at night or on Saturdays and Sundays to resolve issues in our community that their White counterparts never encounter. Moreover, these African American men and women see themselves as community servants and have over the years demonstrated their skills and abilities.

And while I do consider many of the individuals mentioned in his article friends and colleagues that is certainly not true for all of them. For example, Louis King and I are not friends, but he deserves every dollar that he is paid because he is capable, competent and a very hard worker.

For Booker Hodges to malign these individuals and to use his article to imply they are ripping off our community is a total disservice to these agencies and our community. It would seem that Mr. Hodges who has ran for two offices unsuccessfully is blaming these agency heads for his inability to win office. Perhaps it is simply jealousy since he reported his own salary and it is very low. I do not know Mr. Hodges’ qualifications and experience level for the position he currently holds. However, if his work effort and results are as baseless as his article on this matter, perhaps he’s paid what he deserves.

I challenge Booker Hodges to adequately compare the experience, education and job requirements before he implies these African American servants are overpaid. I further challenge him to compare their salaries to their White counterparts at other non-profits.

If Booker Hodges thinks the salaries of the heads of our non-profit organizations are a serious problem in our community, then he is wrong and out of touch with the reality of running a multi-purpose non-profit in a highly competi

January 13, 2003
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