As part of our Black History Month celebrations we are talking to role models from the UK BAME community in order to offer an insight into their lives as well as help advise candidates and employers on how best to represent and encourage equality, diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
Dr. Donald M. McCartney, D.M.
Consultant Education, Management, and Leadership
“Black History is not just about all the bad times we have experienced. It is about integrity, leadership, and determination. It is about showing and sharing your true character for the upliftment of humankind.” Dr. Donald M. McCartney, D.M.
Dr McCarney is a product of the Public and Catholic education systems in The Bahamas. He graduated from The Bahamas Teachers' College (now University of The Bahamas) in 1966, before continuing his studies in the US, where he graduated from the University of South Carolina in 1976. His extensive education and travels took him to Georgetown, Guyana where he earned a certificate in Youth Work in 1981. Returning to the US for his masters he graduated from the University of Miami in 1981 and received a Certificate in Advanced Management from the same institution in 1983. In 1998 he received a Certificate in Public Administration and Management from the Public Service Human Resource Development Centre in Nassau, The Bahamas. Following the aforementioned achievement he was granted a Rotary International Ambassadorial Scholarship to attend Georgia State University where he received a Master of Public Administration (MPA) with a minor in Planning and Economic Development in 2005. Finally he was awarded a Doctorate in Management in Organizational Leadership (D.M.-OL) from the University of Phoenix in 2013.
Can you tell us about your career?
I have enjoyed a checkered career which commenced in 1963 as a student, when I took up teaching. After teachers’ college I became an assistant teacher and rose through the ranks of the profession as Head of the Language Arts Department, Dean of Student Development, Senior Administrative Assistant, Vice-Principal (Assistant Principal) and ascending to the pinnacle of the education system in The Bahamas as a Principal. I have served as a Human Resources Director, Insurance Executive, Chief Passport Officer, Senior Assistant Secretary, Diplomat, and First Assistant Secretary. I have also taught in Higher Education, as an Adjunct Professor at several colleges and universities and Chairman of the Board of Directors at the small college in The Bahamas. While this is not a part of my employment, I was a Boy Scout and Cub Scout Leader, and a Mentor and Father figure to countless young men and women. During my entire career, I have always been people focused and organization driven.
What else can you tell us about your journey?
I am a proud product of a father whom I did not know who until I was 50 years of age; and by that time he was deceased, and a mother, who was from the Turks and Caicos Islands, who had several strikes against her. Those strikes were as follows.
- She was an immigrant.
- She was black.
- She was poor.
- She was a third grade dropout, who learned to write her name as an adult.
- By the age of 40 she had given birth to 13 children.
I was the eleventh 11th child. By virtue of the strikes my mother had against her, I felt I was doomed for failure. However, in retrospect, the strikes my mother had against her fueled a desire and insistence that caused her to instill in me the importance of going to school and doing my best. As she put it, “failure was not an option.” Through my mother’s examples of discipline, taciturn nature, and dedication to hard work, I dedicated myself to my studies, and as the Proverb states, “the proof of the pudding is in the eating.” Like a chick breaking from an egg for the first time exclaimed, “Look out world, here I come” became, and has always been my mantra and motto to this very day.
What does black history month mean to you?
Black History Month is a time of remembering, rejoicing, celebrating and thanking those persons from African Diaspora for giving black people in the United States, the Caribbean, and around the world hope and life lessons that could be used to encourage and inspire them to leave a legacy for future generations of blacks and whites to promote peace and a better relationship amongst humankind. Let me make it abundantly clear that Black History is not just about all the bad times we have experienced. It is about integrity, leadership, and determination. It is about showing and sharing your true character for the upliftment of humankind.
Which figures from Black History inspire you and why?
The figures in Black History that inspire me are Nelson Mandela and Rosa Parks. Initially, Nelson Mandela was a rebel and a revolutionary. He was prepared to change the apartheid system in South Africa at all cost. This approach, in retrospect, would have caused tremendous bloodshed ostensibly of the Black majority in South Africa. Fate intervened; Mandela was caught, tried and sentenced to prison where he was incarcerated and served 27 years in prison, split between Robben Island, Pollsmoor Prison, and Victor Verster Prison. Upon release from prison, Nelson Mandela became president. Instead of pursuing a path of vindictiveness, he pursued the path to peace. Given what Mandela had endured, he was mature enough to realise that what he did was not about him but about the South Africa people both blacks and whites. I admired his maturity, his ability to forgive those who had imprisoned him, and insisted that those who were wronged - forgive their oppressors. He, in my view, was a genuine leader who cared deeply for those who he led.
Rosa Parks was a simple woman who was tired after a days work, and she decided to sit down on a bus in a seat reserved for blacks, but she as ordered to give up her seat to a white passenger. Parks rejected bus driver’s order to relinquish her seat. I really don’t think that Rosa Parks thought her action would have been the catalyst for the birth of the Civil Rights Movement. I admire her because that one act of defiance became one of the most important symbols of the Civil Rights Movement, and she had the courage to “sit” for what she believed.
Which contemporary BAME figures inspire you and why?
Among the contemporary BAME figures that inspire me are former President Barack Obama and Oprah Winfrey. Barack Obama has been ranked by historians as the 12th best president of all time. Barack Obama is the highest rated since President Ronald Reagan. I admire him because of his search for equal justice for all, despite the fact that there were people who felt that he could have done more for blacks. I also admire him for his commanding moral authority, economic management of the economy of the United States, and his prowess for public persuasion. Oprah did not lead an easy life. She was born into poverty in rural Mississippi to a teenage single mother. She was raped at the age of 9, became pregnant 14 and lost her son while still in infancy. Despite her difficulties, Oprah would make history in her heroic transformation to eventually become one of the most powerful and generous women on earth.
Have you experienced prejudice in the workplace and/or recruitment?
Without a doubt, I have experienced prejudice in the workplace and in recruitment. I relocated to the United States in 2008 as a permanent resident, and I have made literally hundreds of applications. Despite my qualifications, being highly recommended, and wide-ranging experience, I have never had any serious interviews. I am now a citizen of the United States and there has been no change in my employment status. I suspect that the so called equality clause in applications has much to do with not receiving an opportunity to be interviewed. I am of the view that the vast majority of employers do not use that clause for the purpose for which it was designed.
I recently resigned, as an adjunct professor, from a South Florida Catholic University that practices institutional racism. The stench of which was too strong for me to stomach. There were too many instances of the university having one set of standards for black professors and another for white professors.
Do you have any positive experiences you can share?
I wish that I was in a position to make a blanket statement with respect to this question. However, the most positive experience I have had has been provided by a few persons across the colour divide regarding the fight for equality for all. As noted, this was one of the reasons that I chose both former President Barack Obama and Oprah Winfrey. My biggest positive experience has come from within me and has become another one of my life's mantras: I will let nothing disturb the harmony of my peace; God rules!
What advice would you give to employers to make your life better and improve things for BAME candidates?
I would advise employers to sensitise their human resource personnel to read and review resumes manually instead of total dependence on machines to sort them. Too many good candidates are ignored because of this practice. I would also advise and provide their human resource staff with sensitivity training and exposure regarding their handling of minority applicants. All applicants that meet the basic requirements for positions should be given at least a telephone, or a Skype interview.
Is there anything else about you that you’d like to share with our readers?
I am an idealist and perfectionist of the first order. As a result, my wife of 51 years has renamed me “Mr. Fix-It.” I am a deep thinker and tend to see things in terms of their practicality. I get teary-eyed when watching a movie that touches my soul and emotions. I am a champion of the disadvantaged and the downtrodden. I attribute my success to my upbringing, strong work ethic, determination, passion for excellence, education, and always seeing things through. While there are many highlights during my long career, I’d like to highlight my ability to identify with people from across the spectrum of age, gender, nationality, ethnicity, religion, and educational background. I cannot and will not tolerate the stench of racism and discrimination in any form.