Zorba the Hutt (zorbathut) wrote,
Zorba the Hutt

on competence and the ability to do one's job

I was just down in the bookstore, browsing to find out how much textbooks would hurt. (One of my textbooks costs, new, $151 at the bookstore - $113 used. At amazon.com it's $146. By a curious set of circumstances, however, it seems I'll only have to buy a grand total of two textbooks.) (All hail the Gutenburg Project, and their ample supply of Shakespeare.)

For hopefully obvious reasons, they don't want people bringing their backpacks into the bookstore. I mean, duh. So they have a backpack-checking station set up - you give them your backpack, they give you a laminated piece of plastic, you give them the plastic, they give you your backpack, etc. There was one person handling it, and in fairness to him, the load was *cough* a bit heavy.

Unfortunately - and I don't believe there's any way to say this kindly - so was he. To the point that he was clearly having trouble moving quickly, or hefting student backpacks (I'm sure everyone here knows just how light college student backpacks tend to be), and this was causing problems to the point that the line was 30 people long. Literally. He was handling about one backpack every twenty seconds - which sounds fast until you actually time 20 seconds, and realize that "handling" involves walking, at most, five feet in each direction.

But here's what I'm thinking - what could they do about it? I mean, this is America - I seriously doubt they could fire him. ("You're fired." "Why?" "You're too fat, and you can't do your job properly." "Well, now I'll sue you." "Okay. Here's $200k for emotional damages, and you can have your old job back.") I'd like to reiterate that I have no problems with his weight, except that he could not do his job adequately because of it.

I shouldn't have to reiterate that, though. If someone can't do their job, they shouldn't be in it - whatever reason it is that they can't do it. Maybe they're Japanese, they're handling inventory, and they're too short to reach the top shelves without a lot of work. Maybe they're in construction, they're female, and they're not strong enough to do the work. Maybe they're required to do technical things, they're black, and they don't have the background they need.

If you're about to get offended, please note that I never mentioned their height/strength/intelligence was based on their race or gender. However, there are correlations. (I'm not getting into the reasons for that last one, you could fill an entire book on it. I did, however, find this rather disturbing page.) If you're still offended, think: would you be as offended if I'd talked about a short white male, a weak black male, and an unskilled Asian?

Why is it that people seem so devoted to wrapping up competence and physical ability in the same package as gender or race? Why can't we just, you know, base hiring and firing decisions on pure ability and lack thereof?

If you can't do the job, you shouldn't be doing it - and your race, gender, or physical abilities shouldn't act as a shield.
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