I tried everything – labour exchanges, employment agencies, newspaper ads – all with the same result. I even advertised myself mentioning my qualifications and the colour ofmy skin, but there were no takers. Then I tried applying for jobs without mentioning my colour, but when they saw me the reasons given for turning me down were all variations of thesame theme: too black.
There was, for instance, the electrical firm at Dagenham, which advertised for technicians in a local newspaper. No special qualifications were indicated, so Iapplied, hopeful that my trained abilities would stand me in good stead; this time I did not mention my colour. I received a prompt reply, asking me to call at the personnel office thefollowing morning. I presented myself there about 9 a.m. and a young female clerk handed me an application form and directed me to an anteroom where I had to fill it in and wait my turnto see the Personnel Manager.
Several young men were sitting there, some of them waiting nervously, others filling in their forms with worried concentration. One young man was unsureabout his spelling and appealed to the others for assistance; they too were unsure, and I was pleased to be able to set him right.
One by one they were called away and then it was myturn. The Personnel Manager sat with my form on the desk before him. He indicated a chair, picked up the form, and closely scrutinised it. We went through the familiar game of questionand answer, and I soon realised that he did not seem very interested in the extent of my technical knowledge. Finally he said, with a grin, ‘Why do you want this job?’
I feltsomewhat irritated by the irrelevance of this remark and replied, ‘I need the job to help me pay for little things, like the food I eat, the clothes I wear, and the lodgings I occupy.’