Value vs Worth: The Economics of Human Being

by Afroliterati

Over the years, working in an operations capacity at computer, bio tech, and aerospace companies, I’ve consistently witnessed Black Americans, and people of Latin, Hispanic, and African descent in lower wage jobs – security, reception, cafeteria worker, copy and janitorial services, and I’ve felt a kinship with them. Beyond the melanin. It’s a kinship of status, of a certain class to which we’ve all been relegated, together.

For a long time, its seemed that highly skilled South Asian Indians and others brought to the U.S. on company-sponsored H-1B visas, have almost singlehandedly represented “ethnic diversity” amongst higher pay grades in technology.

That’s diversity with a wink, of course, since these sponsored employees are found nowhere amongst the ranks of the aforementioned facility workers, yet are the literal cog and wheel of tech in America. This is fact. Interesting, obvious, maddening, uncontested, and sustained, even in corporations under the purview of the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission. How is this explained to the community, the customer base? It isn’t. How is it packaged for Board members? Well, supposedly, these definitions aren’t applicable to human beings in this country (anymore), but my best guess – value vs. worth.

We typically understand value as a measure of significance, or a measure of potential yield, especially monetarily. Value speaks more of raw attributes, inherent or intrinsic quality, and substance that doesn’t depreciate. Conversely, worth is kind of like the goodness and quality that remain after the impact of external conditions.  Worth is what’s netted out after damages. It’s a……non-appreciating trade equivalent.

In our daily lives, we don’t put much energy into making distinctions between the concepts of value and worth, but they’re hard at work in the faux-diversity of high tech. There, value and worth are set against one another, both morally and literally. If you’ve been anywhere in the U.S. over the last several years, and if you’ve been around tech companies, you’ve seen this in operation.

Submission of a visa application alone holds no guarantee of U.S. entry or corporate sponsorship, but when the process works – please read works sarcastically – it makes all of this possible. It grants a limited stay for purposes of certain categories of employment by a U.S. company to citizens of other nations whom have demonstrated technical aptitude and scholarship.

When these particular visas are granted, it’s due in part to the likelihood of applicants’ strong contributions to the U.S. economy, and even if it doesn’t work, the H-1B visa application process itself increases Government revenue. So, this is a win-win-win for Corporate America, American Government, and for the nations whose citizens become employees of U.S. companies through this scheme.

From year to year, this system of workforce classification by valuation – we can call it discrimination for short – masquerades as “tolerance” and “inclusiveness” and “corporate citizenship” and, bizarrely, earns accolades for the same.

What really matters to these companies though is taking the lead in the marketplace, due in no small part to the know-how of these sponsored employees, particularly in areas of science, technology, engineering, and math. No doubt, the STEM expertise of H-1B foreign nationals, and employment agreements that assign ownership of inventions to corporate sponsors, have greatly benefited these corporations.

Awesome for the South Asian visa-sponsored employee, and any visa-sponsored employee for that matter, but how does this affect the rest of us? Once upon a time in this great nation – please read great sarcastically – melanin was an absolute equalizer, so the irony of all this is astounding!

It might even be comical if it weren’t for the bastardization of equal employment opportunity, and the crippling effect on the psyche of run-of-the-mill minority employees wedged in between the modestly compensated minority security guards and janitors, and the high-wage minority H-1B techies.

It’s critical to guard against distinctions between value and worth in corporate settings, especially in America’s current political climate, but this is true wherever we are in the world. In support of our mental health and emotional IQ, why don’t we develop value propositions?

A value proposition is probably best defined by what it is not. It’s not like a resume. Our resumes showcase our skill and proficiency in assimilation, cooperation, and duplication. A resume is a statement of corporate worth, put bluntly. It’s us, manufactured. A value proposition, on the other hand, highlights individuality. It shows off who we are, what we create, how we give.  These things relay raw value – intrinsic, timeless, appreciating, and permanent. This is us, organically.

This is all of us. One Human Being. All equal since birth in purpose and potential, and some committed till death to curing inequities like this.

Afroliterati, a new contributor to South Seattle Emerald, addresses inequities and atrocities that deform Human Being, sometimes with the help of a little chocolate peanut butter ice cream.

Featured image belongs to the public domain