Charlie Rattler III was born and raised in Dallas, Texas. He moved to Minnesota in 2009 and earned a degree in management at Southwest Minnesota State University. Charlie met his wife, Jesmine, at SMSU, and today they are raising six daughters ages 16 to 2. Charlie enjoys playing basketball in his free time, mentoring and inspiring others. He shared his experiences as part of the employer and workforce panel at the second annual Cultures On the Prairie earlier this year, a chance to experience the stories, history and cultures throughout southwest Minnesota. Below is part of Charlie’s story, in his words.
I graduated from SMSU with my business management degree. Why I chose management is as a little kid I wanted to do everything. I wanted to be a doctor, a lawyer. So, I would go to the career center and take these series of tests that tell you what types of jobs you’d be good at. Management or some type of leadership role always stood out.
I think the biggest thing for myself is just the willingness to want to help others and to want people to feel included. When I first came, I wanted to be included in everything. I was in all types of organizations at SMSU; I was in everything. I didn’t live on campus because I was a nontraditional student. I lived off-campus, but I wanted to be in everything. I wanted to just absorb and soak up as much as I could, and so when I started working I wanted to create those same opportunities for others who were kind of timid and shy and just moving from so many areas of the world.
I come from poverty and government assistance. I was the first to graduate high school, and college – the second to own a house from nine kids. I’ve been on my own since I was 17. Jefferson Lee was my mentor when I first moved here. He just kind of helped me along the way. I called him a zillion times about life things. He’s been awesome. So has Michele Sterner. They were just great, helping me figure it out and pointing me in the right direction. (Jefferson Lee is Director of SMSU’s Offices of Diversity and Inclusion and Access Opportunity Success (AOS). Michele Knife-Sterner is associate director of AOS.)
I love my job. I’m general manager here at the McDonald’s in Marshall and I employ so many people with different cultures and ethnicities. It was important to myself because when I first started working here, I was the only Black guy. Coming up in the ranks of McDonald’s, I wasn’t just your ideal Caucasian person. I wasn’t clean cut. I had these long dreadlocks. Everyone would write me off, and I’m winning department manager of the month and all these different accolades. It just goes to show, don’t judge a book by its cover. We just took over second place in sales throughout our franchise.
I was working at a different local store when I started college, and they just didn’t seem to care what I was going through. I would get racially profiled at work. It was my first time going to college, and they didn’t care about being flexible with my schoolwork or the time I needed to study. It was just that something that made me say I want to go and learn how to be a manager because my bosses weren’t very good leaders. I don’t know if it was training or personal error. I wanted to go and learn so I could be a bridge for people of color. I’m just very understanding now as a boss, anybody that’s going back to school, single mothers.
One thing I like to do is help people out by providing guidance, mentoring and or coaching in the right direction. There’s many people who I answer phone calls for those things, and to be honest, it gives me purpose and provides fulfillment in my life, to be able to help others figure things out!
I guess with human beings, they have a trait where seeing is believing. If you have businesses or schools that have people of color representing a certain position, they see it so then more and more people will be like, ‘Hey you’re doing that, so I want to do that. I’ll go to SMSU.’ There’s more and more people of color. I remember there was a handful of people of color at SMSU (when I started), and now it’s a lot more than what it was.
I was thinking about moving back to Texas, or to New York where my wife is from. We stayed because I like the people, and it’s safe and quiet to raise a family. The people are very friendly here, minus the racial things from time to time. One of my kids was bullied because she was wearing her hair in an afro. It’s a lot of awareness – parents paying attention to the type of conversations they’ve having with kids.
I like to see more and more people speaking up on social injustices – just reaching out and saying, ‘Ohmigosh. I’ve been so ignorant. I’m so sorry. I’ll never be silent again.’ The easiest thing to do is be quiet and not say anything. We have to first just acknowledge, and know when, and be willing to have those conversations because sometimes people are unaware how others feel until it’s brought up.