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"The Real Truth About Blacks and Unemployment…"
April 11, 2013 8:17 AM   Subscribe

Yolanda Spivey was unemployed for two years, but job offers only started coming in after she changed her race - and name - to White. She wrote about her experience; she's also been interviewed by The Current's Young Turk (video).
posted by jb (101 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite

 


This is horrifying.
posted by dejah420 at 8:33 AM on April 11, 2013 [18 favorites]


This has been tested before, but every time somebody adds a new data point it makes me want to strangle humanity anew.

It also makes me look around the predominantly-white newsrooms I've worked in (current job: one black reporter out of ~25, three black receptionists/office managers out of three) and wonder how much I've benefited from this bullshit. Ugh.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:33 AM on April 11, 2013 [19 favorites]


"I don’t wanna go in the future and find out what happens to white people because we’re gonna pay hard for this shit, you gotta know that. We’re not gonna just fall from number one to two. They are gonna hold us down and fuck us in the ass forever. And we totally deserve it." -- Louis CK

It seems rather apt at this point in time.
posted by Talez at 8:35 AM on April 11, 2013 [40 favorites]


More shocking was that some employers, mostly Caucasian-sounding women, were calling Bianca more than once, desperate to get an interview with her.

A few years back, I had a coworker, let's call her Betty, who was black, had a Master's in Public Health and a Master's in Public Policy, a hell of a resume, and so on. She code-switched really easily so she could, uh, sound white on demand.

I worked with her when she was part-timing through med school and before she decided that was her plan, she would interview regularly with hiring managers and headhunters and so on. They would speak with her on the phone, all the while developing a mental picture of this pleasant-sounding woman named Betty who held a number of upper degrees and a great resume, and call her to come in an interview in person.

...and then, a large black woman would show up to the interview and Betty said the look on their faces as she introduced herself -- trying their damn best to not appear as flustered as they clearly were -- was hilarious.

Unfortunately, the circumstances that lead to such brief moments of sorta-comeuppance are really, really fucking awful as this article describes.
posted by griphus at 8:35 AM on April 11, 2013 [20 favorites]


OK, so this is totally horrifying and ridiculous, but I wonder if there’s an element missing here. I assume that Yolanda’s profile was at least two years old, and Bianca’s was brand new. I don’t know if there’s a way for employers to tell who just joined Monster or not, but it could be an element swirling around here, right? Or am I being to Pollyanna?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:36 AM on April 11, 2013


but it could be an element swirling around here, right? Or am I being to Pollyanna?

Controlled experiments, like the one I linked to above, seem to show that race is the explanation.
posted by shothotbot at 8:39 AM on April 11, 2013 [11 favorites]


What do you expect when POC's are still being portrayed as "the other?" Wasn't there a post awhile back about white customer service workers with 'uncommon' names getting abused by callers?
I'm lucky in that most of my jobs have come from friends and that I have a good reputation. Heaven forbid that I decide to leave this industry, however.

I got married last year, my wife is white and my stepdaughter, who's seven has blond hair and blue eyes. She calls me "Dad".

I both relish and dread explaining the realities of race in America.
posted by black8 at 8:42 AM on April 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


Wasn't there a post awhile back about white customer service workers with 'uncommon' names getting abused by callers?

Fun fact, when you call Disney, you never get an cast member's real name.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:45 AM on April 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don’t know if there’s a way for employers to tell who just joined Monster or not, but it could be an element swirling around here, right?

This could be a factor, as I've seen several job-hunting articles claim that Monster tends to list recently-updated profiles higher than those that have been left alone. The standard advice seems to be that one should make a completely inconsequential change every few days, to stay high on the list. Spivey doesn't tell us whether she controlled for this.

Of course, there is good data out there (as linked by shothotbot) that changing the name on a CV from stereotypically white to black really does have a huge impact on hiring decisions. So even if she didn't control for the relative age of the postings, the relevant question seems to be "was the effect exaggerated?", not "was the effect real?".

It would be interesting to see a company try to blind itself from this... maybe have HR remove names from CVs and give each one a number instead? It doesn't seem that it would be terribly difficult to do, given that a lot of online applications have you completing forms rather than uploading a pre-made CV. It wouldn't help at the interview stage, but it might at least make the process of *getting* an interview more fair.
posted by metaBugs at 8:57 AM on April 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yeah, it's one thing to talk about life is hard and structures and whatnot, but cold hard facts like this do infinitely more to prove that things are still very, very bad.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 9:01 AM on April 11, 2013


This reminds me a lot of the "white kid stealing bike = ignored, black kid stealing bike = angry white mob forms" video that was just going round.

And of Eddie Murphy's "White Like Me" skit on SNL, which is seeming less and less exaggerated every day.
posted by edheil at 9:03 AM on April 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


[Dear beloved MeFites. We do not call other people trolls and we don't make comments that just complain about MetaFilter and why we don't like it here and pretend we are having a good faith conversation. Everyone knows where MetaTalk is.]
posted by jessamyn at 9:05 AM on April 11, 2013


Kal Penn's real name is Kalpen Suresh Modi — he only uses that name professionally, and only because no one calls back an actor named Kalpen Suresh Modi.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 9:05 AM on April 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


Conservatives/wingnuts (no real difference) would blame affirmative action for this kind of thing, like the way they blame multiculturalism for ghettoisation.
posted by colie at 9:05 AM on April 11, 2013


Racial Bias In Hiring, 2003
The authors find that applicants with white-sounding names are 50 percent more likely to get called for an initial interview than applicants with African-American-sounding names. Applicants with white names need to send about 10 resumes to get one callback, whereas applicants with African-American names need to send about 15 resumes to achieve the same result.

In addition, race greatly affects how much applicants benefit from having more experience and credentials. White job applicants with higher-quality resumes received 30 percent more callbacks than whites with lower-quality resumes. Having a higher-quality resume has a much smaller impact on African-American applicants, who experienced only 9 percent more callbacks for the same improvement in their credentials. This disparity suggests that in the current state of the labor market, African-Americans may not have strong individual incentives to build better resumes.
Monster.com: Do "Black" Names Matter In Hiring?
In Job Hunt, College Degrees Can't Close Racial Gap

Nothing new.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:06 AM on April 11, 2013 [7 favorites]


This is why we obviously don't need the voting rights act protections. Black people are equal in every way. That stuff is all in the past.

Right.

Way to go, 'murica.
posted by FauxScot at 9:06 AM on April 11, 2013


You Can't Tip a Buick, I went to high school with Kal's brother, who is a bigwig at a rather well known website and DOES use the last name Modi, as well as his birth name.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:07 AM on April 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Bobby Jindall was unavailable for comment.
posted by boo_radley at 9:09 AM on April 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


...and wonder how much I've benefited from this bullshit.

That's not how it works. It's not a zero-sum game. You should be ripshit because this racism crap is taking money out of your pocket - if people were given truly equal opportunities, more people would be producing at their best potential, which puts more money into the system all around. By forcing people into a lower-class economic situation unjustly, it's robbing from everyone.

tl;dr - If racism were eliminated, you won't lose your position because you're white. You'd make more money and have more opportunity as the middle class would be greatly expanded.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:12 AM on April 11, 2013 [28 favorites]


Racial Bias In Hiring, 2003

I would really like to see studies that also included stereotypical "ethinic" (e.g., Hispanic, Chinese, etc.) names.
posted by gyc at 9:15 AM on April 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


That's not how it works. It's not a zero-sum game. You should be ripshit because this racism crap is taking money out of your pocket - if people were given truly equal opportunities, more people would be producing at their best potential, which puts more money into the system all around. By forcing people into a lower-class economic situation unjustly, it's robbing from everyone.

tl;dr - If racism were eliminated, you won't lose your position because you're white. You'd make more money and have more opportunity as the middle class would be greatly expanded.


Yeah, this is kind of why I don't think the Louis CK "we're getting screwed for this and deserve it" thing is that awesome and I don't "woo" about it.
posted by sweetkid at 9:15 AM on April 11, 2013 [6 favorites]


That's not how it works. It's not a zero-sum game. You should be ripshit because this racism crap is taking money out of your pocket - if people were given truly equal opportunities, more people would be producing at their best potential, which puts more money into the system all around. By forcing people into a lower-class economic situation unjustly, it's robbing from everyone.

Actually, what racism does is it creates a "reserve labor army" of desperate workers of color, people who will work for less than white people because they know that they have fewer job options. (Consider that essay that was linked in the thread about grad school, where the author, a woman of color, talked about how she would totally take a shitty adjunct job because it looked great next to her other opportunities. This does not help adjuncts as a class, but it is difficult to blame her.)

This "reserve labor army" undercuts wages for all workers, even when employers are hiring white people.

There are a lot of angles on racism - the psychological "wages of whiteness", the benefits that white people receive from red-lining, etc - but one of them is that racism benefits the [majority white] ruling class, which is why they are so resistant to affirmative action and racial justice in general.
posted by Frowner at 9:19 AM on April 11, 2013 [31 favorites]


tl;dr - If racism were eliminated, you won't lose your position because you're white. You'd make more money and have more opportunity as the middle class would be greatly expanded.

I'm a reporter. There's a huge amount of competition for an ever-shrinking number of open jobs. It's not a matter of losing my position, but of whether I'd still have been the "best" candidate out of dozens or even hundreds, which is what it takes to get a journalism job nowadays.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 9:20 AM on April 11, 2013


Discrimination in a Low-Wage Labor Market: A Field Experiment: "...black applicants were half as likely as equally qualified whites to receive a callback or job offer. In fact, black and Latino applicants with clean backgrounds fared no better than white applicants just released from prison."

However, on Griphus's comment: Yes, I can believe that people would be suprised to see a black woman. A highly educated woman who sounds white is more likely to be white. But did she get the job offer?
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 9:22 AM on April 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


And I add that when majority-white unions are complicit in racism, we are totally screwing ourselves over.

White people don't need Louis CK's [kind of rape-y and homophobic] ideas about what "they" will do to "us" in revenge; we're screwing ourselves.
posted by Frowner at 9:22 AM on April 11, 2013 [9 favorites]


But Zarquon, if racism were eliminated, of those people of color working at better and higher-level jobs, at least some percentage would have started their own business or even created a new industry that would hire more people.

There is not a static number of jobs. How many jobs there are are partially related to how many people have the security and know-how to start a new business, work from home as a consultant, etc. etc. New business can also create more competition, leading older businesses to hire more workers to keep up.

I like the idea of name/race/gender blind resumes with numbers or something similar. Hiring of women in orchestras went up dramatically when auditions were perfomed behind a screen with gender being hidden.
posted by emjaybee at 9:26 AM on April 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


But did she get the job offer?

She described that as something that happened to her frequently, and she held a number of Important Positions before coming to the non-profit where we worked together (where I don't think it would've been an issue as it was staffed and managed almost exclusively by black and Hispanic people) so I assume she must have gotten at least some. I assume it probably also would have knocked her out of the running for others.
posted by griphus at 9:29 AM on April 11, 2013


However, on Griphus's comment: Yes, I can believe that people would be suprised to see a black woman. A highly educated woman who sounds white is more likely to be white.

I feel like if people based their impressions on things that actually happen in their lives instead of "stats," they would see things like this more often and it wouldn't be as much like seeing a unicorn as it seems to be. (Not a shot at you, Mr Know-it-some).
posted by sweetkid at 9:33 AM on April 11, 2013


I think the problem is having that asinine race/gender questionnaire. I know a few female copywriters who only go by male names or gender neutral initials such as KJ White, etc. That is the bullshit part. So is an employer checking on credit. Maybe you have bad credit because you ran up a credit card to pay for groceries by being unemployed.

Resume should only focus on experience, plain and simple. Not race, gender, age, nor income. Everyone can have a horrifying job hunt experience based on any one of those things. Does anyone think a 54 year old manager making say near 6 figs has an easy time getting hired? Nope. No one wants a 54 year old making six figs when they can hire a fresh, 20-something who can get paid at half the cost and not know how to play the employment game. Easier to take advantage of.

And that's what it's all about, who can they take advantage of. Who is the easy, no risk, low pay hire. That is what employers are looking for in an ideal candidate.
posted by stormpooper at 9:40 AM on April 11, 2013 [7 favorites]


Lakisha/Jamal is more a commentary on social background

How do you know someone's social background from their name?
posted by sweetkid at 9:48 AM on April 11, 2013 [7 favorites]


A real interesting point is the inclusion also on the Labor study that says applicants in better neighborhoods got more calls, race-neutral - but they say that they do not believe the sorting for social class is what is happening. Any idea what this would be about? I always wondered why we need to include addresses on resumes still - no one EVER mails anything. This is fascinating.
posted by corb at 9:48 AM on April 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


A highly educated woman who sounds white is more likely to be white.

If other people think this, well, what can you do? If someone finds themself thinking this, the bolded words are a good place to start to change their thinking.
posted by benito.strauss at 10:02 AM on April 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


> How do you know someone's social background from their name?

You don't know, but you can certainly make educated guesses that will be right a lot of the time.

The worst part is that we've known about this for over a generation, so all the "upwardly mobile" African-American families have started to name their kids things like "Jennifer" and "Llewellyn". I mean, I absolutely can't blame them for wanting to keep their kids out of this mess, but what it does mean is that when you see a young person with a typically African-American name, you're seeing a selection from a pool where a lot of the candidates with supportive, "connected" families have been removed...

No - actually the very worst part is that if you talk to American conservatives, they will tell you with a straight face that hiring is biased toward people of color, and no fact that you can put in front of them will get them to change their minds...
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:10 AM on April 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


I've lived long enough to go from seeing the N-word being used openly in a department store in North Carolina to seeing the same woman (my grandmother) call her children down for using the word in her house. That took about 35 years, but it happened.

I hope I can live long enough to see race and gender bias die the same death, but I have a feeling it'll take a lot longer.

We all do better when we all do better is so bloody basic a concept, it frustrates the shit out of me to see people ignore it.
posted by Mooski at 10:16 AM on April 11, 2013 [11 favorites]


I don't know if/how this pertains to employment or the lack thereof, but as an assistant in the entertainment industry I have been in countless situations that had White Privilege written all over them.

Every time I use my key to get into my boss' big fancy house in a ritzy subdivision just as the private security SUV drives by, I think, "If I were a black guy, I'd have been arrested already. Or worse."

applicants in better neighborhoods got more calls, race-neutral - but they say that they do not believe the sorting for social class is what is happening. Any idea what this would be about?

I guess it depends on the city, but my most charitable guess is that it informs commute times and the ability to be flexible about work hours. That said, this is something that can be a thinly-veiled class/race indicator, anyway. Like, you pick the white person, but you tell yourself it's because they live closer.
posted by Sara C. at 10:30 AM on April 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


yeah I think that would totally depend on the city.
posted by sweetkid at 10:34 AM on April 11, 2013


Don't forget Asians!
posted by KokuRyu at 10:37 AM on April 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Come on KokoRyu, everyone forgets about Asians.
posted by sweetkid at 10:38 AM on April 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


Unlike most social science experiments this is one that you can easily carry out yourself in a couple of hours.
posted by miyabo at 10:47 AM on April 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


No one wants a 54 year old making six figs when they can hire a fresh, 20-something who can get paid at half the cost and not know how to play the employment game. Easier to take advantage of.

Quite. Which being the case, even though I do not doubt the race aspect in the job market, I'd like to have little more detail about her anecdote:

Other than being chronically out of work, I embarked on this little experiment because of a young woman I met while I was in school. She was a twenty-two-year-old Caucasian woman who, like myself, was about to graduate. She was so excited about a job she had just gotten with a well-known sporting franchise. She had no prior work experience and had applied for a clerical position, but was offered a higher post as an executive manager making close to six figures. I was curious to know how she’d been able to land such a position. She was candid in telling me that the human resource person who’d hired her just “liked” her and told her that she deserved to be in a higher position. The HR person was also Caucasian.

posted by IndigoJones at 10:47 AM on April 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm not sure how accurate this is, but one of the comments claims to be from someone who uses Monster from an employment angle and says they don't actually have access to the visibility of race/gender. (Though I imagine it could still be inferred from names.) It could just be BS though.
posted by corb at 10:56 AM on April 11, 2013


As usual, so many people trying to twist themselves in knots to show that in this case, it may not be the case. Not as much here but don't read the comments on that article.

Here's one thing -- even if Bianca rose to the top because it was a "fresh" profile. The fact is, clearly there were people out there actively looking to fill positions that Yolanda was qualified for. For whatever reason, clear bias or subconscious bias or...?, her original resume was deemed not good enough for contact. However, all the same info with just one difference, and people who were looking were champing at the bit to contact her.
posted by amanda at 10:59 AM on April 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


Oh man, remember that time homer changed his name to Max Power
posted by Damienmce at 11:03 AM on April 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


Corb, yes, it's inferred through names.

For one thing, isn't that the whole premise here? Yolanda changes her name to Bianca and suddenly has a ton more responses?

For another thing, any person who insists that you can't infer someone's race/ethnicity from their name, or that they have never done so or considered doing so is LYING.

The one thing that always floors me about these discussions is how many people have to know that this happens, have to have seen it happen or even been complicit in it, and yet there's a general contrarian "but we can't know for sure that this is happening" attitude.
posted by Sara C. at 11:09 AM on April 11, 2013 [9 favorites]


A real interesting point is the inclusion also on the Labor study that says applicants in better neighborhoods got more calls, race-neutral - but they say that they do not believe the sorting for social class is what is happening.

That's not what the study says. It says that both the black & white applicants who live in "better" neighborhoods are helped about the same amount by that added factor. The seemingly race-based gap between call-backs is still the same. The people running the experiment expected that gap to lessen; they expected a black applicant living in a "good" neighborhood to get a larger boost to their employability than their white counterpart.

My mother (who is black) has a PhD and a billion other useless degrees, and talks very deliberately, enunciating her words very carefully lest people realize that she grew up poor in Harlem. I imagine she has a relatively "impressive" resume, and consequently a similarly impressive rental application. When she retired, she decided to rent a condo in a very tony part of Florida*, doing the work to line up a place via phone and e-mail. When she finally met the white owner of the condo, the woman said, very surprised, "You look so different than what I pictured!" We know what that's code for.

Funnily enough, my mother told me a few months ago that she didn't believe in Affirmative Action. I tend to do this sort of verbal dance when other back people tell me that- it basically consists of calling them a self-loathing race traitor, but without saying that or anything remotely like it. What I ask them and what I asked my mom is, "Do you really think they would hire us/let us go their schools if someone didn't make them?"

Even funnier is that a few days before my mom told me she didn't believe in Affirmative Action, she told me that her white doctor referred to my mom and her other black patients as "colored." As in, "Well, some of my other colored patients..." Visible minorities can't afford to pretend this stuff isn't happening- especially when that level of othering is still so commonplace.

*She didn't last too long in that tony section of Florida. She has the same problem that I do. We tend to feel most comfortable in settings & locations where white people also tend to feel most comfortable. Some white people do not like this "intrusion" and our feelings of comfort can turn into feelings of discomfort pretty quickly.
posted by eunoia at 11:16 AM on April 11, 2013 [18 favorites]


"I like the idea of name/race/gender blind resumes with numbers or something similar. Hiring of women in orchestras went up dramatically when auditions were perfomed behind a screen with gender being hidden."

Some organizations do this (present "blind" resumes for at least first-round screenings) but it's really difficult to scrub a resume of all race, gender, religion, and class-identifying details. Just having a college listed -- Howard? Wellesley? Brigham Young? -- can send massive signals about race, gender, or religion, leaving aside class and cultural capital issues surrounding colleges and universities. Someone's work history may include preschools (probably a woman) or road construction crews (probably a man); or maybe they were a field organizer for a political organization -- the NAACP or the Log Cabin Republicans or Emily's List.

I suspect awareness of these biases is more likely to be helpful than attempts to eliminate the biases by removing group identifiers, because I'm simply not sure it's possible to do so. (Although I have nothing against name-blind resume reviews, as long as HR departments don't fool themselves into thinking it "cures" racial discrimination in hiring all by itself.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:17 AM on April 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


I like the idea of name/race/gender blind resumes with numbers or something similar.

Well, a lot of employment agencies and even the bigger temp agencies around here are demanding permission to run credit checks on applicants, so there always would be that option for them even with blind resumes.
posted by y2karl at 11:19 AM on April 11, 2013


Thanks to a phenomenally Irish name, I have been asked for a green card in an interview.

...This was after an hour or so of chatting at great length (and face-to-face) with the person who asked for the card. I am, essentially, a mid-westerner, at least in terms of accent.

I handed them my yellow and green Oregon birth certificate, and didn't bother returning their calls.

I can easily see how more unpleasant things could occur.
posted by combinatorial explosion at 11:28 AM on April 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


I saw a significant jump in resume responses immediately after changing my name from davejay [long eastern european last name] to davejay [short race-neutral last name], so this surprises me exactly not at all.
posted by davejay at 11:33 AM on April 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


Some people hear a Southern USA accent over the phone and think that the person is dimwitted regardless of their race. Further research should correct for dialectical variations in American English.
posted by Renoroc at 11:46 AM on April 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


Me too, though my name was changed from an ambiguously ethnic-sounding name to my white husband's last name.

Ironically, the only person who gave me a "oh, your ethnicity doesn't match up with your last name" look during an interview was a woman of a different minority than I am. (I got the job anyway!)
posted by luckynerd at 11:50 AM on April 11, 2013


When symphony orchestras started listening to auditions behind a curtain, all of a sudden, women started winning places in the orchestra that they never had before. Lots of people who assumed they weren't biased really were.

The number of women has increased about 500% since the 1970s, when this practice was introduced. Maybe we need to do "blind" job interviews in a similar way.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 11:56 AM on April 11, 2013 [19 favorites]


I remember searching through classified ads for jobs when I was younger, and many of them specified that you must have a driver's license and a car, even though the job didn't involve driving whatsoever. It took me a long time to realize that it was a way to weed out minorities, who are much less likely to own cars.
posted by desjardins at 12:45 PM on April 11, 2013 [8 favorites]


I've had a slightly different experience as a black midwesterner with a name when Googled tends to bring up old Irish ladies. I've had coworkers and interviewers ask why on earth I would move to our city, or ask where I moved here from - whereupon I have to tell them that I was born here and I've always lived here.

I've also had friends claim I wasn't trying hard enough after not finding work after a year and everyone in our social circle after college graduation except for me and our mutual half-Mexican friend were still unemployed, though that could have been ignorance of the economy too.
posted by koucha at 12:54 PM on April 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


So, why the fuck doesn't Monster.com or Dice etcetera not offer the option of a race blind process?

The applicants have to hand-enter all their details anyway, why not offer HR departments a process whereby they first look at applications with race/gender details blocked out (including names, so that Jamal and Madison all become Applicant) ?

Seems a simple thing to offer.
posted by ocschwar at 12:55 PM on April 11, 2013


I've had coworkers and interviewers ask why on earth I would move to our city, or ask where I moved here from - whereupon I have to tell them that I was born here and I've always lived here.

Ugh, that's charming.
posted by sweetkid at 12:56 PM on April 11, 2013


Suspect Policy, by Randall Kennedy. Long, but worth the read.

"...given that, statistically, whites tend to be better educated than blacks, it might make business sense for an employer to give a racial edge to white applicants."

"Unfortunately, though, many who condemn racial profiling do so without really thinking the issue through. ... So, if racial profiling isn't necessarily bigoted, and if the empirical claim upon which the practice rests is sound, why is it wrong?"

(Spoiler: He argues it is wrong.)
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 12:57 PM on April 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


So, why the fuck doesn't Monster.com or Dice etcetera not offer the option of a race blind process?

Well, would that solve the entire problem? I get a lot of job inquiries through Linked In from recruiters/HR reps, where they can see faces and names just fine.
posted by sweetkid at 12:57 PM on April 11, 2013


Yeah, I found TONS of obvious class/race marker weed outs when I was job hunting recently.

Drivers License/Car I saw, though around here I don't think it's quite the red flag that it would be in some other areas.

I saw a few "must have nice car/late-model car/car in good condition". Some of these seemed like positions where you might be giving people rides or driving around as part of the job, but it still weeds out a lot of people who are likely to be poorer and non-white.

I saw a lot of "we'd prefer someone who lives nearby/in the neighborhood", which in an upscale neighborhood for a low-level service industry job basically means "must be white and affluent with an additional means of support".

Another thing I see a lot, that I'm guessing is used to discourage minority and lower class applicants, is absolutely OUTRAGEOUS lists of qualifications far beyond the actual demands of the job, not congruent with the title, the salary, or the experience level. My guess is that the idea is that people with certain sorts of privilege will see that, think "hell, why not?" and apply, whereas people who doubt that they're worthy of a white-collar job (no matter how easy and entry-level) will be scared off by the requirements.
posted by Sara C. at 12:58 PM on April 11, 2013 [7 favorites]


This is despressing, but sadly not surprising.

I don't know if anyone else has picked up on the fact that "bianca" is Italian for "white" (in the feminine). So she was literally -- and I assume deliberately -- using a name that could be translated to "white white." Clever.
posted by dhens at 12:59 PM on April 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


I think it might have been deliberate in a poetic sort of way, but I doubt it was deliberate in the sense that she expected the hiring managers to notice and react accordingly.

Before I made the "Bianca" = "white" connection I assumed she picked it because it's pretty ethnically ambiguous and relatively uncommon. It also doesn't have too many class or age signifiers that could muddy things. Bianca could be pretty much anybody.
posted by Sara C. at 1:10 PM on April 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I remember searching through classified ads for jobs when I was younger, and many of them specified that you must have a driver's license and a car, even though the job didn't involve driving whatsoever. It took me a long time to realize that it was a way to weed out minorities, who are much less likely to own cars.

In cities with less-than-reliable public transportation systems, a requirement that you have a license/car could simply be a policy meant to cut down on absenteeism. Or the employer may need you to make occasional office supply runs.

Even if it happens to exclude a higher percentage of minority applicants, doesn't mean it's pernicious or racist.
posted by Unified Theory at 1:19 PM on April 11, 2013


Even if it happens to exclude a higher percentage of minority applicants, doesn't mean it's pernicious or racist.
I guess that depends how you define "racist."
posted by the man of twists and turns at 1:23 PM on April 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sara C.: Yeah, I don't think she chose it to (further) broadcast "whiteness," but rather almost as a kind of grim in-joke to herself.
posted by dhens at 1:24 PM on April 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


I guess that depends how you define "racist."

True--you could define "racist" so that anything is considered racist.
posted by Unified Theory at 1:29 PM on April 11, 2013


How are you defining it?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 1:30 PM on April 11, 2013


The comment you responded to is clear enough. How are you defining it?
posted by Unified Theory at 1:33 PM on April 11, 2013


The comment you responded to is clear enough.

It is not clear to me.

I'd define "racism" as "acting in a manner that creates or perpetuates race-based inequality."
posted by the man of twists and turns at 1:35 PM on April 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


In cities with less-than-reliable public transportation systems, a requirement that you have a license/car could simply be a policy meant to cut down on absenteeism.

Sure, but I think most people applying for jobs know that they need to have a way to get to the job.

There are ways you can phrase this in a job listing that work pretty well. For instance, if the job requires car-based errands during work hours, just say that. It's usually pretty helpful to tell potential applicants what the duties are.

If it's a matter of lateness/absenteeism, I've seen "must have reliable transportation" before, and I think that's OK, though TBH I think most working adults in the USA understand that you have to actually be able to get to the job in order for this to work out. It sounds condescending or jerky.

There's an implied classism (at least) in wanting to hire only someone who drives themselves to work, solo, in a car that they own.
posted by Sara C. at 1:46 PM on April 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


So, why the fuck doesn't Monster.com or Dice etcetera not offer the option of a race blind process?

They make their money by offering services that employers want to pay for. What makes you think a race-blind process is something employers want, considering how many other aspects of your personal life they want to know, some of which they can't legally ask for?
posted by davejay at 1:52 PM on April 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


"I'd define "racism" as "acting in a manner that creates or perpetuates race-based inequality."

I think there are many job requirements that a higher percentage of whites than blacks would meet, but the actual reason for requiring it is genuinely race-neutral. For example, jobs that require a bachelor's degree. You would seem to be suggesting that the requirement of a bachelor's degree would be racist if a higher percentage of whites than blacks would satisfy it, regardless of the rationale for requiring that degree. I disagree with that.

"Race-based inequality," to me, means "purposeful exclusion of a certain race." A requirement that an employer deems necessary (but which, the employer is in fact NOT imposing as a pretext for discrimination) and that happens to have a higher percentage of one race fulfilling the requirement than another race, is not purposeful exclusion of a certain race, so it is not creating or perpetuating race-based inequality. It is perpetuating inequality that correlates with race to some degree, but so are other inarguably race-neutral requirements such as having a medical degree to practice medicine.

Perhaps you are contending that the employer's actual intent in imposing the requirement of having a license and a car is to exclude candidates of a certain race. And I would agree that, if that is the employer's objective intention, then yes, that's obviously racist.

If it's a matter of lateness/absenteeism, I've seen "must have reliable transportation" before, and I think that's OK, though TBH I think most working adults in the USA understand that you have to actually be able to get to the job in order for this to work out. It sounds condescending or jerky.

I think lots of employers in areas underserved by public transportation (big swaths of the U.S.), have lots of trouble with absenteeism and lateness from people who are dependent on family/friends for rides. Even in jobs where driving is not really a common thing, employers may still need employees free to run an errand from time to time.
posted by Unified Theory at 3:58 PM on April 11, 2013 [1 favorite]



They make their money by offering services that employers want to pay for. What makes you think a race-blind process is something employers want, considering how many other aspects of your personal life they want to know, some of which they can't legally ask for?


I don't know.

It just seems a really facile thing to offer for the initial step. It's true that once the phone calls and emails begin, the applicant has no choice but to disclose these things, and the employer has a harder time ignoring them. But it's worth it for the first phase, I should think.
posted by ocschwar at 5:59 PM on April 11, 2013


I don't think this is a problem that can be resolved without giving the Labor Board or whatever agency could handle it double the budget and carte blanche to run race-related and gender-related sting operations anywhere in the US. Fear of jail time or business crippling fines that cannot be appealed would certainly get the job done. People wouldn't stomach the collateral damage of false-positives and the inevitable personal vendetta played out from within the organization but we're finding it hard to stomach this bullshit right now so something is going to have to give.
posted by Slackermagee at 7:12 PM on April 11, 2013


Which is to say, regardless of the proportion of minority and majority qualified workers in a given field, it should be possible to give a company a choice between a very qualified minority candidate and a host of barely qualifying majority candidates and judge the company based on how it chooses.
posted by Slackermagee at 7:15 PM on April 11, 2013


It's situations like this where I think there should be quotas, fuck how scared everybody gets about that word.
posted by Sara C. at 7:22 PM on April 11, 2013


I don't think there are enough white people who understand the problem. I don't think there ever will be... culture and society is dictated by those who think they have a solid financial interest in keeping people from understanding the problem, and worse, agents provocateur who insist on white people seeing anti-racism as somehow taking opportunity away from them or their children.

This is why I am vehemently opposed to privilege checking and "the invisible backpack" - they are racist trojan horses. It only works in the positive if you're the self-sacrificing sort of white liberal, otherwise you, as a self-interested white person, start to think, "Hmmm, if it =really is= good for my kids, then..."

No, it's not good for you and your kids. It's keeping you down.

Don't examine your privilege. Examine your family's fucking bottom line. More shots at a decent education, more opportunities for a lifelong career once they graduate, more opportunities to move up yourself, that's the payoff for eliminating prejudice and racism.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:30 PM on April 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


Kal Penn's real name is Kalpen Suresh Modi — he only uses that name professionally, and only because no one calls back an actor named Kalpen Suresh Modi.

Fun little fact; in the credits for The Namesake, he lists himself as Kalpen Suresh Modi for "Gogol" and as Kal Penn for Nikhil Ganguli. A bit of a tip o' hat that makes sense only if you read the book or watch the movie.

Bobby Jindall was unavailable for comment

I'm sure Piyush Jindal had something to say about it before he became Bobby.
posted by the cydonian at 7:45 PM on April 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


no one calls back an actor named Kalpen Suresh Modi

I'm not sure that's true, and I think acting, as a profession, is an outlying case.

I think where the ethnic name thing comes in with acting is stuff like "what if my agent can't pronounce my name?" or maybe "I'm ethnically ambiguous and want to be considered for a variety of roles, not just Indian guys". Either of which could have informed Kal's choice of what to go by professionally. I highly doubt it was literally "I could never get a job if I had an ethnic name", since casting doesn't really work that way.

(FWIW I know a lot of Indian actors, and most of them just use their regular name. Kal is a bit of an outlier.)
posted by Sara C. at 8:36 PM on April 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


So, why the fuck doesn't Monster.com or Dice etcetera not offer the option of a race blind process? -- ocschwar

Optioin? Why not just get rid of it period. Has it been established that employers have access to this information, or was it just her name change that caused the increase in hiring?

Because if employers have access to this information, and this kind of race bias through Monster.com is so easily proven, then could this lead to a class action lawsuit? I'm not a lawyer and know nothing about lawsuits except that lawyers like cases that involve lots of money, and loss of wages among the millions who have used Monster.com services certainly counts as lots of money.
posted by eye of newt at 10:57 PM on April 11, 2013


Sara C.: ""I'm ethnically ambiguous and want to be considered for a variety of roles, not just Indian guys"."

FWIW, this is a huge, huge problem for Asian actors. Directors will rarely ever cast an Asian in an "ethnically-ambiguous" part.
posted by schmod at 5:56 AM on April 12, 2013


Directors will rarely ever cast Asians in anything, so yeah.
posted by sweetkid at 7:05 AM on April 12, 2013


However a white very Irish-looking kid I grew up with is now an actor in LA and is always complaining that if he were more "ethnic" he would get tons of work :/

He did get called in for Mad Men though. "Ethnics" not so much.
posted by sweetkid at 7:07 AM on April 12, 2013


I think "being ethnic" (heavy on the scare quotes there) can be a "good thing" if you are at a certain level and want to be a little distinctive or potentially get certain types of stock roles that always seem to be out there and presumably don't have a ton of competition. (For some reason terrorist comes immediately to mind.)

It's like, a given agent only reps like 3 dudes who would be right for "ALI", she actually remembers those three guys and submits them, and there's a reasonable chance one of those three guys is going to get the part. That can look a lot like "totally having it made" when you're one of a thousand faces and the agent has no idea who you are.

What your friend doesn't get is that there are like a million bland white guy parts for every stock "ethnic" role, and as an actor it really sucks to get shoehorned into only playing terrorists.
posted by Sara C. at 7:42 AM on April 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


FWIW, this is a huge, huge problem for Asian actors.

I'm reminded of the Indian actor who was cast in the lead on a pilot I worked on recently. The role was written as white. I think he thought it was a big coup to be potentially playing a "white" role, or to be ethnically ambiguous enough to be considered for that particular role.

Then the series creator went back and changed the character's last name to better reflect the actor's appearance.

The actor was pissed.

My thought? Hon, you just got the lead in a new CW series. (Probably a first for an Asian actor?) Is your character's last name really the hill you want to die on?
posted by Sara C. at 7:56 AM on April 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Um, I completely get why he was pissed. They couldn't let an "ethnic" actor "get away with" having a "white name." They were saying it wasn't believable his character had the name he had. That's fucking annoying as hell.

And if you said that to him, I wouldn't have been surprised if he was annoyed at your reaction too..."better reflect his appearance?"
posted by agregoli at 8:11 AM on April 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Isn't there a new account bias on these job seeker sites? You must create both accounts at similar times to truly test for the bias, but she compared a new account with her old account.
posted by jeffburdges at 8:58 AM on April 12, 2013


He did get called in for Mad Men though. "Ethnics" not so much.

I think in the Mad Men era "ethnic" mean Italian.
posted by benito.strauss at 9:30 AM on April 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


They couldn't let an "ethnic" actor "get away with" having a "white name." They were saying it wasn't believable his character had the name he had.

With the name as scripted, it would have been really off-putting and potentially not believable to audiences. They also ended up recasting the character's parents so that they looked more like him.

Of course, there are probably plenty of South Asians with last names like O'Brien and McDonald who have blond parents, but in TV they want stuff to be "realistic". I wish we lived in a world where any actor could play any character, with any name, in any cast of other actors who all also looked like whatever, but we don't, and in the grand scheme of racial injustice, it's not really a hill worth staking your career on. Again, especially in a situation that is already pretty boundary-breaking and good for diversity in the media.

It has nothing to do with the actor "getting away with" anything. It could have been MUCH worse -- they could have considered only fresh faced, clean cut, All-American (white/Anglo) actors. It's not like they rewrote the show to make him work in a call center or something.
posted by Sara C. at 10:21 AM on April 12, 2013


(Also to clarify, I did not say a single word to this guy about the situation and his character's name. Duh. Just like him having to put up with his character not being Irish, I also enjoy having a job.)
posted by Sara C. at 10:22 AM on April 12, 2013


Well, we do have Aziz Ansari playing a guy named Tom Haverford.
posted by sweetkid at 10:27 AM on April 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Personally though, it's more important to me to see South Asians represented as "regular people" in media than whatever their last name is. A lot of the time when I see them as characters in crime of the week type stuff, it always turns out that there is a terrorism or arranged marriage storyline with them.
posted by sweetkid at 10:28 AM on April 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


But the joke is that he changed his name to Tom Haverford because he thought it was the only way to get into politics.

And, sweetkid, you are going to LOVE this horrible CW pulp show about a teen serial killer who just happens to be Indian-American but his mom is played by Denise Richards because hey why not.
posted by Sara C. at 10:42 AM on April 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Tom Haverford: My birth name is Darwish Zubair Ismail Gani. Then I changed it to Tom Haverford, because you know, brown guys with funny-sounding Muslim names don't make it far into politics.
Leslie Knope: What about Barack Obama?
Tom Haverford: Okay, yeah, fine, Barack Obama. If I knew a guy named Barack Obama was gonna be elected president, yeah, maybe I wouldn't have changed it.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:44 AM on April 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


Personally though, it's more important to me to see South Asians represented as "regular people" in media than whatever their last name is. A lot of the time when I see them as characters in crime of the week type stuff, it always turns out that there is a terrorism or arranged marriage storyline with them.

You seem to have forgotten all the socially awkward math genius gag roles.
posted by shothotbot at 11:01 AM on April 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


You seem to have forgotten all the socially awkward math genius gag roles.

Not really, I'm talking about crime-of-the-week type shows. But yea socially awkward math genius isn't a "regular people" category either.
posted by sweetkid at 11:16 AM on April 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


And, sweetkid, you are going to LOVE this horrible CW pulp show about a teen serial killer who just happens to be Indian-American but his mom is played by Denise Richards because hey why not.

If you are talking about Twisted, it's on ABC Family not the CW.
posted by nooneyouknow at 11:33 AM on April 12, 2013


Based on what Sara C. has previously told me about the show it is definitely Twisted.
posted by sweetkid at 11:42 AM on April 12, 2013


It's really embarrassing that I got that wrong, considering that I worked on it. Same ish, different channel I don't watch.
posted by Sara C. at 12:22 PM on April 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


I would really like to see studies that also included stereotypical "ethinic" (e.g., Hispanic, Chinese, etc.) names.

Write-up; study (pdf). (Canadian).
posted by nelljie at 5:02 PM on April 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


A similar test of the labor market was undertaken in Sweden by a group of researchers and they found similar evidence for discrimination.

http://www.thelocal.se/jobs/?site=tlse&AID=47164#.UWwW60qjYlS
posted by ChuckRamone at 8:13 AM on April 15, 2013


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