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reaping the beneifts of racist attitudes.

last night we had a great post-season tulane band staff dinner, and there was something mentioned that coincides with similar experiences i've been privy to at West Chester. There were two other candidates that were in contention for the job that i have now, both of which are white. The staff mentioned that if they decided to hire one of the other two candidates for the job, they would have had to also submit some sort of essay explanation as to why i didn't get hired to be approved by some sort of committee (or at least cover their bases) because i was a minority candidate, and that when they decided to hire me they didn't have to write anything explaining why they didn't hire one of the two white guys.

while i can understand conceptually why policies such as this are in place, personally i think it's ridiculous. It's another example of an ideal of "affirmative action" that loses the forest-for-the-trees when it comes to practical process. A more extreme example of this that i know about was about ten years ago when West Chester was looking for a new music history professor. I had a long convesration with Sterling Murray about that one time when i was visiting, and it went something like this:

After the job req was put out, applications poured in. People were either required to or encouraged to put their ethnic background on the applicatiion. The applications went to the music history faculty committee, but the ethnic category and gender were not visible to them because they didn't want race or gender to be a factor as to why the committee would choose someone for a live interview.

so far so good. But the next step in the process was that after the music history faculty decided what 6-8 people they wanted to interview, they had to submit those names to HR who then looked at the list, and one of the criteria that they had for the list was that it represent a decent degree of ethnic diversity and minorities. If they decided that there weren't enough minority candidates in the selection pool, they kicked it back to the music history faculty and said, "sorry, this list isn't approved because you didn't choose enough minorities, so you have to give us a new one."

But again, the music history faculty weren't privy to the ethnic background or gender of any of the candidates. They made their list purely based on who they felt was the most qualified regardless of ethnic background. but *now*, they needed to come up with a new list. So then it turns into this mode of thinking: "instead of picking the 6-8 people we think would be best suited for the job, we need to pick our favourite four or five, hope that there's enough ethnic/gender diversity in that group, and then just in case try to pick ethnic/gender diverse candidates for the other two to three slots by looking at their names or some other artificial thing on their resume that might give us a clue that they're a minority." and they submitted their new list, which HR had full power to reject again so that the committee would have needed to come up with a new list, &c.

The bottom line of which is that some potentially fully qualified white candidates were eliminated from the pool simply because they were white, and some potentially ethnic minority candidates who had "white sounding names" were also eliminated from the pool regardless of their qualifications.

if you ask me, processes like this promote racism more than it defeats it. Eliminating racism means that we need to *de-emphasize* race, not put a microscope on it. And honestly, i think that some of the universities and corporations that have policies like this *understand* this, but the real big picture for at least some if not most of them is that these policies are in place not truly as a proactive attempt to promote cultural diversity in hiring but to ensure that when they're looked at as an organization by an affirmative action group or some statistical collection group, they're representing enough cultural and gender diversity that they won't be investigated. As in, "it's better that we have a pool of employees that may not be the most qualified but are ethnically/gender diverse than have a pool of employees that are the most qualfied but are all white men."

which is why i personally fight very hard to not be identified as any label before i'm identified merely as a person. don't think of me as an asian, as a male, as a particular social class, a particular age class. i defy those traits defining who i am, preferring to be identified by my actions and my thoughts simply as Mendel. i'd much prefer you hate me or fire me or not hire me because i am Mendel than you like me or give me a raise or whatever because of an artificial characteristic about me. i don't like things (or respect) given to me without earning them.

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kalia_prophet
Nov. 23rd, 2008 11:07 pm (UTC)
"these policies are in place not truly as a proactive attempt to promote cultural diversity in hiring but to ensure that when they're looked at as an organization by an affirmative action group or some statistical collection group, they're representing enough cultural and gender diversity that they won't be investigated. As in, "it's better that we have a pool of employees that may not be the most qualified but are ethnically/gender diverse than have a pool of employees that are the most qualfied but are all white men.""

My husband's company is exactly like that. They are very focused on promoting women and minorities. They are also concerned with hiring women and minorities for technical jobs such as engineers and programmers. I have mixed feelings about it. I don't want someone to choose me for a job just because I am a woman, but in this market and economy that I am facing I could use the edge. I am looking at graduating at a time when companies aren't hiring and the job market is tight.

These companies want to represent the general population but haven't taken into consideration that women in particular do not choose technical careers. My classes are so skewed, right now out of 11 classmates I am the only female.*shrugs*
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lifeofmendel
Nov. 24th, 2008 12:23 am (UTC)
sorry, i don't get the point of the first bit. people who were shown only the first five seconds of job interviews were able to predict hire or no hire because of what?

i understand that the world doesn't exactly work like that, that it's an idealist notion, but at least in pockets it's not that far out of reach. during the same dinner, there was a conversation about how one teacher's students didn't know what 'affirimative action' was, and when it was explained to them, their reaction was generally, 'oh. why do we need that?' i don't think that represents the norm, and it's possible that that represents a particular sort of naivitee that will be shaped into something different whether good or bad as they get older.

i think that what's more important for me is how the philosophy i have for it comes through in how i live my life and interact with other people. as in, i don't try to use the fact that i'm asian-american as a power card or a scapegoat. granted, one of the reasons i was looking forward to moving here was to be a minority, but only in the sense that i want to break people's perceptions of me as a minority and start to see me as simply a person, so i don't know if that counts. i also do my best to impress others the same sort of notion as it relates to our interactions or how they interact with other people to overcome whatever biases they may have.

also, it's possible that the statement above is too black and white *cough* and that eliminating racism has more to do with finding a way to be conscious of the issue without it going overboard. finding that balance is tricky and doesn't apply to everyone, though. maybe there's just no answer at all. :)
kalia_prophet
Nov. 24th, 2008 03:06 pm (UTC)
People don't need to grow up in "mixed-race families" to see people as humans. *shrug*
miss_skillet
Nov. 24th, 2008 07:47 am (UTC)
I am a fan of hiring and promotion based upon competence and potential alone. As many crass jokes as I make among friends, I really do believe in blindness when it comes to gender, race, disability and orientation in the workplace and law. Hell even extensive tattooing/piercing/hair coloring means jack to me. (Since I work at a tech school we have many discussions about "professionalism" and it's been mentioned that it could be argued that such an appearance shows lack of forethought or being inconsiderate or menacing but really...come on...)

I want to live in a world and work in a place where people aren't promoted OR demoted based on how they were born, but who they are and how they do.
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