Post Racial Times

Jo Ann Hardesty

As reported in the New York Times last week, new tactics are being employed by African Americans who are seeking employment in these tough economic times they are "Whitening their Resume"

I was pretty surprised that people employ these tactics until I read the article.  While some point to the election of President Barack Obama as proof we are living in post racial times this article should remove all doubt that race continues to play an important role in determining who benefits and who doesn't.

Can you imagine removing an association that identifies your race from your resume?  Can you imagine using initials in your name because a potential employer may assume your name sounds "black"?  Some will say that this is illegal but we all know that just because a behavior is illegal doesn't mean people don't do it.

The people interviewed for this article all have impressive resumes but can't get a first interview. The vision of a post racial society is an incredible dream!  Too bad it is not the reality for many of us!

Whitening of the Resume

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    i'm not going to claim this is equivalent, but since i turned 40, i have had an increasingly difficult time getting job interviews. i'm talking about administrative jobs for which i am more than qualified and have a good work record. i know my age, and the expectations of what a man of my age "should" be doing, work against me. interviews i had no trouble getting in my 30s disappeared. i can only imagine what facing racism (or sexism, or any other overt -ism) must be like. at least i have options that let me deal with agist attitudes; if the issues was my skin color, i'm not really sure how i'd react. what would i do if i knew people were not going to hire me because of that? i have no idea.

    we are so far from "post" anything. pretending we are is arrogant and stupid.

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    t.a. - What do you suppose they mean when the job description includes "perfect for a recent graduate"?

    Jo Ann - Not surprised to here this. If someone is involved in any kind of activism, listing that is going to hurt you in finding a job and definitely keep you out of certain companies altogether. If your previous employer was something with a name like "Jobs With Justice" then God help you--you'll be pegged as a trouble-maker for sure.

    In all seriousness, given the way HR departments run Internet searches on any applicant, you may find this recent post of yours makes YOU permanently unemployed. Really.

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    Hi ta, yes there are a lot of less than legal ways folks use to discriminate. Its sad that we can't get beyond these "ism".

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    The problem is for me that I simply can't see what we can possibly do about this. Even raising awareness, as Ms. Bowman is capably doing here, doesn't solve the problem. If racists felt guilty about racism, they wouldn't do it.

    Personally, the "whitening" of the resume, seems to be a perfectly reasonable response. It's a lot easier to not confront one's own racism when dealing with a massive stack of papers - it's much harder when in person after you've brought them in for an interview.

    (You also have to recognize that in an organization, the person doing the hiring might not have the prejudice - it might be someone else who acts as an initial filter.)

  • Lord Beaverbrook (unverified)

    This has almost nothing to do with blacks. In general, there are lots of profiles that are illegally discriminated against. If you want to pick out a group that is unfairly targeted in this way, and have to spin their resume (and have been for 200 years), consider age.

    I help low income folks polish their resume, and ghost calls to help them sound professional. While people get concerned about all kinds of things, and spin their resume, I have not seen the same level of probing where race is concerned as with age. The worse I've ever heard from blatantly not hiding race is a pregnant pause and a "hmmmm". To be sure, offers often aren't forthcoming, and I agree, illegal, despicable, race related hiring decisions continue to happen.

    But, just last week, I was listening to a call, and I cannot believe the level of probing about age that went on. The candidate had left the graduation year off her B.A. degree. For jobs more than 10 years old, she had only put the name of the corporation. The recruiter kept coming back to all kinds of ways to pin the college year down. Once you have satisfied yourself that the candidate is qualified (and he did), why continue talking about a 25 year old college degree, unless you particularly care about the 25 years? The probing was shameless.

    Last summer, I saw a case where a 45 year old guy rode his mountain bike to an interview, as it abutted his vacation, and the employer had said "OK". He rode it from Mt. Hood to downtown Portland. You know what he was asked (assistant manager at a quick food sandwich joint)? "Don't you think you're too old for this job"? Can you conceive of a person of color, applying as an assistant manager, being asked, "do you think a black person can do this job"? Age related discrimination is far more prevalent and blatant.

    Pro bono is a myth and if it isn't a physical injury forget about cases taken on contingency. They bank on the fact that you don't have the funds to prosecute, Fed standards are weak, you can't roll your own case in Federal court and it's your word against theirs.

    Another consideration would be that, where quotas are involved, the economic downturn helps minorities. If you are only hiring 2 people, instead of 12, and your quota is 1/3 minorities, you're likely to make that one of the two, rather than have a big fat goose egg on your total, even though that is 50% more than what you require.

    I've said it before, I'll say it again, this is what separates Dems from progressives. Reps say, "I've got mine; screw you". Dems say, "Let's identify a group that is being treated unjustly and enfranchise them". Progressives say, "No one gets ahead until everyone gets ahead". In every case, the Dem strategy is a weak version of the progressive position, designed to enfranchise a voting block, more than than aid the victim. We saw the same spectacle with the family leave act. Americans have too little time off, full stop. Rather than address that we pick out a likely constituency, families, and throw them a freebie to shore up their votes, in the name of social justice. The disrespect that progressives caught on that one let us know just what the game is.

  • Lord Beaverbrook (unverified)

    That's funny, that being long winded I couldn't even get that out before t.a. and Vu made the same point.

    While I agree with Vu, I would add that those "social justice" jobs are THE WORST age discriminators. I have interviewed with almost every fortune 500 and more tiny corps, and have never been told what I was by OSPIRG. About the 4th time I applied for something that I was totally qualified for, only to barely get a polite 15 minutes, I asked straight out, "what is your 'ideal candidate' profile". "Sorry, that's proprietary information".

    I won't venture to suggest what is obviously their "ideal candidate". I've met one over 40 working at Trader Joe's. I asked her how she did it. She started with them years ago in Monrovia, and moved to Portland.

    All you have to do is sit in on hiring decisions. Folks like t.a. communicate that they have experience and will do almost anything for a position. Meanwhile many gen X applicants will literally start with the words, "I require...". X gets the job. That is attributable only to the fact that youth is the commodity being purchased.

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    Lord Beaverbrook-are you kidding me? yes age is an issue and certainly if blacks get to an interview they would not be asked if a black person can do the job. However you missed the entire point of the post-they don't get that opportunity to be rejected in person!

    With Black unemployment at 24% in Oregon, there are no Black people getting a job due to quotas-they don't exist in progressive Oregon!

  • Hairy Dirty Hippy (unverified)

    And sex discrimination isn't rampant as well? Reverse, I mean. I've run my own sole proprietorship for 15 years. There is no office management task I have not done and cannot do. If I insist on working in my area of expertise, I will never get a job. Every "office manager" position- anything with the word 'phone'- will be filled by a cute young female. Would you notice if every cable guy in the world were white? So, why don't you notice that every phone mangler is female?

    I've made these points before here. Jimmy Carter introduced leg that would have required a typing test for secretaries. Face validity would have been illegal.

    This is the world we got instead. Executive compensation ballooned when the progressive tack was rejected. Drug testing replaced skills testing. You cannot allow unvalidated, political urine testing, and then complain that there is still discrimination in hiring!

    To be fair, who wants a hairy, dirty hippy greeting customers? It will never matter what we can do for the bottom line. Remember that next time you hear about the almighty dollar. Most managers are building their ego, not the bottom line. Given the realities, you do or don't get a job based on the following:

  • How much does the person physically look like the last person that did the job
  • Will the person make me look bad to my boss (by being better)
  • How much fun does the person seem like they would be to work with.

    Age, name it, are not the issue, per se. They are leveraged because they violate one of the three criteria. The systemic problem is that pretty much anything goes, as long as you do it to everybody.