John Green, author of “The Fault in Our Stars” (BTW, a great movie, haven’t read the book), gave a quick and insightful video overview about data on systemic racial bias in America last year. Watch John pull at his hair multiple times, while discussing the numbers in this quick video…
Watch “Racism in the United States: By the Numbers” (3 mins 55 secs)
The Difference Your Name Can Make
John spotlights a 2004 University of Chicago study on racial bias in employment hiring where thousands of resumes were submitted to a variety of employers. All of the resumes submitted to employers where completely identical, except for the applicant’s name.
According to John, the study indicated that Lakeisha and Jamal got 50% fewer call backs than Emily and Brendan, despite having literally identical resumes. John went on to state that “To the deny the existence of systematic racism is to deny a huge body of evidence indicating that racial bias affects almost every facet of American Life.” [Thanks, John for how you eloquently and quickly raised awareness with this video!]
I have a friend named Lakeisha and I’m a black girl named Latoya. So, I’ve been well aware of this reality for some time. I actually had a conversation with my mom about this subject just a few weeks before watching this video. And, my mom started to apologize for naming me Latoya. I stopped her and told her not to worry about this “fact.” I don’t want to work with someone who would dismiss my resume simply because my name is Latoya.
I know that some people chose to give their children racial or gender “neutral” names like Blake or Jordan to minimize name discrimination. However, my mother was 14 years old when she named me Latoya and I’m pretty sure that no one in my family had ever needed to create a resume before the late 1970s. So, at the time of my birth, no one in my family would have known that a name could make such a difference in terms of call backs.
[Personal Rant]: I have to thank the unknown nurses who took care of me in my first days of life and were responsible for submitting the name on my birth certificate. Someone submitted my name as “Latoya” not “LaToya.”
My personality is simply not flamboyant enough to carry that capital “T” and I don’t care for the extra effort it takes to make an unnecessary capital letter in the middle of my name. But, despite the fact that I write my name as “Latoya,” some folks insist on writing my name with a capital “T” in emails, even though I clearly sign my email responses with “Latoya.”
Enough with that, let’s get back to the point…
Finding the Seeds of Equivalent Benefit
Napoleon Hill, a noted American author in the area of personal success, believed that every adversity in life provides “seeds of equivalent benefit.” Do I believe that I’ve gotten fewer call backs from my resume due to my first name? Yes. However, the name on my resume is actually a way in which potential hiring managers and employers with this type of bias have been weeded out of MY life. That’s a gift.
Last month, I had the opportunity to share my perspective on this subject with a young budding entrepreneur at a networking event, who also happens to be African-American. He (with a racial neutral name) shared his concerns about “outing” himself as Black by posting a photo on his business website.
This young man had talked with his family and friends and many seemed to think that keeping his photo off of his website was the best way to maximize his potential income. I voted in the contrary and shared my belief that there are more than enough people in this world with whom to do good business and who will not dismiss his business simply because he’s Black.
I saw the light in this young man’s eyes when he recognized the truth of what I communicated. Another gift. I sincerely hope that he chose to post his picture proudly on his website. The truth is that someone could simply “google” him and determine his “racial status” relatively quickly.
Why do business with someone who’s immature enough or so stunted in their human development that they judge you based on a name or the color of your skin? Many of our limiting thoughts are based on a “scarcity mentality.” Even though it’s sometimes difficult to believe or hard to see, there IS enough for everyone.
Would love to read your comments!
Images courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net: Job Interview Forms (phasinphoto) and Gift Boxes (Stuart Miles).