Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Storytime in Lunatic Land

So I have this friend.

She's from New Orleans like me and we went to college together. Real smart woman, almost as smart as me. She has placed herself in a position to earn a LOT of money one day due to studying hard and sticking with her career through stuff I probably couldn't have handled.

She's a cool chick.

Anyway, during her recent job search this friend of mine sent out resumes to folks detailing her classifications and whatnot. The resumes clearly listed her alma-mater as the wonderful Howard University, which to those of you who don't know is the preeminent HBCU in America. (Those of you who disagree can complain on your own blogs. Ha!)

Because Howard University is listed as her alma mater for her undergraduate and secondary degrees, my friend assumed that all potential employers would know she was black. Plus, she's got a black name. So, she expected that this would be a hindrance with some folks, and possibly a help with others. But, no matter what, she assumed folks would know what they were getting when they contacted her for an interview.

Y'all know assumptions are a fool.

Anyway, one older white gentleman calls my friend and decides he wants to talk to her about a position with his business. Not only is the man looking to hire an employee, but eventually he would like to make that person a full partner. He's also offering a very competitive salary.

So, my friend is ecstatic to hear from the man because she likes the idea of making money, and would like to do so pretty soon. She engages the man in conversation for at least an hour, and they discuss their common beliefs about their profession in detail. My friend thinks the interview is going extremely well and is starting to lose that sick feeling she's had since she started her job hunt.

Then it happens.

Out of the blue the man tells my friend something like this:
"Uh, I don't want you to get offended or think I'm a racist or anything, but I wanted to let you know that your not getting this job is not going to have anything to do with the fact that you're black and a female."


Of course my friend was shocked. So shocked she was pretty much speechless. After all, she and the man had not been discussing her race or gender during their hour long conversation. Furthermore, she had no idea the man had decided she wasn't getting the job because all indications were that her qualifications were on-point and her interview was going well. So, not only did the man find the most effed up way to let her know she wasn't getting hired, but he also did so in a way that would guarantee that she would be questioning the racial dynamics of the situation for weeks.

And then, a short while after getting off the phone with her, the man called back just to tell my friend that he wasn't a racist and he'd had a black person working in his office at one time, and currently had an Asian working there. Yes, he called and said that.

Not only did my friend waste her time talking to this guy on the phone, but thanks to his general asshatery (WNG) she can't go on any other interviews without wondering if her race or gender is causing her problems. She found herself analyzing her conversation with another potential employer because she wondered if he was being short with her because she was black or because he was just busy. She's wondering if she can get a fair shake in Louisiana in her field, or if she should just pack and move to another state.

All because of one conversation.

That's how powerful prejudice can be. I don't want to give racist too much credit, but to be able to effect somebody's life that much with a single comment is pretty diabolical. I'm pretty sure things will work out for my friend, but imagine all the extra stress she could have avoided in an already stressful job hunting endeavor if she could have avoided this gentleman's idiocy? How many years did this whole exercise shave off her life?

And that is the end of my tale.

16 comments:

OG, The Original Glamazon said...

Man! That is really deep.

Well I always have that anxiety but maybe because unlike your friend I have no real racial identifiers on my resume for a minute. Now I list my office as the pres for a black campus org. However I am always waiting for the metaphorical shoe to drop. My thought when I have any face to face, is him I wonder if they know I'm black.

It's a fleeting thought, but the reason I think that is that I know that depending on who's interviewing me that could matter. It's sad that anyone has to go think that even for a second.

I hope your friend gets a job she wants and really wants her (black skin and all).

-OG

WNG said...

And people wonder why vodka is my favorite friend.

Sad to say that her chances of running into that guy are pretty even around the country (from personal experience). There is good and bad everywhere you go, the Yanks are usually just more subtle about it.

I hope that she knows that she isn't alone in going through things like this. I hope that she knows she's strong and will be ok. I hope that she knows there are people out here trying to make things better.

I have a Scottish name, so people usually assume they're getting a white male...and then I walk in. I really need to start videotaping my job interviews for you tube...

OG, The Original Glamazon said...

@ WNG...Is that split second of OH MY GOD SHE'S BLACK like the crazy thing to describe, but you KNOW WHEN YOU GET IT. You can see it in the eyes of even the most subtle racist. It’s often just a beat and they recover.

I vote you should YOU TUBE your whole life!! *lol*

-OG

Smokie said...

Not to go against the grain, and I'm definitely not trying to come across like a Larry Elder, but, perhaps during your friend's hour long conversation something jumped out of her mouth that was totally out of line/inappropriate...? Sure, the interviewer's comments were shocking and I've heard similar off handed comments from ignorant (not ignut, but ignorant) white people before. But that does not take away the POSSIBILITY that your friend said something unrelated to race that ruined her chances for the job. Are her qualifications up to par? Did she get too comfortable on the phone?

I work for a privately held company and I'm fully aware that racism is alive and kicking in corporate America, so I'm not playing the Angela McGlowan role; I'd like to think of it more as being a devil's advocate.

Big Man said...

Smokie

We love Satan's helpers around here.

Anyway, the way my friend told me the story it seemed like she did nothing wrong. The guy did not give her a reason for why she was not getting the job, he just told her it wasn't because she was black and a woman. I told her she needed to write him a short note thanking him for the interview and then asking him to please let her know what it was that caused him to back away because she wanted to be certain she didn't do that in future interviews. I'll let y'all know if she does that and he responds.

WNG and OG

I've never had the "Oh my God he's black!" experience at a job interview. People always knew I was black before I came in for a variety of reasons from my college to prior relationships with the folks that hired me.

the uppitty negro said...

A mess!

Um, well, I aint been in Louisiana, living at least, post-Katrina. I don't know what the job market looks like. I mean, it wasn't that great to start with.

I know you don't wanna put ya girl's info out there, but I'd be in a better position to say if she should stay knowing what her field of expertise is--and how old she is. A different state may have been a better bet from the start.

JLL

JLL

Truthiz said...

I have to say that I agree with Smokie. There's just no way of knowing the "Real" reason your friend didn't get the job.

Could it have been "racism"? Yep.

Could she have blown it? Uh-huh.

Could it have a been a combination of the two reasons aformentioned? Ya darn skippy.

We just don't know(?!)

But I agree with you Big Man. She should send a letter of "Thansk" and inquire as to exactly WHAT was the reason?

BTW: Roughly 2% of people of "Color" work in the fields of Mental Health and Forensic Behavioral Science. Ironically, with several degrees and years of professional experience under my belt, I find, that whenever I show up for a job interview, the interviewer (who is almost ALWAYS white) practically starts jumping with glee__for the OBVIOUS reasons:

I'm Black AND female!

Big Man said...

My girl works in field that's overwhelmingly white and male. Particularly in this state.

I'm not ruling out that she blew it. But, usually when you blow it, somebody gives you some clues. And they don't talk to you for an hour.

But, even if she blew it, why would this guy randomnly make a comment about her race and gender adn then follow it up with the classic response that he has black friends, or at least employees.

See, for me, that took things to the next level. If he had just never called her back, my friend would have said "Cool, guess he went in another direction."

But, he had to let her know that he wasn't hiring her but her race and gender had notthing to do with it. Although he never actually said "I'm not hiring you." He said "I don't want you to think that the fact that you're black and woman is the reason why you're not getting this job."

That's too random y'all. Way too random.

WNG said...

@ Big Man - it's a trip, that's all I can say...

@OG - Uhhh NO. If I'm going to be tha embarrassed I'm going to get PAID.

@thruthiz and smokie - if she hadn't gotten the weird call she probably wouldn't have given it much thought.

If I had gotten that call I would have asked why the caller felt the need to tell me that if it really wasn't true, but I can be a little confrontational...

Imhotep said...

Big Man, Interesting story. There is something wrong here, IF the interviewer could tell her that race and gender did not disqualify her, he should have told her what did. Lack of experience, Prior experience, specialize in different areas of the law, top 10%of graduating class, whatever, but he should have told her why she was not the best fit for the firm.

There are many national Black professional organization (MBA, attorneys, doctors, accountants, etc) with state and city chapters. Sista may want to check out a mixer for the local Black attorneys and get some positive leads

If that don't work, then get the hell out of lousyanna.

A.F. said...

"And then, a short while after getting off the phone with her, the man called back just to tell my friend that he wasn't a racist and he'd had a black person working in his office at one time, and currently had an Asian working there. Yes, he called and said that."

This almost made me fall out of my seat. If the man were not a racist, it just would not occur to him to say the above! Especially TWICE. That is diabolical. Even if your friend said something that the employer believed disqualified her for the job, that doesn't mean that she didn't also just get assaulted TWICE. I'm beside myself. The options that I'm aware of when it comes to not hiring someone are 1) simply not hiring them and giving no explanation or 2) telling the person that he/she was a wonderful applicant but the decision was to hire someone with more experience in ___ . I just don't see the route this guy took as an option anywhere but in his own little bizzarro world.

If I were her, I'd be distraught, too, but maybe there's some comfort in not having just been hired by a crazy person? Best of luck to her.

the uppity negro said...

Well, it makes no sense, to me at least, for a racist to cover his ass in such a way. By telling her what he did in the interview, and calling back doesn't scream racist to me, just screams white male privilege gone unchecked for too many years.

Granted something is VERY weird. Anytime a potential employer calls back and doesn't say the "negatives" of you NOT getting hired (ie, underqualified, overqualified, bad match of personality etc) is weird.

Makes you wish for the days of "You're just not what we're looking for?"

JLL

Big Man said...

Hold up. I think I must have confused some of y'all.

The guy made his comment about my friends color and gender not being a problem during their FIRST conversation. That was what he said at the end of the convo.

He then called back and told her about his black and Asian employees in an attempt to make sure she didn't think he was a racist.

Bucweet said...

What's even worse, is when your own people give you the treatment.

Years ago I interviewed for a job in Lake Charles, in your home state Big Man. My phone interview went well and I drove in from Houston for my sit down interview. The Black woman who interviewed me says "Oh, I didn't realize you were Black!" I have what could be considered an English name, and I possess the ability, like most Black professionals, to code shift and speak proper English when necessary. I took the job, and this woman turned out to be one of the worst supervisors I've ever had. She was too busy trying to look good for her white boss, and didn't know how to talk to people in a respectful, professional manner.

the uppity negro said...

Well, for the internship I'm at right now, they asked what church I attended in Atlanta and the last church I attended was Ebenezer Baptist.

One of the interviewers clued in and asked, "Isn't that Martin Luther King's home church?" and I answered in the affirmative.

Next question: "Um, Joshua, don't mean to be offensive, but are you African American?"

My response: "Yes."

The interviewers: "Okay, well, we're about as white as you can get."

Go figure.

Big Man said...

I don't think people realize that it's typically illegal to interject race into a discussion abotu jobs and the like. It's basically opening themselves up for a lawsuit.

Raving Black Lunatic