While many of us believe that we treat everyone the same, this is not possible

While many of us believe that we treat everyone the same, this is not possible

STOP: While many of us believe that we treat everyone the same, this is not possible. Countless studies show that humans are not and cannot be objective (independent from our socialization) about one another. This socialization drives us to discriminate. Most of our discrimination is not conscious, but real nonetheless. There are ways to help us minimize this discrimination, but they cannot help us if we refuse to accept that we don’t in fact treat everyone equally.

Whether we are aware of these filters or not, we have associations based on names that cause us to see some in a more favorable light than others. Because dominant culture constantly reinforces the idea that Blacks are underqualified, even when the qualifications of an already qualified applicant with a Black-sounding name were increased, the resume readers still perceived them as unqualified. In other words, the facts are not enough to trump the socialized beliefs.

In the case of Lakisha, this happens instantaneously and is almost always unconscious—we will simply interpret her resume in a way that fulfills our expectations that she is less qualified based on assumptions about her race and class. Names such as Emily Walsh or Greg Baker don’t trigger the same set of racial filters because they are associated with dominant culture and thus are neutral in terms of racial association (since Whites in mainstream culture are not racialized, it is peoples of Color who “have” race). The unconscious racial filters for these names allow us to interpret their resumes as from “normal” candidates, and thus we can take in the facts of their qualifications with different (more positive) bias. Regardless of the race of the readers of these resumes themselves, names convey ideas about race (and gender and class) to everyone, and these ideas are often unconscious, yet still play a powerful role in the presumed “fit” of one candidate over another.

This is both the power of our filters and the dilemma of our denial that they exist; if we can’t see (or admit) that this is happening, we can’t stop doing it or put protections in place to help minimize it. For example, because studies of this kind provided powerful proof of racial discrimination, many companies now block out the names on resumes before sending them to hiring committees in order to protect against unaware bias.

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