Racial Discrimination & Hiring Practices

Actress and (former) TV host Rayven Symone, shared on the program, The View, that she would not hire a person with a “ghetto” name. Link here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8y3JmJhQa7k

This (naturally) awoke social media and a firestorm of comments, both in disgust and in support, erupted on both Facebook and Twitter. No matter where you position yourself in this debate, it has identified a very well-known, yet not frequently addressed form of racial discrimination in the area of employment, specifically in the hiring process.

Below is my 2 Canadian cents on what employers/hiring managers must be mindful of when when encountering their racial bias in the hiring process:

1. Based on the Ontario Human Rights Code (1962) Rayven’s position to not hire a person with a “ghetto” sounding or ethnically associated name is a form of discrimination on the grounds of race and ethnic origin, and when proven companies/organizations can receive penalties. It is no secret that members of certain ethnicities and races, particularly with Asian, African and South Asian names, tend to put an English or European name on their resumes, for a number of reasons. Unfortunately in my line of work, this name change on resumes is typically as a result of the unspoken understanding that an individual stands a better chance of being invited to an interview with a European name than a culturally associated birth name. For employers it begs the question, why? What is the employment culture in Canada that has forced people to make these decisions? When did the name of an individual begin to outweigh their qualifications?

2. This particular form of discrimination is not typically enacted on a systemic or formal institutional level (eg, human resources policies), but by individual attitudes in positions of (hiring) power. For every Rayven-Symone think-alike out there, there is a brilliant and professional “shaniqua” or “Xing” being denied an income. Rayven’s  statement serves as a reminder to all individuals with unique or non-European names that you risk being treated as a second class citizen in the employment process, solely because people have made a judgement call based on the stereotypes associated with the culture, race and class of a name.

To conclude, it is nothing short of discriminatory to deny a person livelihood solely because of one’s racial bias and discomfort with “unique names”. This normalization of racial discrimination in the hiring process needs to be addressed. Employers and hiring managers are encouraged to engage in regular training sessions to learn more about identifying their own biases in the hiring process and to invest in tools and processes that assists in the elimination of biases from the very beginning of the hiring process.

Jodie Glean, M.A.

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