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Why Raven-Symonè’s Comments Only Reinforce Ugly Hiring Practices

Raven-Symonè has found herself in the hot seat thanks to her comments on on 'Black' names. It is a reminder of ugly hiring practices still in effect today.

OPINION – It seems like The View co-host Raven-Symonè has found herself in the hot seat yet again thanks to her comments during a segment that aired on Friday. During a discussion titled, Are you Judged by Your Name, Symonè said, “I’m not going to hire you if your name is Watermelondrea. It’s just not going to happen.”

The discrimination that many people of color face in regards to their name is real. It has been covered countless times in a number of media outlets and more in depth in a study in the early 2000s by the National Bureau of Economic Research. Here’s what they found:

NBER Faculty Research Fellows Marianne Bertrand and Sendhil Mullainathan measures this discrimination in a novel way. In response to help-wanted ads in Chicago and Boston newspapers, they sent resumes with either African-American- or white-sounding names and then measured the number of callbacks each resume received for interviews. Thus, they experimentally manipulated perception of race via the name on the resume. Half of the applicants were assigned African-American names that are “remarkably common” in the black population, the other half white sounding names, such as Emily Walsh or Greg Baker.

To see how the credentials of job applicants affect discrimination, the authors varied the quality of the resumes they used in response to a given ad. Higher quality applicants were given a little more labor market experience on average and fewer holes in their employment history. They were also portrayed as more likely to have an email address, to have completed some certification degree, to possess foreign language skills, or to have been awarded some honors.

In total, the authors responded to more than 1,300 employment ads in the sales, administrative support, clerical, and customer services job categories, sending out nearly 5,000 resumes. The ads covered a large spectrum of job quality, from cashier work at retail establishments and clerical work in a mailroom to office and sales management positions.

The results indicate large racial differences in callback rates to a phone line with a voice mailbox attached and a message recorded by someone of the appropriate race and gender. Job applicants with white names needed to send about 10 resumes to get one callback; those with African-American names needed to send around 15 resumes to get one callback. This would suggest either employer prejudice or employer perception that race signals lower productivity.”

It indicates that a white name yields as many more callbacks as an additional eight years of experience. Now what’s in a name? Many African Americans choose their children’s name as a part of cultural identity. CBS reported , “Minorities of all kinds have wrestled with whether to celebrate their culture by giving their children distinctive names, or help them “blend in” with a name that won’t stick out. Thousands of Jews have changed their names, hoping to improve their economic prospects in the face of discrimination, as have Asians and other minorities.”

So should families bow to discriminatory practices by shelving names that hold significance to them? Forcing people to assimilate to ignorant and ugly hiring practices is as maniacal as the discrimination itself. Almost just as absurd as a woman with a pink mohawk judging someone based on their name.

About the author

Natasha Zena

Around age eight Natasha Zena was told it was a woman’s job to take care of the home and since then she has built a career out of telling women they can do whatever the hell they want to do. She is the co-founder of Lioness, the go-to news source for everything female entrepreneur. Natasha was recognized as an emerging leader in digital media by The Poynter Institute and the National Association of Black Journalists. She has mentored women entrepreneurs and moderated panels at a number of national accelerators, Startup Weekends and conferences such as The Lean Startup Conference, the Massachusetts Conference for Women, Women Empower Expo and Smart Cities Connect. Natasha is also the author of the popular whitepaper, "How To Close The Gender Gap In Startup Land By 2021." In her spare time, she writes short fiction and hangs out with her son, Shaun.

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