“I get it,” the White man said. “There is injustice in Canada, sure.” “Oh good,” I thought, “Maybe he’s woke.” Then he said that what Canada has done so far to address inequality is wrong, and I was like, “Yah! Let’s do more!” But then the White man talked about how what we really need is blind interviews to move towards equality, and I felt sad. “He doesn’t get it,” I whimpered to myself as a single tear traced its way down my face and I cursed myself, for I’m a White man too.
There are a lot of things that I think the “Diversity in the Workplace” article last week got wrong. The push against identity politics was a weird aside. The bit about inequality being “unfair to all citizens” is disingenuous, since it’s certainly working out for wealthy Canadians. And I don’t even know what was meant by the line, “regulation mandating you need a banana, fish, and three soccer balls in your workforce,” other than an impressively loud dog whistle.
But let me try to be fair here, after all, maybe those lines were just throwaways. “No, I didn’t mean that inequality is equally unfair to all citizens,” the White man might say; “I just meant that inequality makes a less equitable society in which people cannot live their best lives as individuals, and so everyone suffers.” Well, I still think that’s wrong, but I’ll give it to you. Instead the thing I’m going to come after is the idea that blind interviews will usher in an era of equality by forcing employers to focus exclusively on the merits of the applicant. I’m going to focus on two issues with this: 1) Blind interviews don’t actually do that, and 2) Why shouldn’t we try to improve diversity in the workplace as something intrinsically valuable in and of itself?
First off, blind interviews don’t work. Just straight up. It’s been found that White-sounding names receive significantly more call-backs than names that don’t sound white. Jamaal is noticeably less likely to get a call-back than John. Lu Xi is less likely to get a call back than Brian Jones. “Well,” the White man huffed, “you can remove the name from the resumé, and make it a truly blind application.” Alright, let’s do it your way. Even if names are removed from the application process, which does address the call-back issue, there’s still the problem of unequal access to training and education. Canada is a settler-colonial society, founded on land taken from Indigenous peoples. And please don’t tell me, “that’s in the past,” when the last residential school closed in 1996 and many reserves still lack access to clean drinking water. Access to quality education varies from region to region, and is especially lacking on reserves. Meanwhile, poor Canadians struggle to afford post-secondary education no matter their colour (although non-white Canadians are over-represented amongst the poor). So if you want to go with a double-blind interview, fine, but that doesn’t address underlying issues that contribute to the lack of diversity in the workplace.
Second, why the resistance to including race and gender as considerations for applicants? Now, the argument could be made that employers negatively discriminate against applicants that identify as female and/or non-white. That’s a powerful argument, and one that I agree with. Just look at the callback rates for names that don’t sound White. But instead, the article argued that these things simply shouldn’t be considered; all that matters is ability. “Allow competition and merit to drive diversity…” We live in a meritocracy, after all. Right? Right?! Wrong. But that’s a topic for larger piece. So if you’re an employer reviewing applicants, why not consider diversity in the workplace as a positive? Let’s say you’re an employer with a workforce that is predominantly made up of White men. You’re looking to hire a new employee, and you’re down to two applicants. They’re equal in every regard. Training, experience, all of it. The difference is that one is a White man, and the other is a Black woman. Why would it be a bad thing to consider the Black woman’s race and gender as a positive? She will (almost certainly) bring a very different perspective to the position than the white man would, and present ideas that you probably wouldn’t have considered. And if your argument is, “She wouldn’t be comfortable in the workplace, you know how ‘the boys’ can be,” then you need to do something about your workplace culture, cuz it shouldn’t be so toxic that you fear bringing in someone that doesn’t identify as a straight, White male.
What I’m trying to say, White man, is that you’re wrong. I’m sure your heart was in the right place, but then you went off track. Competition and blind resumés are not going to promote diversity in the workplace. If anything, they’ll make things worse. And if you’re still not convinced, let me bring in some Kanyé. As Kanyé rapped on Gorgeous, “Face it, Jerome get more time than Brandon. And at the airport they check all through my bag, and tell me that it’s random.” Race still matters. Gender still matters. Class still matters. I can appreciate that you believe that what we need to do to move forward is to prioritize true competition along the lines of a meritocracy. But while this might work for you, it won’t for many others. No matter our experience, that’s a product of White, and male, privilege, and we cannot forget this.