Monday, December 03, 2007

More on African American names...

from ABC news

Can a 'Black' Name Affect Job Prospects?

Can a Black-Sounding Name Hurt Your Career Prospects?

So 20/20 asked the six to participate in an experiment.

20/20 put 22 pairs of names to the test — the six skeptics included.

Each person posted two résumés on popular job-search Web sites — one under his or her real name, and the same identical résumé under a made-up, "white-sounding" names like Peter, Melissa and Kathleen.

You'd think the identical résumés would get the same attention. Instead, the résumés with the white-sounding names on them were actually downloaded 17 percent more often by job recruiters looking for candidates.

"You really never know why you don't get called back for that interview. I thought it was because of my job skills, or my résumé wasn't appropriate, but I never thought it was because of my name," Carita said.

She was shocked by the calls from potential employers — not to her, but to her fictitious white counterpart. "I was just blown away that Kathleen got phone calls for three of the four weeks of the study, and I didn't get any. And Kathleen does not exist," she said.

Arsenetta also was envious of her fictitious white alter ego, Kimberly.

"They were calling her morning, noon and night," she said. "I was standing there looking at my phone going, 'God, I want to answer that phone call and tell the man I'm interested in this job!' "

Ebony felt frustrated that companies were quick to stereotype her by name. "Once they get to know me, they say, 'Oh, you know, she is Ebony but she's not that militant one or she's not that rowdy little girl or she's not the ignorant one. She's very smart and very capable of doing this job,' " she said.

What kind of companies were responsible? Our independent research found biased responses from employment agencies, law firms and even large financial corporations.

But capable doesn't always matter. A job recruiter for Fortune 500 companies in northern California revealed an ugly secret.

"There is rampant racism everywhere. And people who deny that are being naïve," said the recruiter, who spoke on the condition her name would not be used.

The recruiter said if she were given two résumés, all else being equal, except one says Shaniqua, and the other says Jennifer, she would call Jennifer first.

It's a choice she says she was trained to make: When representing certain companies, do not send black candidates. And on a résumé, a name may be the only cue of the applicant's race.

"I think that the way that I had been taught and what has helped me to succeed in the industry is unfair," she said.

It's also racist, and, quite possibly, illegal.

That's why author Shelby Steele feels African-Americans must think long and hard before giving their children unusual or "black-sounding" names.

"It's a naïveté on the part of black parents," Steele said, "to name their children names that are so conspicuously different than American mainstream names. … It suggests to people outside that community who hear those names a certain alienation. Certain hostility."

Steele, a researcher specializing in race relations and author of A Dream Deferred: The Second Betrayal of Black Freedom in America, is essentially telling black folks, don't name your child Deshawn or Loquesha.

"Yes. … I'm saying don't name your son Latrelle. Don't do that. … He's going to live 50, 60 years in the future. Give him a break. You know, call him Edward."

Challenge the Bias, Not the Names

But sociologist Bertice Berry says there are prominent African-Americans who've overcome the stigma of a black-sounding name, including top presidential adviser Condoleezza Rice.

"We've learned to say Condoleezza. And you just can't get more ghetto than Condoleezza," Berry said.

Opera diva Leontine Pryce also overcame any stigma attached to her name.

"We hear Leontine and you think opera," Berry said, "… When they're associated with power and wealth we learn them." Berry says what needs to change is society, not black names.

But the bias against those names, it seems, starts very early. University of Pittsburgh Vice Provost Jack Daniel studied 4- and 5-year-old children and found racist perceptions were deeply ingrained at an early age.

White children had a tendency to associate negative traits with black names, according to Daniel. "Your name can hurt you," Daniel said, "but you've got to change the people who hurt you because of your name.'

So, Daniel and his wife, Jeri, rejected white-sounding names for their own children. They chose African names — Omari and Marijata. "We thought that it was really important that the assimilation process not dissolve who we were as a people," Jeri Daniel said.

The Daniels' children carried on the tradition, naming their children Amani, Akili, Deven and Javon. They see the names as a source of pride.

But some of today's black-sounding names are more about conspicuous consumption than tradition. There is a trend to name children after luxury goods, like Moet, Lexus, even Toyota.

Steele said that trend "suggests real cultural deprivation. And it's heartbreaking to hear it."

Berry feels that "There's a responsibility, when anybody names a child, to name them something that means something." But she added, "I don't think we need to tell people, 'Don't name them that, because I don't like the way it sounds.' "

Unhappy with her own name and her experience in the job market, Tiqua Gator named her son Derek to help him get by in white America. "If I was to have any more children, it wouldn't be any Tiquas or it wouldn't be any Tamikas or Aishas. It would be something common," she said. "I wouldn't want my child to go through the same thing that I've went through."


Florence Erlenmeyer said...

I wonder if maybe there's a class issue as well. They just compared white names common in the middle class to stereotypically black names, especially stereotypically lower class black names. (Though according to other studies, what people consider black names are the most common among poorer African-Americans.)

It would have really helped to compare stereotyped black names, stereotyped white names (like Jimmy Dwayne, Lurleen, Bambi) and the common names. If Misty got more callbacks than Moesha, then it'd be more clear it's racism and not classicism.

Scooter said...

That's a really really good point! I wonder how Kanye would stand up to Billy-Wayne?

lancebergstrom said...

The Germans, Irish, Swedes and Danes changed their last names when they came over on the boats. Of course it was their choice to come, but it really would behoove African Americans to get with the program and fight racism any way that they can. Naming your children "White" names to help their future chances in getting jobs, money and power in our society could be a really great way to do it. Obviously, I am White so many who read this will just say I am racist, and not listen. But, think about it really. If Trevor can get into the interview and impress them and get the job, but Trevone's resume is thrown in the garbage before it is even read what good is his name. Hell, call him Trevone at home and tell everyone else his name is Trevor. Just a little nudge towards waking up to reality. People are generally racist and need waking up. Peace.

Anonymous said...

This part: "That's why author Shelby Steele feels African-Americans must think long and hard before giving their children unusual or "black-sounding" names." and this part about Opera's middle name Leotine, this got to me BIG time. When I hear of leotine, I assume the parent wanted a French or Old upper crusted British name, like a regency period name. When I pull out a Jane Austen or a Georgette heyer book, which take place in specific era's, Leotine/Leoline/leonie are very much included in the era AND characters in the book.

To be honest, my husband's name Kelvin and my name is Winter. We have received almost the opposite responses. Potential employers looked at MANY applications but because Winter and Kelvin stood out, being that they are rare and not popular, and we were requested for interviews first... Now, we are not black (ethnicity undisclosed) , but my husband is Native American (choctaw and Cherokee), Irish, English and French. While I am French, Swedish, Irish and Welsh. Perhaps this has to do with certain area's and not just and over all thing??? I know as a former manger, when hiring, we had to watch for people who would bring in resumes whom lived off welfare but had not experiences, they also lived in ghetto area, and they had name likes Tiffany or Krystal. They weren't feasible to hire, we hired a black Lady named LaTisha. She was very classy!

Also, By the way, I knew a little girl named ebony who was all white, she just had coal black hair.