Your commitment to diversity is terrifying
_______________ is proud to be an Equal Employment Opportunity and Affirmative Action employer. We do not discriminate based upon race, religion, color, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, status as a protected veteran, status as an individual with a disability, or other applicable legally protected characteristics.
On the surface, this should be comforting. A legalese statement that says to me, “Hey African American male, your resume is in great hands! We’ve talked about it here and nobody is going to discriminate against you. We’ve had an hour of diversity training and there’s no way that our personal biases will have any affect on our decision. Just ignore the fact the number of African Americans working here hovers around 2% for the entire company.”
Let’s just suspend belief that you don’t already have a mental image after hearing the name Tyrone or Ebony. But what if I do get the interview? Is it because of my masterful design ability? Or is it because you have a certain ratio that you’re trying to attain and already have enough janitors?
Oh crap, what if I am hired? Am I really ready for this? Are my skills on par with everyone else? What is everyone else thinking? Do they actually think I’m good? Do they think I’m here just to fill the quota? It’s no surprise that my friends and I have felt Impostor Syndrome.
As an African American you have to work twice as hard to get the same or less.
Looking in from the outside, it’s hard for people to realize the weight of these thoughts do to the psyche. It’s physically and mentally exhausting.
To get a taste of what it feels like to be a minority in a large company, think back on Popcorn Reading. You don’t know when, but you’re going to randomly called on to read. You have to keep up with the class and not drift off. You’re Eminem. Knees weak, palms are sweaty.
Your name is called. It’s your turn. Everyone watching. Waiting.
If you mess up a word, Billy the class bully, is going to tease you for the rest of the day. The weight of that knowledge causes you to stutter. You miss a word or two. Why now? Why under this pressure? You’re a great reader. You’ve actually read ahead to the end of the page and were daydreaming about the startup you were going to start after you leave high school.
That choking feeling is every day life as a minority large companies. Walking into work to a sea of faces that look nothing like you; every meeting you attend. It’s easy to realize that you look different from everyone in the room; always on display. Everyone waiting for you to take a misstep.
Last week Facebook had a bit of a problem where people were crossing out Black Lives matter and replacing it with All Lives Matter. Check it out here. Mark Zuckerberg wrote out an apology in a Facebook post, but the damage was done.
On the surface, it sounds great. Everyone matters! We should all be equal! But right now there’s a problem in America, and the Black Lives Matter movement is trying to bring to light a particular problem that is plaguing us.
This keeps me away from large companies. Better to join an early stage startup where it’s clear that my skills matter. Where I have a direct affect on the environment and product, and I know that I was hired because I am good at what I do.
So I’ll stay right here. You can keep your shitty diversity numbers.