Felipe Jason’s story continues to pain me. His wife shared this with me after seeing one of my shows. To protect his privacy, I changed his names -- keeping a distinctly Latino first name and a typically white-sounding middle name. Felipe has done everything to set himself up for success in mainstream corporate America, finished college with distinction, got an MBA from an Ivy League School, and landed a job with an investment firm, he was ready.
While some job seekers whitewash their resumes so that their ethnic/racial backgrounds are less salient (if at all noticeable), Felipe didn’t do this. This article in The Atlantic, about whitewashing, may be of interest. Click here to read. It reports on academic research that confirms that minority job seekers who whiten their resumes are likelier to be more successful at securing interviews and getting job offers. Although now several years old, this article is interesting and relevant at many levels, especially as conservative factions are seeking to eliminate programs that recruit employees from underrepresented groups.
Even more surprising in this situation is that Felipe had worked with this firm the previous summer and colleagues had then used his first name. Only after they had hired him did his employer unilaterally decide to whiten Felipe for their clients by using his “more acceptable” (to them) middle name. True, it was his name, and he did include it in his resume, it just wasn’t the name he used. It’s hard for me to imagine that Felipe could thrive in this environment, although it is my great home that he succeeded and that his career did get off to a good start.
I was reminded about a similar story two-name story that was shared by a woman lawyer, whom I’ll call Ann, who was waiting for her case to be called on the motion calendar at Alameda County courtroom in Oakland, California.
The young male lawyer introduced himself (again, I’ve changed the names).
Counsel: Good morning, Your Honor, David Levy-Jones, on behalf of the plaintiff, John Doe.
Judge: Counsel, which is it Levy or Jones?
Counsel: Your Honor, It’s Levy-Jones, a hyphenated last name.
Judge: Not in my courtroom it isn’t. Which should I use?
Ann said you could have heard a pin drop in the courtroom. Everyone’s eyes looked up from their papers and zeroed in on the rookie lawyer at the podium. She wondered if the judge didn’t like hyphenated last names because women typically used them but didn’t want to seem biased against women, so he picked on a man with a hyphenated last name. Ann, who is Jewish, said, I also wondered whether the judge was putting him through some loyalty test asking him to choose one name over the other. She added, “this exchange made me very uncomfortable. If he picks the Jewish last name will that be a bad or good thing?" Levy-Jones told him he could use Jones. That story made me equally uncomfortable.
Hopefully, that Judge is now no longer on the bench.
I am always amazed by the name stories that come my way.
Heading to Phoenix in December
Just five weeks to my ASU show. If you know folks in the Phoenix area, please let them know I’ll be on December 10th performing my final live show this year at Arizona State University’s Kerr Cultural Center in Scottsdale, AZ. Spread the word to friends or family in the Phoenix area. I promise you the best show I’ve got. Click here for tickets.
You can watch the previous nine episodes of my Stairwell Teatro in a half-hour since individual stories are typically around two minutes. Click here for the playlist.