Monday, August 11, 2008

Only the Names Have Changed

Recently a close relative of mines made a decision to change her first name. Although people change their names all the time it was the reason why she changed it that disturbed me. You see her name given at birth is what one would consider to be more "ethnic" (if there is such a thing). Basically, she's black and her first name pretty much distinguishes her as a black female just by hearing or reading the name. This was actually her second name change, because she just got married a few years back. Therefore, she no longer used her maiden name. That last name, which is the same as mines is also usually considered a black last name as well. Now there is absolutely nothing wrong with having a black sounding name. However, many think and studies actually do show that people with black sounding names have a harder time receiving call backs when submitting resumes and job applications.

So my relative made the decision to change her name to a more "White" sounding name in an effort to better her chances of obtaining a job. Now the logic behind her decision does make some sense, but it still disturbed me nonetheless. The main reason is that yes we already know that being black we have some what of a dis-advantage when it comes to getting jobs in Corporate America. Therefore, we have to work hard to attempt to match the skills, education and qualifications of our white counterparts. However, what if the very first item on the top of your resume automatically eliminated you from being a potential candidate for the job? Now I'm not saying it happens all the time but believe it or not some employers are actually discriminating against black applicants prior to even seeing them face to face.

Now some of you out there may be reading and saying No Way! No employer would discriminate against an applicant especially based on just their name. Well lucky for me I have evidence to prove that some companies do just that. In a CBS news article there was an actual study done to test this theory. In the study [real] comparable resumes with equal skills, education, and qualifications were utilized. However, the names on the resumes were changed so that they represented "black sounding" names (i.e. Tisha, Shaniqua, Laquita and Jamal) and "white sounding" names (i.e. Emily, Beth, Molly and Matthew). Nine names were selected to represent each category: black women, white women, black men and white men. Last names common to the racial group were also assigned. Four resumes were typically submitted for each job opening, drawn from a reservoir of 160. Nearly 5,000 applications were submitted to over 1,300 help-wanted ads in the Boston Globe and Chicago Tribune from mid-2001 to mid-2002. No single employer was sent two identical resumes, and the names on the resumes were randomly assigned, so applicants with black- and white-sounding names applied for the same set of jobs with the same set of resumes. So what do you think the results were? Keep reading you may or may not be shocked by what you read.

"The authors found black-sounding names were 50 percent less likely to get a callback than white-sounding names with comparable resumes. White names got about one callback per 10 resumes; black names got one per 15. Carries and Kristens had call-back rates of more than 13 percent, but Aisha, Keisha and Tamika got 2.2 percent, 3.8 percent and 5.4 percent, respectively. And having a higher quality resume, featuring more skills and experience, made a white-sounding name 30 percent more likely to elicit a callback, but only 9 percent more likely for black-sounding names. Interviews were requested for 10.1 percent of applicants with white-sounding names and only 6.7 percent of those with black-sounding names. Even employers who specified "equal opportunity employer" showed bias, leading Mullainathan to suggest companies serious about diversity must take steps to confront even unconscious biases - for instance, by not looking at names when first evaluating a resume."

So there you have it concrete evidence that a name can in fact prevent you from even getting a call back. Now I don't know about your employment status, but I recently found myself in the market for a new job. All I must say is thank God that I still have my current job. Because in today's economy the job market is very competitive. Although there are a number of jobs hiring, it is obvious they are more precise when selecting candidates for positions. In my opinion, employers are no longer willing to take a chance on applicants that aren't highly qualified for the open position. Where as in the past employers may have contacted someone that showed some promise but didn't necessarily have all the qualifications. Trust me I have an e-mail box full of denial letters from companies that say something like "we have chosen to go with an applicant that better suits the qualifications and skills associated with the position." Now in an attempt to compete effectively for a better job I have chosen to continue my education and I am even willing to take an entry level position to acquire more skills and experience. However, to think that even with more experience and education that my last name (which as I mentioned is traditionally a "black name") may be the what determines if I get my dream job is absolutely ridiculous.

Prior to going to finishing college I did fear certain things on my resume stood out as an identifying factor of my race. Ironically, my name wasn't one of them. However, I was more focused on the school I graduated from. I went to 3 different High Schools before graduating (Don't worry I wasn't a bad kid or anything like that. LoL). The first High School was of mixed races maybe 60% black 40% white/other. The second High School was all white maybe 20 blacks total. Finally, I graduated from a school that was all black only white people were the few teachers that braved the drive to the hood. So, I was always fearing that potential employers would see that school listed on the resume and automatically assume that I was black and discard my resume. But my name was just my name and never did I think it could prevent me from receiving a job.

Now I don't have any direct evidence that I personally have ever been passed over for a job. But what if I could pin point my name as a real hindrance to obtaining employment? Would changing my name be the answer? Well I thought about this and to be honest even if it guaranteed me a 6-figure salary job I couldn't and wouldn't do it. When I even thought about the idea it reminded me of something. Now I know this is extreme but it's the first thing that popped into my head. Blacks changing their names to obtain jobs equivalent to our white counterparts just reminds me of slavery. As we know slaves were forced to change their names to that of their masters and what their masters preferred to call them. The best known example of this is the story of Kunta Kinte in the epic movie "Roots." One of the most memorable moments in the movie was when the Master was whipping Kunta and telling him to say his name was Toby and not Kunta. Yet Kunta would not budge, even after being whipped repeatedly he knew his name, and regardless of what he wouldn't denounce it. But when you look at the us as blacks changing our names in order to gain favorable employment from corporations (masters) isn't it an eerie similarity? And by the way you don't have to work at UPS to be an Under Paid Slave. LOL.

So, I've taken a stand like Kunta and vowed to keep my name as is. However, the next question is this. What about when you have kids? Will you purposely name them so their names don't sound "too black?" Well in all honesty when it was time to name my son this was a subject that came up between his mom and I. Basically to keep it real we said we don't want to name him something "ghetto." So, with that in mind we eventually decided to name him after me. I didn't want him to be a Jr. but I also didn't want to give him a stereotypical black or "ghetto" name. Therefore, naming him after me was a happy medium.

I'm in no way saying that there is anything wrong with having a black sounding or even what some would consider a "ghetto" name. Each parent has a choice to name their kids whatever they want. Also, I don't believe your name has anything to do with who you are or what you will grow up to be. However, there are some names that some of you parents are truly out of line for giving to your kids. I'm sure if you're keeping it real you will admit that you know someone (or maybe it's you) with a ghetto ass name.

Now all of the names are very unique, some very pretty, some cute in theory, others are confusing, but all are definitely identifiable as black names. For example, you can be watching the News on TV not even paying attention really, but you overhear that there was a shooting and the reporter says "eye witness Deshante Jones gives his reaction." Okay wait... You can't tell me that upon hearing that you're not going to automatically know this is about to be a black person. Then again, you may as well say a ghetto black person because you know the media is going the find the most ignorant person they can find to be on TV and tell the story. If you know Deshante you may get a shout out after he describes what he witnessed. LoL. Here's another example to further illustrate my point. Say you find yourself at a College graduation. This can even be an Ivy League School like Harvard University. But say you've sat and watched one hundred or so white students cross the stage to receive their diploma and then the speaker says this name. "Laquita Simmons." Again... You can't tell me that you won't automatically assume the person is a black female. Not to mention your biggest clue before she even crosses the stage is the bombardment of screaming, yelling, and shouting "You Go Girl!!," and "That's my baby!!" from her family. LoL.

In closing, as bothersome as it is that some are changing their names to obtain employment it's even more bothersome that they have to. Unfortunately, as much as we don't want to admit it discrimination still exists in our society. This doesn't just apply to black people. I'm sure there are plenty of other races that endure the same decision about changing their names and what to name their children. But for those of you job searching I wish you all luck as well. I will leave you with a short list of ghetto names that I found interesting and broke down by categories. If you see your name or the name of someone you know here please don't take offense. But to really keep it real I'm not the one to blame. However, these are pretty timid I'm quite sure you all know of some truly Ghetto Names. So, I welcome all to comment back with their best ghetto names they've heard or perhaps have. Also, I've included some familiar names you've probably heard before and their African meanings.

Ghetto Names by Category
Alcoholic Drinks - Chardonay, Alize, Tekeyla, Martini, Champagne
Cars-Lexus, Mercedes, Porshe
Countries- India, Chyna
Continents - Asia, Afrika
Jewels - Diamond, Krystal, Ruby
Music - Lyric, Melody, Harmony
Misc. -Miracle, Blessing, Destiny, Princess, Unique, Precious, Queen, Kandi,

African Names/Meanings
Aisha - Life, She lives
Ayana - Pretty flower
Badu - One who is strong, powerful
Beyonce - Beyond others
Jabari - Brave
Jamal - Elegance
Jamar - Handsome
Jamila - Graceful, Pretty
Jelani - Mighty
Keisha - Favourite
Keyara - Beautiful River
Kima - Love
Kisha - Pretty
Kya - Diamond in the Sky
Lateefa - Gentle, Pleasant
Latoya - Praised Woman
Malika - Queen, Princess
Monifa - I am Lucky
Monisha - Solitary Life
Myeisha - One who is Loved greatly
Nakeisha - Her Life
Nia - Purpose
Nichelle - Victorious Maiden
Raashida, Rasheeda, - Righteous
Raquell - Precious
Rasheed - Wise Adviser
Ranyshia - Pretty Little Angel
Raniesha - Princess
Shaquille - Pretty
Takiyah - Pious, righteous
Talisha - Damsel arise
Tamika - People
Tanisha - Born on Monday
Tavon - Nature
Tevin - Son of Kevin



mrs. mary mack said...

Great blog, and since my name(Takiyah) is on your african names list, I have to tell you that I get I've received every job I've ever interviewed for, but getting the interview with a name like Takiyah sometimes proves to be half the battle. I've learned to abbreviate using my initial on resumes.

Brothers Blog said...

Hey thanks for the comment. But that is a GREAT idea to abbreviate using initials. And I'm glad you've had much success in the job market. Maybe you can pass some of that luck my way. lol.