Take a moment to reflect on individuals you have regular contact with on a daily basis. Are the majority or all of these individuals of the same race? Did they attend similar high schools, or lived in similar neighborhoods with similar demographics?
Throughout high school the closest relationship I had with a white person were my teachers and the handful of people on my predominantly black and Latino sports teams. One could imagine my level of comfort with white people was very low, and it’s safe to assume the same goes for white people who grew up in predominantly white settings. Although the “whites” and “blacks” form of segregation no longer exist today, its effect has left a permanent impression on America’s distribution of race in geographical, socio-economical and educational form.
I was recently inspired to write about racial diversity and overall racial comfort after watching the documentary Freakonomics. During the segment “A Roshanda by Any Other Name,” a study was conducted in which one resume was sent out to various employers. The only difference in the identical resumes was the name of the applicants –– one named Tyrone and the other Greg. The results of the study showed the “call-back ratio” for Greg to Tyrone was 3:1. It is pretty obvious what came into play when both applicants were considered, but despite this staggering difference I was more focused on the “why”.
It is safe to say the majority of the people doing the hiring are in fact white, and I was very curious as to why an applicant with a presumably “white” name would be selected more often than one with a “black” name. One could say that those in the upper office favor fellow whites over blacks, something black people would also be guilty of if the roles were switched. Either way the question of “why” remains. One could also say it is simply out of racism, and although this is sometimes the case it isn’t the sole reason.
In my opinion, a company’s lack of diversity, especially at the corporate level, lies in the lack of racial comfort and overall racial divide, albeit subtle, in American civil society. Most of us do not establish a regular relationship with someone of a different race until we get to college, and even then some us continue to fall short. I completely understand this isn’t an easy task, especially for white people, because, let’s be honest, it’s pretty hard to find the black (and Latino) population on campus and we typically tend to stick together due to our small population. It is a little easier for non-whites because there are a lot of white people, but our struggle lies in reaching out for one reason or another.
The solution is simple. Reach out! Venture outside of your cultural boundaries and step into someone else’s. I don’t mean take some African American or Chicano Studies courses, although it will help by setting the stage for small talk. Instead, spark up a conversation with someone of a different race at the bus stop or MU.
Think of a CEO who established a regular relationship with a “Tyrone” while in college. This familiarity with a black person during his youth will make future “Tyrones” just another applicant rather than “Tyrone the black applicant.” Racial comfort, in my opinion, is an effective solution to racism and establishing overall racial diversity. In order to live in a society in which schools and employers truly judge someone on the content of their character we must first achieve diversity in our respective lives.