The Funny Name Effect

Like Barack Obama, I too have a funny name. Unlike Obama, though, I have read papers at APA meetings.

One time when I was reading a paper at an Eastern APA meeting, many people in the audience left early during my paper and also during the Q & A. This, however, was not the experience of the Caucasian speakers who preceded me in our session. I have wondered: would this have happened to me if I were a blond, blue-eyed elite grad school Ph.D. called John Smith?

One philosopher who had left early, and had seen others leave early, apologized to me later, saying he had to leave to take a call as his daughter was sick.

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Merely a Box to Be Checked

Job applicants who have been deemed diverse are thrown into a system that seemingly values their diversity. However, their value is determined by individuals with biases and individuals who are forced to meet certain standards determined by their bosses and HR departments. We (those deemed diverse) are asked to identify, prove, and convince others that unchosen features of our being adds to the value of our candidacy, when those very same unchosen features can be used against us. And in the instance that our unchosen features contribute to our appeal as a scholar and colleague, then we are left wondering if our unchosen features override our accomplishments. If this is the nature of the academic market and despite my accomplishments I am merely a box to be checked by a search committee, then my value is not as a productive colleague but rather as a way of meeting a quota.

I discuss my experiences as a diverse job candidate in the academic job market at http://www.bioethics.net/2015/01/how-are-you-diverse-how-the-academic-job-market-aggravated-my-racial-insecurities/

I’ve Never

I have never encountered racial and ethnic insensitivity in my graduate program. . .

. . . except when a professor talked about how Asian students are not fit for philosophy.
. . . except when students have asked me (more than once) to please tell them where I am from, because they “just cannot figure it out.”
. . . except when a student joked in the middle of class about me not having immigration papers.
. . . except when I had faculty member in a private meeting bluntly say that if I want to get a job I needed to specialize in Latin American philosophy. I do nothing of the sort. I work within M&E.

I love philosophy, but sometimes these little things are really, really annoying.

Spanish-looking People in the Back

I began a PhD program in philosophy a few years ago. When I was in the process of applying to graduate school, I was lucky enough to have several offers. A faculty from the program I am now attending called me one day to pitch me a case for the program and tried to highlight some of the benefits that I would get from attending the program.

This man’s “pitch” included two main selling points, neither of which had anything to do either with the quality of the program, the research or funding opportunities available to grad students or my “fit” into the department’s intellectual culture. No reference to teaching opportunities or mentoring programs. No mention of courses, placement record or degree requirements.

First, he very proudly told me that there is indeed one Mexican restaurant (I am Latino) “just down the street from our school where you can eat.” You know, just in case I was worried about starving to death in the absence of burritos and chilles rellenos. He went off, politely of course, about how good the food was and about how he knew it is really “authentic” because he could always see “Spanish-looking people in the back.”

Second, this full professor told me that the region is not as bad and racist as I might imagine. The reason? Because “we even have Telemundo on the TV.” I learned that this man once knew a family from “South America I think, maybe central America” that loved to watch telenovelas, which is how he knew about Telemundo.

I ultimately took the offer for reasons having little to do with burritos or telenovelas. But, still, this first impression put me a little on edge about the program.

How the Property of Being a Football Player Emerges from the Properties of Being Male, Brown, and on a College Campus

I attend a private university on the West coast. I am majoring in philosophy.  I don’t look like a philosopher being that I am not white.  One day, while sitting in the department hallway, a philosophy professor walks past me and begins to stare.  Believing that he was impressed with the four books I was carrying, I quickly went over in my mind what smart thing I would say if questioned.  However to my surprise (or not) he asked if I was a football player.

I would have preferred that he kept it pushing.