Even when I win, I don’t

I’m a Latino philosopher on the job market for the nth time. I’ve had a few interviews, but no more than would be expected for a candidate of my caliber. Every time I talk about the job market with people, they say, “oh, but you’ll have such an advantage over other people because you’re Mexican.” But I’ve never noticed an advantage. What I *have* noticed is that whenever I get an interview, people say it is because I’m Latino. When I don’t get an interview, it has nothing to do with race. So all of my good outcomes are discounted because of my ethnicity, but none of my bad outcomes are. How can there be such an advantage if three-fifths of Ph.D. and M.A. programs in philosophy have NEITHER a Latino nor a black philosopher?

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Our Family Tree

Before I made my final decision about where to attend graduate school, the philosopher then in charge of recruitment at one university called to inform me that he had just recruited an African American woman, in case that was of interest to me. (I am an African American man.) I did eventually choose that department, but for a different reason.

The next year, at a bar with philosophy graduate students, I was introduced to a white woman from another department. She was delighted to learn that we had the same surname, and she proceeded to tell me a little about “our family history,” which, she said, she herself had learned from a famous American novelist, who also has the name, and whom she had recently met. She told me that before coming to the United States, “we” were Irish gentry, but originally British—and so on. There did not seem much point in explaining how most African Americans, myself included, came into our surnames.

The night before a job interview at the Eastern APA, one of the placement officers from my own department told me that I would be “a great diversity hire, if only we hired our own.”

American Indian Threat

After receiving my Ph.D., I overheard a conversation between colleagues in which one of them claimed that I had only gotten through the program because I was an enrolled American Indian, with the clear implication being that I did not deserve the degree and had only been allowed through for fear of lawsuits and perhaps to bolster minority graduation statistics.  Though I took some solace in the fact that my dissertation had been published by a major academic publisher as a book, which would have never happened if it hadn’t “measured up,” it still brought hurt and self-doubt.