There's been lots of talk around the blogosphere regarding race and ethnicity and whether it matters. I've been meaning to write about a million other things, but my thoughts keep coming back to this topic.
First, a confession. I have an MBA and I had a great career and now I get to stay home with my kids and try my hand at writing. I'm privileged - I know that - so this isn't a post about how life is so hard because I'm Hispanic.
I like being Hispanic. I like it a lot.
Unfortunately, that doesn't mean that I don't meet my share of idiots.
So, back to the MBA. When you're in business school there's an embarrassment of riches when it comes to career coaching and jobs and just plain old opportunity. Companies basically wine and dine you for two years and sometimes they hire consultants to pick the "cream of the crop" for them and then they fly them out to a central location where they meet you and offer you jobs, jobs that sometimes come with salaries in the six digits.
It's not a bad deal. Especially if you're not switching careers, which I wasn't. I had left a brand management job in a glamorous though not well-paying field with the goal to do the same job in a less-glamorous but better paying company.
Since I already had brand-name experience on my resume and the school had awarded me a full-tuition fellowship my name was always on the invitation lists for marketing jobs. (I think some of my classmates hated me. I would have.)
One time, one of these hiring consultants invited 15 of us to come in for practice interviews and resume reviews. He would pick up to five of us and fly us to Chicago to meet with his clients (Big Brand-Name Consumer Goods Companies).
I was on the list.
The day of my interview, if you'd just let me brag a little here, I nailed it.
"I'd like to offer you a spot on the Chicago trip. You're smart, you know marketing and you present yourself very well. My clients would love to meet you."
"Thanks!" I said. I gave myself a mental high-five.
"There's just one thing that needs to be fixed on your resume."
"OK." I took out a pen so I could write on the copy of my resume I had put on the table between us.
"I think you should take out the last sentence in the 'Skills' section"
I reread the "Skills" section.
Experience analyzing AC Nielsen data. Working knowledge of French. Fluent in Spanish (native speaker).
"I know that 'working knowledge of French' is a bit awkward, but I don't want to misrepresent my skill level..."
"No," he interrupted, "you shouldn't say you're fluent in Spanish."
Now I was confused. I'd never heard of such a thing - paring down my resume? If anything, in business school we were taught to brag as loudly and as often as possible.
"Because you're an excellent candidate and we don't want people to get the wrong impression." The bastard said this while looking right at me.
What impression would that be? That I'm Hispanic and therefore couldn't possibly be "smart" or "an excellent candidate"?
I stood up and gathered my things. "My background is an asset. I'm Hispanic. If you or your clients have a problem with that..." I was so angry I was about to explode. "This interview is over."
I left the room and marched over to the Career Services Office, where I instantly filed a complaint. Now that I'm older and wiser I only wish that I had sent an email to the heads of human resources at his client companies so that they could learn what a tremendo comemierda was representing them.
So yes, ethnicity matters. As long as people ask you to deny the essence of who you are in order to be accepted, it matters. As long as "Hispanic" is shorthand for "poor" (i.e. Hispanic neighborhood, Hispanic worker, Hispanic mother), it matters. As long as Lou Dobbs and his friends look like they're going to throw up every time they say "Hispanic" it will continue to matter.