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Diversity For Hire: The Importance of Representation pt. 2

by Keeley Flanigan on 2024-03-06T16:31:39-06:00 | 0 Comments

When receiving my internship at the Rebecca Crown Library, which is a combination of all of the previously mentioned settings, I had to ask myself, which Black trope, stereotype, or cliche would I be viewed as by my peers. The conclusion I reached was one not included in the initial trope list, but is still highly prevalent, and that is the role of “Diversity Hire”. One of the biggest fears some minorities face when they receive a job in a white setting is that they will be viewed as the diversity hire. The diversity hire is an individual who is hired to make a workplace appear to be more diverse and "with the times" than it actually is. Because of this, the change that diversity hiring is supposed to enact is typically performative and surface level. Oftentimes the person in this position is expected to educate the space by taking on the emotional burden of humanizing their community. This is done by leading uncomfortable conversations, taking on all diversity work, shutting down tone deaf comments, being overly pleasant when dealing with adversaries, and more. This belief also extends to cultures outside of what the diversity hire may be a part. This responsibility of being all knowing is typically not put on people who are not outwardly considered diversity hires. 

People tend to view a “diversity hire” as someone receiving a handout because they are not white, not recognizing the burdens or high expectations involved. In reality, a diversity hire is someone who was offered the job after implicit bias was removed. Very rarely does the thought occur to some people that minorities are deserving and qualified for the role for which they applied. There is an unspoken feeling or belief that they were hired because of their "ism" and not in spite of it. Particular aspects of a person, such as race, age, race, class, religion, ability, and so on, are not things you can hide or disclose post-employment. So, the societal and cultural stereotypes regarding each of these traits are at the forefront of one's mind, whether consciously or unconsciously. This results in people being disqualified based on stereotypes that trump whatever ability that person may have. There is not enough representation to counteract the prejudices that dictate how minorities are seen, therefore eliminating them from many opportunities that they deserve. While diversity hiring is supposed to combat this, it is distorted into a personal attack where people are thought to be hired based upon their physical identity over their skill set or background in their field of work. In actuality, diversity hiring is the difference between opportunity and access. Opportunity is a moment of chance, while access is merely someone permitting you to succeed. At the end of the day, diversity hiring is not just an opportunity for jobs to hire enough minorities to fill a quota or prove a mission statement, but to remove societal barriers that prevent people from having access to spaces that they are fully entitled to.

Now, while I had silently come to the conclusion that I am most likely a diversity hire, I had viewed this as a positive thing. A sign that inclusion is becoming more prevalent in the workforce and one's merit is not disrupted by one's implicit bias. It was merely me getting the chance to be in a position that I have demonstrated the proper skills and potential for success. I was hired because societal barriers that would have prevented me from being there were removed. What I did not expect when considering my position of diversity hire, was to be called out for it in a public setting and in the most incorrect manner possible. It is hard enough for most marginalized people to get a seat at the table much less a foot in the door. So being asked by a white person in a position of power to recount out loud in front of an audience of other white people, any and every moment in time I may have been held back or disadvantaged because of the color of my skin felt coded and triggering. It did not help that the person asking this was coming from the perspective that ALL Black people must have a story to tell that they are entitled to hearing. Being put in this position is past the point of embarrassing, it is humiliating. 

This feeling of othering was only reinforced when the person in question used my hiring and existence in a white space as a personal triumph of the library.  As though me being there was their accomplishment and not one of my own. As if just the act of hiring me has solved any racial disparity that this institution faces and proven to the outside world that they are the epitome of diversity. When minorities are not in a position of service to white institutions or people, they are still expected to perform. I must provide in detail all the reasons I “made” it here and my counterparts did not. I have to explain the historical absence of minorities in society as if it were not due to the fact that my ancestors never had the right to be in this position, and people today are rarely given the chance to be. And then to experience a person in a position of power toting around the concept of diversity hiring as a personal triumph of the institution over the person themselves is hard to experience. 

Librarianship overall suffers from a diversity problem with a rough estimate placing white people in 83% of the roles. Representation is important because it helps prevent instances like this from happening by humanizing people that exist in marginalized communities. Having well-rounded diverse portrayals of marginalized communities on and off screen allows for people to be seen as individuals who have an identity that is completely separate from playing a role in assistance to white people and/or institutions. Diversity hiring should be treated as an active method to combat discrimination rather than the final step.

Work Cited

Anderson, E. (2015). “The White Space.” Sociology of Race and Ethnicity, 1(1), 10–21. 

Changing the racial demographics of librarians - Ithaka S+R. (2023, June 28). Ithaka S+R. 

Hansen, L. (2024, January 2). The Complete Guide to Diversity Hiring in 2024. TechnologyAdvice. 
Nittle, N. K. (2021, March 6). 5 Common Black stereotypes in TV and film. ThoughtCo.

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