Thursday, September 29, 2011

"Too black for me, maybe too black for you too."

Our editorial office is hiring new assistants, so this week I had my first experience sitting on the hiring side of the interview table.

Mostly it was really boring, I hope I never work in hr. People banged on about how fun it would be to work at a magazine (well, duh) and then it was pretty easy to tell within the first minute that most the people we saw weren't even close to what we were looking for, but we still had to see it through for 10-15 minutes every time. I've read before that people form an opinion within the first 30 seconds, and now I know that's true. Our two favorites looked me in the eye, had confident handshakes, smiled.

During one interview we asked a candidate what kind of music he liked (because he'd said he was interested in the arts section). He said something about having a wide variety of tastes and liking lots of different styles except, "hip hop is too black for me. maybe too black for you too."

His voice got lower and he kind of mumbled over the word black, which allowed my brain to wonder if I'd really heard it and excuse myself for just sitting there smiling at him as opposed to saying ... what? "It's not too black for me! It's just the right amount of black!"

Chinese people are racist. They live in a fairly homogenous society and all they know about black people is what they see on TV (though I hear from black Americans living in Shanghai that Obama has done a lot to change perceptions).

On the other hand, this is a young, well educated, fluent English speaker I was speaking with. He shouldn't get off as easily as an old person. And I think I probably should have let him know that's not an okay thing to say, at least with a frown and a little head shake.

I can think of a handful of times in my life where I was presented with similar situations. And every time I've always found the situation so mortifying that I don't think I've ever spoken up and told anyone they're full of shit, which is odd because I usually have no problem doing that.

Maybe I should resolve to tell more people off. At least racist ones.

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