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The Asian article was interesting. It is, however, downplayed

I still don't buy the whole white privilege concept as something distinct from being a simple numerical majority. One paper on some exaggerated African sounding names compared to some typical English names does not prove a whole lot. Among other things, There would need to be a control group with some names that sound both (1) white and (2) strange to English speaking ears.

Obviously, there are advantages to being white in this society as Louis CK points out, just as there are advantages to being black, and advantages to being Asian. Yet almost no one talks about black privilege, or Asian privilege. Except possibly Gavin McInnes, and then only ironically, as a comment on white privilege: http://takimag.com/article/tackling_asian_privilege_gavin_mc...




How about Sunni / Shia muslims in Iraq under Saddam? The Shia population is by far the majority, but Saddam was Sunni. The Ba'ath party violently persecuted the Shia popluation. I think it is safe to say that you would be privileged to be Sunni in this population, even though they by no means constituted the majority.

There are advantages to being members of all sorts of groups, but the advantage of being a member of SWM is particularly strong and has been quantified widely [1].

[1]: http://www.jimchines.com/2012/05/facts-are-cool/

edit: Perhaps you were limiting your first statement to within particular groups, e.g. tech, where there is a majority of SWM. The thing is, a majority of the privileged group is what you'd expect, right?


"Sounds strange" is part of how privilege works.

What those names actually sound to target audience is white and black. If you read the section on how they picked the names, those were the most obviously white and black names they could come up with, using both census data and actual reactions to resumes.

That a typical black name sounds exaggerated and African to you is a pretty good sign you aren't black. Jamal, for example, is an Arabic name. If you look at name frequencies from 1979, some names of equivalent frequency to Lakisha are Janice, Christa, Gloria, Lynn, Shelley, and Alexis. For Jamal, names of similar frequency are Rudy, Josh, Allan, and Gordon. (Source: US Social Security department.) If you think this study would be materially different with Janice and Gordon than Emily and Greg, you're welcome to run it. But I think you'd be wasting your time.

I used to live in Chicago, where they did this study, and definitely knew both of those names, so they didn't sound "strange" to me, not in the sense of "I've never heard of this name," anyhow. They did sound strange in the sense of, "not part of my tribe," though. As a white guy who grew up in a white area of a neighboring state, I didn't personally know anybody with those names until later in life. But I knew they were black names.

And that's the kind of "sounds strange" that can influence hiring decisions. Not one person need say, "I hate black people, so I'm throwing this resume out." All they have to do is start callbacks with the one that "looks best" to them, one they have a good feeling about. One that seems the least strange.

The reason that the people who talk about privilege don't talk much about black privilege or female privilege is that they are pursuing social justice. Their effort is part of a long historical arc going back to when black people were property and women might as well have been. Once we've finished tiding that mess up, I imagine the conversation will shift quite a bit.


I didn't explain what I meant very well.

What I had in mind was that for a white English speaker, the 'black' names would probably sound foreign and unfamiliar, but non-English names from white countries (e.g. Norway, Iceland, Sweden) would also sound foreign and unfamiliar.

The question I was curious to answer was, are the people who are assessing resumes responding to an impulse (conscious or unconscious) of:

- "hmm, that name sounds black" or

- "hmm, that name sounds unfamiliar and foreign"?

With the former, it sounds like racism, with the latter, it sounds like generic suspicion of foreigners, concern about English communication ability, etc.

Maybe it's an academic point because in a US context, there are probably more people with "American Black" names that sound unfamiliar to white, English-speaking Americans, than there are Norwegians or Icelanders with similarly unfamiliar names.


Ah, I see what you're saying. Sorry for the confusion.

In some sense, I suspect the two aren't totally distinguishable, because I expect the underlying mechanism is at least partly an in-group vs out-group mechanism. Indeed, the social justice technical term "othering" is about how people take actual present people and dehumanize them by activating negative intergroup biases.

In this case, the researchers used in-person surveys to judge that the names specifically were perceived as black, rather than merely unknown.




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