Tag Archives: employment

The Curious Evolution of the Sign Spinner

By Guest Contributor Lisa Wade, PhD; originally published at Sociological Images

In the midst of the recession a new occupation emerged: the sign spinner.  These individuals stood on sidewalks outside of businesses, dancing with signs or arrows that they threw and twisted in the air and around their bodies.  Some of them were pretty cool, actually.

Yesterday NPR discussed the replacement of some of these spinners with mannequins. Robots that are programmed to spin the sign.  Of course, they aren’t nearly as good as a halfway decent human sign spinner.  But, it was argued, they’re getting the job done.

From human to machine, then.  But no one commented on the bizarre race- and sex-change that accompanied this shift.  In my part of the country, most human sign spinners are black or Latino men.  I suspect that’s true wherever there’s a substantial non-white, non-Asian population.  But the mannequins appear to be overwhelming white women.

The Google image search for each somewhat supports this narrative.  The mannequins are overly white women and the humans are almost all men and, arguably, disproportionately men of color.

Google search for “sign spinners” (click to enlarge):

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Google search for “‘mannequin sign spinners”  (click to enlarge):

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Isn’t. This. Interesting.

When the business owner or manager can make choices about what race and gender they prefer, they choose white females.  Presumably because “sex sells,” the female body (in a bikini) is the universal symbol for sex, and white women are the most valuable commodity in that market.

When we’re hiring low wage human workers, however, business owners and managers have less control over the race and gender composition of their workforce.  It appears most would prefer to hire white women in bikinis for everything but, because of institutionalized racism and the sex segregation of occupations, they get men and, perhaps, men of color.

How amazing that something so simple — the evolution of the sign spinner — can tell us so much about who we value and why.

Here’s a commercial for the new robotic sign spinners, to drive the point home:

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College. You can follow her on Twitter andFacebook.

McDonald’s Delusional Blame-the-Victim Budget

[Racialicious Editor’s Note: McDonald’s has been named one of Fortune’s “America’s Top 50 Best Companies for Minorities. According to McDonald’s, “women and minorities” make up more than 50 percent of the company’s workforce.]

By Guest Contributor Jay Livingston, Ph. D.; originally published at Sociological Images

McDonald’s has distributed a pamphlet showing employees how to make a budget and stick to it.  As you can see, the pamphlet is a joint effort by McDonald’s, VISA, and (apparently said with a straight face), Wealth Watchers International.  The “key to your financial freedom,” they say, is keeping a budget journal.

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Here’s the sample budget McDonald’s uses:

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The budget is encouraging, to say the least.  With an income of $2060 a month, a 2-earner family can save $100 each month.

But do you notice anything missing?  Food, for example. Presumably, that comes out of the $27 a day in spending money.  Transportation costs? Car payments are included, but not gasoline or upkeep. On an income of $24,000 a year, will this family have a car that needs no maintenance?  And if the two earners have only one car, it’s likely someone will have to take public transportation to work.  Oh, wait  – maybe they both work at the same McDonald’s. And they never buy clothes.

I’m not sure how McDonald’s employees get health insurance for $20.  Or home heating for free.

Continue reading

Quoted: Tressie McMillan Cottom On Emory U.’s President Invoking The Three-Fifths Compromise

Emory University president James Wagner. Image via Emory University Facebook page.

When Emory University president, James Wagner, made a plea for  restraint in contentious debates about the future of higher education he appealed to history. The history he chose to appeal to is shocking. Building on the U.S.’s “three-fifths” compromise, which famously enshrined blacks as 3/5 of a person into the legal and cultural coda of a nation built on an ideal of individual liberty, Wagner puts forth his vision for academic guidance during turbulent times for higher education. In it he says that the compromise between the North and South over the political value of a slave is an example of “pragmatic half-victories” that keeps in its sights a “higher aspiration”. It’s a tasteless allusion at an institution built with profits from slave labor at any time but particularly during black history month. Still, it is an allusion that reveals a lot about similar debates being had about the future of higher education. If we can, for a moment, suspend distaste to extend Wagner’s exemplar for compromise to its logical end we can ask: who, in the ideological debates over higher education, are the slaves?

That is to ask, what is this debate Wagner characterizes with such incendiary historical references a debate about really? There are the tried and true positions on who is being oppressed in academe. Education disruptors argue that recalcitrant, inefficient university models are holding hostage innovation, progress, and economic growth.  Others would argue that low wage contingent labor – adjuncts and contract teaching labor – are fueling the lower classes in the academic prestige hierarchy. It’s been said more than once that adjuncts are often working for “slave wages.” Students are profit centers with their lucrative tuition payments and keep the university machine humming along.

Innovation, adjuncts, students: all possibilities but none feel quite right. The problem lies with Wagner’s construction of a contentious debate. For a debate to be had, there must exist two opposing ideologies. There was but one guiding ideological principle at work as the North and South battled over the measure of a black body. That ideology was a commitment to maintaining cultural, political and economic hegemony for whites at the expense of black humanity and lives. The regional elites of the North and South merely quibbled about their share of the hegemonic pie, not that the pie was rotten with strange fruit.  That is not a debate. It is competition.

From her blog, February 17

 

And All The Blacks Are Men, Pt. 301283

by Guest Contributor Shani-O, originally published at PostBourgie

Much is being made of Michael Luo’s piece in yesterday’s New York Times which explains how simply being black often hurts job seekers:

Johnny R. Williams, 30, would appear to be an unlikely person to have to fret about the impact of race on his job search, with companies like JPMorgan Chase and an M.B.A. from the University of Chicago on his résumé.

But after graduating from business school last year and not having much success garnering interviews, he decided to retool his résumé, scrubbing it of any details that might tip off his skin color. His membership, for instance, in the African-American business students association? Deleted.

“If they’re going to X me,” Mr. Williams said, “I’d like to at least get in the door first.”

Similarly, Barry Jabbar Sykes, 37, who has a degree in mathematics from Morehouse College, a historically black college in Atlanta, now uses Barry J. Sykes in his continuing search for an information technology position, even though he has gone by Jabbar his whole life.

“Barry sounds like I could be from Ireland,” he said.

Though Luo is working under the rather shaky premise that recent progress for blacks, like Barack Obama’s election, was supposed to improve prospects for black job seekers, he notes the opposite attitude in his interviewees:

Many interviewed, however, wrestled with “pulling the race card,” groping between their cynicism and desire to avoid the stigma that blacks are too quick to claim victimhood. After all, many had gone to good schools and had accomplished résumés. Some had grown up in well-to-do settings, with parents who had raised them never to doubt how high they could climb. Moreover, there is President Obama, perhaps the ultimate embodiment of that belief. Continue reading

The Melting Pot 2009: Job Applicants Choose Assimilation as Means of Economic Survival

by Special Correspondent Wendi Muse

melting potWhen I hear the words Ellis Island, one of the first things I think of is not the New York point of interest or tiring travel across waters to reach the grand goal of the U.S. of A. and its related Dream. The first words that come to mind for me are “name changes” and “assimilation.” But with the recent economic crisis and the lagging recovery process, Ellis Island comes to mind. Only this time, instead of Eastern Europeans, Italians or the Irish knocking on the door of American opportunity, only to learn that their identities must be altered or ensconced, their traditional cultures erased for the sake of infinitely approaching some Nordic white ideal, the group scrambling for the promised land of economic security and job market acceptance is black.

That’s not to say that blacks in America have never sought assimilation as a means of achieving social acceptance and equality, in fact both during and following slavery, some black Americans employed various methods of mirroring the white majority as they recognized it could mean a chance at social and class mobility. Black immigrant groups arriving to America also faced a similar challenge. Having lived in countries where race-based terminology and categorization, media representation, and general opinion of blacks may have varied from those in the United States, only to arrive and gain an externally-defined identity based on perceptions of black Americans, black immigrants may also have felt or still feel the pressure to change or deny elements of their culture, nationality, ethnicity, and ultimately race.

In the aftermath of the recession, as the competition for the limited jobs that are available has sharpened, few applicants have room for error. Unfortunately for blacks living in the United States, one possible means of avoiding the potential disaster of not even getting a foot in the door at hiring companies is deleting any and all signs of their race. It is common knowledge that “ethnic sounding” names or, in other words, names that are not of Western European, particularly Anglo-Saxon origin, often lead to discriminatory hiring practices.* Even among these names, there are specific ethnic groups whose names are least welcome in the corporate world. Unfortunately, blacks are often the common victims of this discrimination, the bearers of African-American names, despite their qualifications, often being relegated to the bottom of the résumé stack. 

However, most of the fears of being rejected from job opportunities are spread through anecdotes or are the result of self-fulfilling prophecy based on a perception of inadequacy from simply being black (i.e. assuming the hiring party is white and would not be interested in taking on a black employee, thus not applying for the job at all), research often following as a result. Several studies comparing the successes (or lack thereof) of blacks and their white peers have been conducted (particularly as a means of measuring the success of affirmative action policy implementation and its continued need), though all ended with the same result: even with equal levels of educational and occupational experience, white candidates are more likely to be hired following the interview process than blacks. Continue reading