My Office is too White

I live in Metro Detroit. A place that is one of the most diverse in the country. We have large populations of minorities here. Obviously there are many black people but on top of that we have a huge arabic population, hispanic population, and asian population. I could go on and on. Despite being somewhat segregated the metro Detroit area is a huge melting pot.

I've worked at my current job for 10 years. In that time I've seen the minority population in my office go from roughly 50% of the office being non-white to a current situation where we have 3 black people in an office of over 70 people. We have zero representation for any other minorities. We have nobody in the office who speaks a language other than English. We used to have people fluent in Spanish and Arabic and Russian. Not any more.

So out of the 3 black people we have 2 of them are in support. They are women who move boxes and answer phones and they sit at the front desk like postcards for diversity. Meanwhile I'm surrounded now by increasingly younger people who come from the suburbs and have little experience with people outside of their narrowing worldview.

This homogenization is very disturbing to me. We are hiring barbie and kens straight out of college by the score. I can't even remember the last time we interviewed someone who wasn't white.

I almost feel like complaining to HR about this but I know that would be a dubious move for my job security. At the same time I have heard some disturbing trends in the office. Code words like "Detroit claim" (Detroit = black) or "Dearborn claim" (Dearborn = arabic). On one occasion after getting off the phone with a black person a supervisor in the office said, "Wow, you handled that well. You speak their language!" I was too shocked to really respond but it really pissed me off afterwards.

I am lost in a sea of salt. I grew up in black urban culture and I don't really identify with these people. I certainly don't want to hear vaguely racist banter all day long. Our customer service has tanked and it is getting to the point where anyone who doesn't sound like a white professional gets lumped into the "ghetto" or "foreign" category and treated without the respect or dignity I think our clients deserve. These people pay our wages.

As a white guy how am I supposed to complain about being around too many white people?

I can't wait to quit this damned job. What used to be a family owned business has been McCorpritized and I no longer recognize who I work for. I don't agree with our business practices or values. I feel somewhat trapped because of the current economic situation in the state but it is getting to the point where my work day is so frustrating I am having trouble leaving it behind me and bringing my bad mood home from work.

Not sure what discussion will come of this but I wonder what the Goodjer collective thinks.

PS: Don't trust YT. >.>

Have a minority friend apply for a job that they are qualified for. When/if they don't get it, contact the ACLU/NAACP to see if there's a case.

Already thought of that, lol. Pretty much any friend I would feel comfortable with working with already has a job.

The question I would have is if there might possibly be any other reason for the lack of nonwhite employees. The only real thing that comes to mind is that certain job postings/titles already scream "codeword" to some people. For example, our company is pretty small, so I see every person who comes in for an interview with our office manager. I think in about 200 interviews, I've seen maybe two black people and roughly a dozen Hispanics. I was actually wondering about this later, and apparently the term "counselor" means "college educated white person" to a lot of nonwhites. Or so I was being told, anyway.

My gut reaction is that you're probably right and it's a quiet, systemic problem, but I'd also wonder about factors like that.

The postings are pretty generic. I know that they go up on Monster and whatnot and that we have someone who vets the responses before interviews are ever set up.

You describe the company went from being family owned to corporate. What sorts of things changed with that? Did they shuffle around a lot of managers?

The company was bought just before I started working here. Yes, there was huge turnover and managers were shuffled....out the door. Then bit by bit the culture of the office has changed until now it has reached a point where I feel like I am working in a dorm at Idaho State.

What's the was/is general education level? If it was H.S. diploma before, by suspicion is that a lot of your minority hires are being replaced by kids from the suburbs with shiny new (possibly useless) degrees from UM and State and EMU and Wayne and ... .

Those kids would have gotten jobs with Google, or Ford, or Lear, or any one of dozens of businesses that aren't hiring anymore. So now they're "slumming" and taking positions typically held by non-college folks, which unfortunately tends to include minorities (although I didn't think as much in Dearborn).

I'm an engineer by education, graduated with a BS from State a couple years back and I'm now doing my PhD at UofM. Most of my friends either got in bed with the big three or moved the heck out of state. Of those who stayed a majority are white, people who decided to stay close to family. Not the end-all-be-all explanation but that might contribute to what you're experiencing.

TheArtOfScience wrote:

The company was bought just before I started working here. Yes, there was huge turnover and managers were shuffled....out the door. Then bit by bit the culture of the office has changed until now it has reached a point where I feel like I am working in a dorm at Idaho State.

You realize if you were a white guy and said something like this about a mostly minority company you would be branded a racist and run out of town. Unless you can actually show that minorities are applying and not being accepted just because of their race/gender then I don't really think this discussion can go anywhere.

TheArtOfScience wrote:

Already thought of that, lol. Pretty much any friend I would feel comfortable with working with already has a job.

So wait, you're saying you don't know of a pool of qualified minority applicants that should be working with you? I think that speaks volumes.

bandit0013 wrote:
TheArtOfScience wrote:

The company was bought just before I started working here. Yes, there was huge turnover and managers were shuffled....out the door. Then bit by bit the culture of the office has changed until now it has reached a point where I feel like I am working in a dorm at Idaho State.

You realize if you were a white guy and said something like this about a mostly minority company you would be branded a racist and run out of town. Unless you can actually show that minorities are applying and not being accepted just because of their race/gender then I don't really think this discussion can go anywhere.

It's true. I'm racist against white people. The White Man's Burden rests heavily upon my shoulders. I get angry every time I look in the mirror, just look at my avatar.

I'm sure you are right and that the only people who've applied for jobs here over the past 5 years were all white people under 30 years of age. I'm also certain that all of the young white people graduating college and stayin in the area has led to this because obviously a white person with a degree is more qualified than a brown or black or whatever person with that same degree.

We've hired 27 people in less than two years and all of them were white people under 30.

So tell me, how does one "prove" that someone didn't get a job because of their race or gender?

bandit0013 wrote:
TheArtOfScience wrote:

Already thought of that, lol. Pretty much any friend I would feel comfortable with working with already has a job.

So wait, you're saying you don't know of a pool of qualified minority applicants that should be working with you? I think that speaks volumes.

My friends are nearing 40 and have careers. I do know people (my friend's cousins and whatnot) who are qualified and could do this job but frankly I wouldn't subject them to this environment. Saying "hey, do you want to be the token black guy/girl in my office?!" isn't the greatest selling point.

You know, one thought: with the economic slowdown, they may simply have a surfeit of applications, and they're probably just sorting out the candidates with the best qualifications. Detroit's a really depressed area, with some of the worst public schools in the country. If you're a minority in that area, it must be hellaciously difficult to get to college.

In better times, you might see a more heterogenous workforce.

Could be, in other words, systemic racism, lack of opportunity for minorities, rather than local racism on the part of the hirers -- but once that's gone on long enough, it can become explicitly racist and self-perpetuating.

I definitely think that is part of it Malor. But the other thing to look at is the fact that all of the black people (and arabic) who DID work here are now....no longer working here. The holdovers from when I started are all white.

This is also no excuse for the change in attitude. Even if the office is full of white people that doesn't mean people should be loose with their tongue or treat everyone who is not of their socio-economic level as ghetto.

Regardless of why, this office is too white for the clientele that we serve.

Do you think they were chased out?

Malor wrote:

Do you think they were chased out?

That's difficult to prove but I do get that feeling, yes. I don't know if it was malevolent (giving them more work or unreasonable goals to meet) or just a byproduct of the changing attitudes in the office.

They did hire one minority supervisor over the past decade but fired him roughly one year later. Other than that our entire management staff going all the way up to CEO (in my line of business at least) is white and has been white for the past decade.

TheArtOfScience wrote:

I am lost in a sea of salt. I grew up in black urban culture and I don't really identify with these people. I certainly don't want to hear vaguely racist banter all day long. Our customer service has tanked and it is getting to the point where anyone who doesn't sound like a white professional gets lumped into the "ghetto" or "foreign" category and treated without the respect or dignity I think our clients deserve. These people pay our wages.

As a white guy how am I supposed to complain about being around too many white people?

I don't have any good answers for you, but the "whiteness" is my main problem with Seattle... I think Michigan ruined me.

I wonder if SE Michigan, though, is going through some extended economic Balkanization. When I was home the poor folk were as melting-pot as usual, or more so, but looking at photos of benefit dinners and artsy events gave me the impression that the money has gotten (even) whiter. Totally subjective observation, of course.

TheArtOfScience wrote:

On one occasion after getting off the phone with a black person a supervisor in the office said, "Wow, you handled that well. You speak their language!" I was too shocked to really respond but it really pissed me off afterwards.

This happened to me more in Miami. In Seattle I just get strange looks.

What kind of work do you actually do?

I'm an insurance adjuster. I handle medical claims that arise from auto accidents.

clover wrote:

I don't have any good answers for you, but the "whiteness" is my main problem with Seattle... I think Michigan ruined me.

I think the problem with Seattle isn't lack of diversity, it's the lack of diversity in particular neighborhoods. You (and me too for that matter) live smack dab in the middle of 'white-Seattle'. There's plenty of neighbourhoods with much more diverse populations.

Do employees need to be an actuary for the job? I majored in mathematics which was a very white/asian discipline but a lot of my classmates were going to become actuaries so it may just mean that if you need to hire the talent pool it's going to be white/asian based on who has the qualifications.

clover wrote:
TheArtOfScience wrote:

I am lost in a sea of salt. I grew up in black urban culture and I don't really identify with these people. I certainly don't want to hear vaguely racist banter all day long. Our customer service has tanked and it is getting to the point where anyone who doesn't sound like a white professional gets lumped into the "ghetto" or "foreign" category and treated without the respect or dignity I think our clients deserve. These people pay our wages.

As a white guy how am I supposed to complain about being around too many white people?

I don't have any good answers for you, but the "whiteness" is my main problem with Seattle... I think Michigan ruined me.

I wonder if SE Michigan, though, is going through some extended economic Balkanization. When I was home the poor folk were as melting-pot as usual, or more so, but looking at photos of benefit dinners and artsy events gave me the impression that the money has gotten (even) whiter. Totally subjective observation, of course.

TheArtOfScience wrote:

On one occasion after getting off the phone with a black person a supervisor in the office said, "Wow, you handled that well. You speak their language!" I was too shocked to really respond but it really pissed me off afterwards.

This happened to me more in Miami. In Seattle I just get strange looks.

Seattle has a huge diverse population. My wife has a gaggle of cousins living there due to the high population of Chinese people.

It's still something like 70% white, though. And neighborhoods very much sort ethnically here, so Jonman's got the right of it.

Actuaries are the people who determine rates. They figure out the likelihood of a person being trampled by a herd of rampaging water-buffalo and then tell the insurer how much they should charge for rampaging water-buffalo insurance.

The math I need for my job doesn't get any more complicted than figuring out percentiles. Mostly it's just simple addition and subtraction.

By the way....can I interest you in rampaging water-buffalo insurance? YOU CAN NEVER BE TOO SAFE!!!

TheArtOfScience wrote:

Actuaries are the people who determine rates. They figure out the likelihood of a person being trampled by a herd of rampaging water-buffalo and then tell the insurer how much they should charge for rampaging water-buffalo insurance.

The math I need for my job doesn't get any more complicted than figuring out percentiles. Mostly it's just simple addition and subtraction.

By the way....can I interest you in rampaging water-buffalo insurance? YOU CAN NEVER BE TOO SAFE!!!

Well, I did buy a rock that keeps tigers away and it seems to be working....

TheArtOfScience wrote:
bandit0013 wrote:
TheArtOfScience wrote:

Already thought of that, lol. Pretty much any friend I would feel comfortable with working with already has a job.

So wait, you're saying you don't know of a pool of qualified minority applicants that should be working with you? I think that speaks volumes.

My friends are nearing 40 and have careers. I do know people (my friend's cousins and whatnot) who are qualified and could do this job but frankly I wouldn't subject them to this environment. Saying "hey, do you want to be the token black guy/girl in my office?!" isn't the greatest selling point.

Or it could be that 79% of Michigan's population is white. The "token black guy" is actually token, representing less than 15% of the state population.

I think this discussion is silly.

Addtional edit: based on your original statement of the number of black people in your office (3) compared to the total population in the office, if it matched census data you wouldn't have 3 black people, you would have 10. So yeah, this conversation is still silly.

bandit0013 wrote:
TheArtOfScience wrote:
bandit0013 wrote:
TheArtOfScience wrote:

Already thought of that, lol. Pretty much any friend I would feel comfortable with working with already has a job.

So wait, you're saying you don't know of a pool of qualified minority applicants that should be working with you? I think that speaks volumes.

My friends are nearing 40 and have careers. I do know people (my friend's cousins and whatnot) who are qualified and could do this job but frankly I wouldn't subject them to this environment. Saying "hey, do you want to be the token black guy/girl in my office?!" isn't the greatest selling point.

Or it could be that 79% of Michigan's population is white. The "token black guy" is actually token, representing less than 15% of the state population.

I think this discussion is silly.

You realize that we are talking Metro Detroit here, not the entire state.

I think your completely skewed numbers are silly and belong on a very colorful pie chart on network news.

I could go to Pennsylvania and see how many Amish people are there and then extrapolate that to the entire country because the entire country has the same percentage of Amish people as Pennsylvania, right?

Even going off of your completely moot percentage there should STILL be more minorities than 3 our of more than 70.

Different parts of Michigan are radically different. What are the stats for the UP?

bandit0013 wrote:
TheArtOfScience wrote:
bandit0013 wrote:
TheArtOfScience wrote:

Already thought of that, lol. Pretty much any friend I would feel comfortable with working with already has a job.

So wait, you're saying you don't know of a pool of qualified minority applicants that should be working with you? I think that speaks volumes.

My friends are nearing 40 and have careers. I do know people (my friend's cousins and whatnot) who are qualified and could do this job but frankly I wouldn't subject them to this environment. Saying "hey, do you want to be the token black guy/girl in my office?!" isn't the greatest selling point.

Or it could be that 79% of Michigan's population is white. The "token black guy" is actually token, representing less than 15% of the state population.

I think this discussion is silly.

Addtional edit: based on your original statement of the number of black people in your office (3) compared to the total population in the office, if it matched census data you wouldn't have 3 black people, you would have 10. So yeah, this conversation is still silly.

Michigan's a big state. Using the demographics of the entire state to determine the diversity of an office in its major city is ridiculous. To get an accurate idea of what to expect for diversity, you really ought to narrow it down to the area in question. The 2010 census results for Detroit Michigan are: 10.6% white, 82.7% black. If you expand it out to Wayne County to account for commuters, it's 52.3% white, 40.5% black. Intentional or not, something is definitely out of whack there. Link (I don't know if it will work as it's based on a search result, if it doesn't go here and search for race / Detroit, Michigan, or race/Wayne County).

Wanting to live with people because of their skin colour is a bit weird. I think it, broadly, makes more sense to want to live areas based on educational and financial profile of the people that live there.

1Dgaf wrote:

Wanting to live with people because of their skin colour is a bit weird. I think it, broadly, makes more sense to want to live areas based on educational and financial profile of the people that live there.

I don't go out of my way to live in one area or another. I've just noticed that I'm more at ease physically and socially around a varied group of people, and slightly more tense around only white people, even though I'm white. I just chalk it up to a socialization thing, since I grew up in a town that was 50/50 black and white.