So, as I wait for my next freelance project to mature, I'm staying on the job hunt. In the process, I've discovered at least three problems with racialism on job applications. See what I mean, at: http://ashkuff.com/blog/?p=653
My question for OAC: are racialist job applications reliable indicators of "Equal Opportunity?"
Equal Opportunities forms aren't anthropological, but that's not the worst part. I mean, you don't have to answer those questions, anyway. More serious, however, is that the categories point to affirmative action and/or positive discrimination, a complex subject that has been discussed here before with regard to gender. In my job hunt I find that many employers discriminate on the basis of either race or gender or both (also age, military status, etc). EO forms just codify it. It is an interesting thing for the applicant to juggle. What can I check that will help me get the job? What will hurt my chances? So I imagine quite a few potential applicants who feel that they fall between or outside of the arbitrary categories will pick and choose not which label might describe them best (if they ascribe to the racialized categories at all), but what they think the employer would prefer them to check. Personally, I prefer when I'm given the choice for "other" so I can plug in an alien race from Star Trek.
Reading the form I was surprised that U.S. state bureaucracies are still using the term 'racial group'. Here in Britain the term has, for a long time been 'ethnicity'. I am assuming that the purpose of these forms is to be able to check whether an employer is persistently excluding certain categories of people - i.e. acting in a racist way. The problem is that the categories used on the form are themselves racialist. One might say that the easiest thing to do would be to scrap these forms which if anything seem to reinforce the process of 'racialising' individual people.
People will use category thinking, though, consciously or unconsciously; as you do Ashkuff, in your red pen comments. This paper from the British Department of Work and Pensions shows that the success of job applicants who have an ethnically marginal surname (or as they say now Black-Minority-Ethnic) is lower than if their name 'sounds' white-British. Even before candidates are asked for interview, their names are being assessed for what they say about their ethnicity and whether they fit in. So, the real question is what to do about racial or ethnic categorisation at the intersection of the state and civil society.