Don’t Put Baby in a Corner (Or In a Box): The EOE Form

13 Oct

Hi there.  My name is Sarah. This is me.

I’m what you would call “racially ambiguous.”  It’s clear that I’m ethnic, but from where?!  This mystery drives people batty, and a lot of my new acquaintances like to play a game I call, “So, What Are You, Anyway?” Their incorrect guesses have always amused me, particularly those people who follow up with, “…But are you sure?”

Well, friends and strangers, I am here to tell you that I am not:

  • Mexican
  • Greek
  • Italian
  • Czechoslovakian
  • Irish
  • Asian (I mean, really?)
  • Persian
  • “Latin American”

I’m Egyptian.  And also Muslim, which plays a huge part in shaping my identity and how I’m perceived by others.

I guess you can say I’m one of the lucky Arabs–I pass for white pretty darn easily, and in the age of no-fly lists, “random” profiling, and FBI monitoring, it’s a good look to have.  Oftentimes, I won’t make mention of my religion or heritage until I’m comfortable around a person, especially now that I’m living in the conservative South.  The relationship changes after I share my background with a someone.  I become a token ethnic buddy, an ambassador of all things Arab, which apparently entitles people to ask me questions like, “Do people still live in the pyramids?  Do they speak English over there?  Why are you guys so mean, anyway?”

Besides, you never know how someone is going to react to your revelation, because there is always the fear that they might be one of these:


Truthfully, I’ve never felt “white.”  It may be because a lot of white people tell me that I’m “so dark.”  It may be because I never did a lot of the things that my friends liked, due to cultural differences.  Maybe it’s because my dad has a funny accent.   Maybe it’s all three reasons, and more, which is why I wouldn’t ever classify myself as white.

Now don’t get me wrong, some of my best friends are white people!  It’s just clear that I’ll never be your average white person, not when people compare their tan against my natural skin, and especially not when my peeps make up the bad-guy-du-jour (come on now, North Korea, it’s time to step it up).  I don’t have some latent desire to be white, either; I’ll never understand the appeal of Nascar or camping, and we have much better hummus, anyway.  Also, I sincerely love my background.  I mean, I could actually have some Pharaoh in me!

I happily live everyday of my life as an ethnic girl, except when I come across one of these:

The Equal Opportunity Form greatly displeases my inner Pharaoh for a variety of reasons.  First of all, why do Hispanics get their own recognized ethnic group, and no one else?  Secondly, I don’t like categorizing methods of the form.  It’s ill-conceived and inconsistent.  Categories are a mix of regional and skin tone groups.   That doesn’t make sense, when you think about it.  Indian and Chinese people may both be Asian, but they don’t really have much in common with each other, besides the fact that their combined forces would lead to world domination.

The grouping of Europeans and Middle Easterners is another example of this.  Could these people BE any more different?  What’s the reasoning behind combining them?  Is there this false assumption that neither whites nor Arabs can add any measurable diversity to a workplace?  Um, hello, we’re all about hijab, Ramadan, five daily prayers, and sinfully good pastries.   White people have their deep appreciation of Starbucks, Apple Products, and Brangelina.  Both groups can definitely add their own special flavor of diversity to any given scenario.

And finally, I know that employers aren’t allowed to base hiring decisions on this form, but a part of me always worries, what if they do anyway? I’m being robbed of my much treasured race card!  I hate when I see an application that “encourages applications from women and minorities,” and then uses this EOE form.  I’m always torn between shouting, “Hypocrites!” at my laptop, and pleading, “I’m both of those things, please pick me, I’ll diversify your workplace so hard!”

These categories don’t take into account the real way people identify themselves.  It’s not the color of our skin, or where we live that makes us who we are.  It’s our language and traditions that tie us together, no matter our appearance or location.  But the current EOE form doesn’t allow for such understanding.  The way I perceive it, the EOE form seems to operate on the premise that a person’s identity only runs skin deep, but the form tries to make itself feel better by inquiring as to your origins as opposed to your levels of melanin.

My point may be better illustrated if we swapped racial and ethnic categories with desserts.  Then the true identification nuances shine through, and the difficulty of classifying desserts becomes apparent.  Cupcakes and muffins may look sorta similar, and are baked the same way, but are two completely different high-caloric, low-nutritional value foods.  Many other goodies got pigeonholed into these categories.

So, let’s move towards a new version of the EOE form, one that allows me to retain my proud heritage, and quickly identifies my skin color to an employer.  Let’s quit beating around the bush and strip away all political correctness.  In the end, we’ll both get what we want: I’ll get a job, and your company will have hired some “people of color,” which will cement their non-racist, non-elitist, non-douchey status.


2 Responses to “Don’t Put Baby in a Corner (Or In a Box): The EOE Form”

  1. MA October 14, 2010 at 9:06 am #

    Love the post… BTW, there is no such thing as “Asians,” a term used by Americans only. The Chinese, Japanese, Indians, Indonesians, Thai, Laotian, etc. all have their own languages, traditions, and cultures. The only thing these “Asians” have in common is that they all eat rice.

  2. Ryan K. October 14, 2010 at 11:17 am #

    Even all eating rice is only sorta true — northern china doesn’t exactly have rice flowing out of their fields like southern china does. Noodles, ftw!

    But yes, I too am racially ambiguous so props on this post for pointing out the inherent hypocrisy of hiring.

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