IBM’s Design Job Application Faces Flak For Featuring ‘Racist’ Labels
By Mikelle Leow, 20 Feb 2019
Image via Laborant / Shutterstock.com
You would think that—as a pioneering tech giant recognized all over the world—IBM would be perceptive enough not to insult its international employees or customers.
Unfortunately, even the greats falter sometimes, as one designer has learned.
An applicant, who goes by Twitter handle ‘youecks’, has called out the company for a series of “antiquated” ethnic group labels that he found in its ‘UX/Interaction Design Intern/Coop’ job application form.
A video capture of the job application process, which the candidate has uploaded on Twitter, reveals that hopefuls were asked to select descriptors like “Yellow,” “Mulato,” or “Colored,” to indicate their ethnic groups.
Other options included: “African;” “Black;” “Indigenous;” “Indian;” “White;” “None of these;” “Not a South African National.”
“Aren’t these ethnic group labels a little antiquated?” he asks. “To make matters worse, I couldn’t submit my application without selecting an option. I ended up selecting ‘Yellow’ and ‘Colored.’”
He also describes the experience of being profiled by color as “#racism.”
The position is based in multiple cities across the United States, meaning that the perceived gaffe can’t be the result of cultural differences or mistranslations.
The term “yellow”—referring to people of East Asian descent—is short for “yellow peril,” which early US citizens coined to describe the arrival of Asian immigrants. The derogatory phrase was used to create narratives of overpopulation and exclusion.
“Mulato” or “mulatto”—which is in reference to people of racially-mixed ancestry—is said to be derived from the Spanish or Portuguese term for “mule.”
DesignTAXI notes that IBM has replaced some of the labels with: “Asian;” “American Indian or Alaskan Native;” “Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander;” “Not Indicated;” “Unknown.”
Full screenshots of the previous form can be found here, however.
.@ibm applied for a job on your career site. Aren’t these ethnic group labels a little antiquated? To make matters worse, I couldn’t submit my application w/o selecting an option. I ended up selecting “Yellow” and “Coloured.” @verge @NextShark @angryasianman #racism #ux #design pic.twitter.com/4YTS0uTssB— youecks (@youecks) February 18, 2019
Excerpt of the updated application form. Screenshot via IBM
[via NextShark, images via various sources]
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