You American?

I have often been bewildered by how Americans really see themselves. I am not sure that there is one viewpoint on that, but I am sure that if asked people will give descriptions of what they think an American is. Without that it’s hard to fathom how one can talk about people who look like illegal aliens. But that is another topic.

One of the things I heard being discussed yesterday on National Public Radio (NPR) was how to make your resume rock. One of the issues raised by the interviewer was how there may be discrimination because people had ‘names that made them seem like foreigners’. For the love of Pete, I had no idea what that could mean. Given the background of the American population, there is no doubt that Anglo-Saxon names may dominate: I do not have statistics on that as I write. But, at any given time I can encounter a very popular and public American who has a name that is not Anglo-Saxon. Let’s look at some apple pie examples, chosen somewhat at random, but all in the news over the past few weeks.

Ben Roethlisberger; Austan Dean Goolsbee; Laura Catherine Schlessinger; Usher Raymond IV; Prince Rogers Nelson; James MarshallJimiHendrix; Michelle A. Rhee; Troy Aumua Polamalu; Mohammed Ali.

You get where I am going? Is the problem not about ‘sounding American’ but sounding like a certain body of people of whom there is fear or about whom there are racial presumptions?

Like with much bad journalism, the interviewer introduce the topic but never gave any terms of reference for a line of argument that may be plausible but could mean all things to all men.

I know that in some people’s minds, the current US president does not seem like ‘one of us’ because he has the name Barack Hussain Obama. Sounds very American to me.

I am headed to a dine, meet and greet for something described as a Diversity Committee. That too, begs many questions, in a country that is totally interwoven with diversity. I have a feeling about who I will meet there and I suspect it will not be as diverse as it should be. Maybe, I will be surprised. Be back on that tomorrow.


About The Grasshopper

Professional international economist, recently retired from an international organization. I use blogging as a way of organizing my ideas and thoughts about a range of topics. I was born in Jamaica, and spent many years being educated, living, and working in the UK. I lived in the USA for a few decades, and worked and travelled abroad extensively. My views have a wide international perspective. Father of girls. Also, married to an economist.
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2 Responses to You American?

  1. ac says:

    Recentlyyou had an article about ‘what a name means’ . A few months ago I read an article on how names can make a difference in getting an interview for a job. Most african Americans are targets for notgetting job interviews because of their unusual sounding names. Maybe the person being interview was a little hesitant to reveal the truth that some businesses overlooked interviewing african americans based on their names

  2. Dennis Jones says:

    AC, I think you are on the same lines that I see. Perhaps what was being dodged is that issue that seems to affect black Americans. But, I think it may also cover people of Hispanic origin (and that would catch many people who are from Europe and not from Latin America), and those who may seem to Arabic or Muslim. Persons from the Indian subcontinent may also be in the net to be excluded. So, It may be a set of screens affecting any who appear to be non-European in origin. The person interviewed suggested that the person could put a nickname on the resume if that seemed to offer a more neutral indication than the real name. I presume this was a serious suggestion, but I wonder if an employer who sees a nickname would really spend time wondering if this for a really serious candidate.

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