Monday, September 7, 2020

Link List: More About Workplace Discrimination


Of late, I've been preoccupied with some of the smaller topics that have come up in connection with recent conversations about race and discrimination in the US. Because of certain of my own less happy professional experiences, and because I've experienced firsthand how difficult it is to truly and meaningfully challenge discrimination in the legal profession, I have a deep interest in discussions about workplace discrimination across various industries, not just in the law. 

1. // This first article, from Vice, is not technically about workplace discrimination, though my personal encounters with its subject matter have tended - distressingly, and somewhat creepily - to occur in the biglaw workplace and the law school recruiting process to get into said workplace. The article is about a joke t-shirt displaying the message "I Don't Need to Know About Your Asian Wife" and about the experiences with racism and sexism that caused the frustration and anger leading to the creation of said t-shirt.

One recurring theme to my personal reflections about all these discussions is that I'm fully cognizant of the relative privileges I've experienced as an Asian-American of East Asian descent - solidly within "model minority" stereotypes - and this is true here too. Within the article, the most distressing and sexually objectifying experiences with "Asian wife guys" are generally not from interviewees or Twitter users of East Asian descent. 

This is consistent with my personal experience. My biglaw and on-campus recruiting encounters with a number of "Asian wife guys" have all been comparatively... benign. They're definitely not making a pass at me, they genuinely just seem to think - perplexingly - that... it's a good way to make friendly small talk with the Asian-American junior associate or law student. And if this "Asian wife guy" is someone at your firm and in your practice group, this particular trait is probably going to be part of a combination of things that clearly show you over time that this person - almost always a partner, ugh - is likely... not going to be a particularly good professional mentor or sponsor for your career development.

2. // This next article from The Cut is actually about workplace discrimination in biglaw. Specifically, it's about how "Racism at my Job Literally Gave Me PTSD" ( link, if needed), from the perspective of a Black woman and former associate at a prominent biglaw firm in NYC. (She's previously written at least one other article about her time in biglaw.) 

Here's another instance in which I recognize my comparative privilege as an Asian-American of East Asian descent, one with many markers of the "model minority" stereotype. While I had no real chance to succeed from my very first days in biglaw, well before I had a chance to prove myself a good or bad worker (so it had nothing to do with my merits as an associate) - and while I also felt some of the emotions the author describes in The Cut article in my first months at my subsequent jobs as a result - what I experienced is still nothing in comparison to what my Black and Latinx colleagues face. In the end, no one ever actually said anything to me that could form the basis of a Title VII discrimination claim, and people from my demographic are extremely well-represented in the biglaw junior ranks.  

I'm reminded of a moment from my summer associate days: A well-meaning - but somewhat graceless - white classmate questioned how the firm described our summer class as extremely diverse; if almost every attorney of color in the class was Asian-American, that isn't exactly meaningfully diverse, is it? For context, the summer class consisted of several dozen people (I'm being intentionally imprecise to protect my anonymity). Almost half of us were attorneys of color. (And I can further confirm that most Asian-American members of the class happened to be of East Asian descent, to add to the sense of lacking genuine diversity.) My classmate probably shouldn't have said this thing in front of me, it resembles the "there's too many Asians here" type of racism that's reared its head a number of times in my life, in descriptions of communities I'm a part of - commentary often affirmed by fellow Asian-Americans, it's a very complicated thing - but this classmate also wasn't wrong. 

The author described her entering law firm class in her office as counting only four Black women among its roughly 60 members. My entire firm's newly entering class my year - including robustly-sized classes in several other major-market offices besides NYC, for a total of well over 100 new associates firm-wide - barely had more than that. 

3. // Going back to discussions of workplace discrimination in other industries, here's a Grub Street profile of Tammie Teclamarian ( link, if needed), a.k.a. @tammieetc on Twitter, who can fairly be described as an important food media whistleblower. Teclamarian played a significant role in revealing the misdeeds and problematic behavior that led to the departure of Adam Rapoport, former Editor in Chief at Bon Appetit, and also of Matt Duckor, former head of video at Conde Nast, as discussed in one of my July blog entries.

Teclamarian has also been a major player in the discussions that led to the resignation of Peter Meehan from the Los Angeles Times food section. In the weeks since, it became clear and was well-corroborated that Meehan was often an emotionally volatile and terrible person to work under, just like Teclamarian reported before his resignation. 

Sadly, it's now clear that Conde Nast won't fix the pay disparities associated with the Bon Appetit YouTube channel, which became public knowledge in June and which has since caused the departure of a large percentage of the individuals previously appearing in their videos. As I stated, I personally committed to never again viewing another Bon Appetit YouTube video until this problem was fixed. So because Conde Nast doesn't ever plan to fix it, the Bon Appetit YouTube channel is now dead to me forevermore. Good riddance! 

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