A recently launched satirical website offering “token minorities for hire” is attracting a lot of attention.
Rent-A-Minority, a game-changing service that promises an “unthreatening and under-represented minority guest in a few clicks,” aims to take down superficial gestures toward diversity by offering all-white conference panels and juries an effective way to deflect online criticism.
“Rent-A-Minority is a revolutionary new service designed for those oh-shit moments where you've realized your award show, corporate brochure, conference panel is entirely composed of white men. For, like, the fifth year in a row,” the website reads. “Suddenly you're being called out on Twitter and you need to look not-racist and not-misogynist fast. Actually doing something meaningful to disrupt institutional inequality would be way too much work; so why not just Rent-A-Minority instead?”
The spoof website is a brainchild of New York native Arwa Mahdawi, a British-Palestinian woman who works in advertising.
Her initiative is an attempt to shed light on a familiar cycle that seems to play out on social media quite regularly. At first, people slam a company or an award show for not having minorities on board, then the offending party tries to distance itself from the controversy by making some meaningless changes to its policies. However, the same thing continues to happen over and over again.
“It's very frustrating when you're a minority yourself because while you're facing institutional hurdles, all the talk of diversity means a lot of people think you're benefiting from positive discrimination,” Mahdawi told BBC Trending. “What actually triggered me to set up the site was someone asking me — in a very matter of fact way — if being brown and female was an advantage in advertising, which is absolutely ridiculous.”
If a company does launch a diversity initiative and task its human resources with recruiting a certain number of “minorities,” their objective, in most cases, is to update its website and communication materials to look more diverse — even though things like this rarely make a meaningful change in workplace discrimination.
The site also boasts “a minority for every occasion,” which includes “Ethnically Ambiguous,” “Cheerful Woman of Color,” “Smiling Muslim Woman” and “Intellectual Black Guy.”
Interestingly, despite the fact that the legit-looking website’s FAQ page clarifies the service is a joke, some people have actually tried to hire a minority to keep up their corporate appearance. It also offers companies some tips to change the institutional inequality. For instance, offering paid internships instead of unpaid internships, finding newer ways to recruit and audit them to see what they can to advance the careers of the top talent, regardless of their race, gender and religion.