Many people bought into the notion that Seinfeld was “about nothing.” Hardly.
One of the many reasons why Seinfeld was a brilliant show was because it was about all of the subtle nuances of human interaction and relating.
In one episode, George goes to leave a tip at a take out restaurant counter, and just as he’s about to drop the money into the jar, the person at the register looks away, missing that George drops the money.
This leads a great debate about if tipping matters if the person you’re tipping doesn’t know you did. It also gets into whether or not you should tip a person at a take out counter who didn’t really wait on you.
I thought of this episode today as I was interviewing a candidate for a job I have open. I interviewed three people, and one of them was black. A few years ago, I wouldn’t have even thought to mention it. But as soon as I saw the roster of candidates, I immediately noticed that one of them was black.
Suddenly I got self conscious. Not because I was worried about myself or any biases I may or may not have. (I was far more biased about the one candidate who chose to suck on ice as she was interviewing with me… (pass)). I was self conscious because I was thinking about what she may be thinking.
I wasn’t going to hire her just because she was black. But I also wouldn’t pass on her because she was black. And I was wondering if she thought she had a better or worse chance of getting the job because she’s black. Or was she even thinking about it at all.
Then, as we started the interview, I was wondering if she thought I was being as nice as I was because she was black and I thought I owed her something or had to treat her well because this country was founded on slavery, etc. etc.
The interview went great, and as I collected my notes and thought about her in relation to the two prior candidates, I was thinking about whether or not I had a good impression because she’s black and I wanted to have a good impression of her.
Then I was thinking about whether people in my company would conspicuously be happy that we’d be hiring a black person, and if we would do that just because she was black. Made me wonder if people in the company would even care whether or not she was qualified. Would I be celebrated for hiring a black woman? Would I have established some credibility? I didn’t care about those things, so how annoyed would I be if someone thought her skin color was a determination in my decision.
And, if I hired her, would she think her skin color was a factor? Would she feel like her experience and presentation were better than others, or would she think her skin color in some way helped her. Conversely, if I don’t hire her, would she think that her skin color was a factor? Would others in the company?
Prior to the BLM virus, this entire interaction would have been as simple as me having three candidates to hire, speaking with all three, selecting the one who’s experience and personality would fit best with the rest of my team.
But now, with absolutely everything being about race, it’s impossible not to think about or consider one’s race in nearly anything you say or do. It makes it very difficult to be yourself and do what you would just normally do.
Somehow, this seems kind of the opposite of what Martin Luther King, Jr. intended when he said that thing about judging people not by the color of their skin but the content of their character.
When George drops the cash in and sees that the person at the counter didn’t notice, he attempts to pull the tip out of the cash jar so he can drop it in again so the counter worker would notice. Naturally, the guy at the counter sees him pull it out and assumes he’s stealing from him, the exact opposite of what he was trying to do.
I can’t put my finger on why, but the way Black Lives Matter has everyone keyed up and focused on race made me think of this…