I was eating lunch last week, underneath an awning near Mosman Library when the heavens were threatening to chuck down seven different kinds of rain at once, when I overheard something that made my blood boil.
In a café nearby, there were two business men who had about a dozen manila folders, with what was presumably resumes from people who had applied for a job. I didn't work out what kind of firm they were working for and nor did I find out the name of the firm but I was able to determine that it was somewhere in the city; I assume that they were holding this meeting on this side of the harbour, to keep away from any prying eyes who might see what they were doing.
Their process for determining who would get the job was unlike any other I'd ever seen before and it horrified me. They read through the names on the front of the manila folders and immediately threw several on the floor, purely on the basis of how the name sounded. One name sounded "too woggy" and so that was pitched on the floor. Another was "too Asian" and so that also went on the floor. A third had "too many letters in the name" and so that also went on the floor.
They also eliminated people on the basis of where they lived. Fairfield? Floor. Collaroy? Stay. Newtown? Floor. Potts Point? Definitely stay.
Opening up the folders, they threw out one because he looked like a nerd. They joked about how they would like to do inappropriate things to a blonde girl who had applied but ultimately threw that on the floor as soon and one of them was noticeably annoyed that one applicant had worked for a charity and that was thrown on the floor because they didn't want a "social justice ****" working for them.
I don't have skill when it comes to navigating the ins and outs of discrimination law and I guess that it would be more or less impossible for someone to prove that they didn't get a job because they were discriminated against but this is exactly what these two suited white men were doing. Some will argue that they have the right to decide who works for them and or with them, but from what I saw and heard, I'm not sure that I'd particularly want to work for them. This was unashamed discrimination on the basis of race, sex and socio-economic background and what was my response to all of this? Sitting quietly and eating a sandwich, that's what. If I'd said anything, I would have felt like a right idiot and I didn't want to take a picture of them in a public place like this because I'm a great big wuss.
On the upside, the person in Fairfield, the person in Newtown, the Asian person, the person with the long name, the nerdy looking one, the blonde girl and the former charity worker have all been spared at least several months of abject misery in my not very well paid opinion because working for these two is likely to be awful. If we apply the Martin Luther King Jr test of not judging people on the basis of the colour of their skin but on the content of their character, then these two men's characters were on display front and centre and oh yes, I was judging.
The immediate question that springs to my mind is "what right do I have to judge these people?" They are business people who make decisions for their business, whether they own it or not, and I suppose that they are doing what they think is best for the continuation of that business. I'm sure that it you pried open the details of most people's lives, including my own, that you'd find a lovely ball of selfishness but I hope that in my case you'd find something more virtuous. The decision made by these two gentlemen has affected someone else's life in a small way and if you multiply that by several thousand times, you start to end up with a truly horrible society.
The truth is that given what I know about Mosman, having worked here for a considerable amount of time, is that outright nastiness and rudeness is part of the landscape. Only the middle classes and aspirational people who are desperately trying to climb up the social ladder, actually care about manners. There must be some point up the ladder when people realise that the number of people above them is so very small and that the number of faces below them that they can stamp their boots into is many, where common courtesy is done away with. I'm guessing that at this point of the recruitment process, to these besuited gentlemen, any humanity which could have otherwise been attached with these names, has been thrown on the floor along with the manilla folders and their resumes: that is if they attached any humanity to these people at all. I know that I probably shouldn't wish this but my hope is that the white kid who eventually gets the job (because you and I and everyone knows that this is precisely what will happen), becomes really disillusioned really quickly and quits. If he doesn't, he faces the very real and present danger of turning into one of these two gentlemen in the future if he hasn't already done so.