Prejudice & Students’ Social Utilitarianism (N = 142)

Students’ strategies to reduce/avoid experiences of prejudice

These actions are hardly cost-free.

Concealing valued aspects of oneself, modifying oneself based on past experiences, expectations (both real & perceived), & other acts of identity performativity come at an emotional, cognitive, & psychic cost.

The difference in cost between individuals constitutes ’harm’ as such individuals are partially usurped of their resources at the intercepts of purported equal opportunity equations.

About 20% of all respondents with an East Asian surname indicated either using their initials or adopting an American name on applications/resumes.

They changed an aspect of their avatar/ profile/ representation of self to others.

Adopting Anglicized Names

(Chowdhury et al., 2020)

East Asian applicants who adopt White names experience more success in Labor Markets where there is a high likelihood that they will be hired/rejected by someone White.

Chowdhury, S., Ooi, E., & Slonim, R. (2020). Racial Discrimination and White First Name Adoption: Evidence from a Correspondence Study in the Australian Labour Market. IZA Institute of Labor Economics. IZA Discussion Paper №13208. DOI:

Some of the employers may have perceived the Chinese applicants with White names to be biracial/multiracial. That is, employers may be more open to hiring someone they perceive to be half-White than a monoracial Chinese applicant.

Moreover, given that the last name was Chinese, employers may have assumed White mom & Chinese dad (given patrilineal surname norms). Given that patriarchal sexism places most of the responsibility of socializing children on women, and that women are more likely to have custody following dissolution/divorce, employers may implicitly assume that being raised with a White mom is more likely to possess the soft skills for interacting with customers, clients, and/or colleagues that may be more likely to be White.

(Disaggregating on parents’ marital status may prove insightful as an assumed half-White applicant raised by a single White mom may be assumed to have grown up removed from any Chinese socialization remotely on par with what one may expect if the parents remained married).

The Multiracial Dividend Effect (Curington et al., 2015) illustrates the general preference for multiracial minorities over monoracial minorities. This seems to be especially true when in-person customer interaction is expected, as the phenotypic ambiguity of mixed individuals is treated like an embedded soft skill (Walters, 2018). As such, testing the influence of multiracial assumptions separate from intentional White assimilation (for someone mixed it’s not intentional; it’s innate/ DNA) may be possible by including business photos of phenotypically Chinese individuals (Chinese) vs. phenotypically ambiguous individuals (multiracial) with adopter names.

Spousal Phenotype Utilitarianism

→ The strategic use of one’s spouse in contexts where their appearance will produce a more favorable outcome for the family than the appearance of the other spouse.

v → This effect is robust in scenarios in which the spouses are equal on relevant variables (e.g., credit, savings, income, educational attainment, etc) AND scenarios in which the backstage spouse is superior to the on-stage spouse.

Example 1: “I need my husband’s white body present when meeting landlords and agents” (Madame Von Kohnington, 2021)

Example 2: Alex Horton (White) remained in the house with the real estate appraiser as Adena Horton (Black) & their son (multiracial) snuck out the back. They also took down all family photos, any pictures of Black people, & hid items associated with Blackness. As a result, “the Hortons received a second appraisal — $465,000–41% higher than the first amount” of $330,000 (Young & McMahon, 2020).


The status benefits/gains experienced by dark skinned minority’s acquisition of a light-skinned partner are the result of hegemonic anglicized ideals of beauty (Chou, 2012; Collins, 2004; Roberts, 1997). The cultural internalization of anglicized hierarchies of desirability within Asian (Pyke, 2010; Rondilla & Spickard 2007), Black (Hunter, 2005), & Hispanic (Hunter, 2002, 2007; Villarreal, 2010) communities is well documented across disciplines (Hamilton et al., 2009; Quillian et al., 2019).

If people are aware of these inequities in the broader labor market — and are willing to do things like having their White husband stand in for her & her multiracial (half Black) child during a housing appraisal — then they’re certainly going to be aware of these inequities when they engage on social media. Such strategies takes considerable effort, physically & emotionally. You’re literally hiding who you are to ensure your home isn’t undervalued.

If people are willing to go through THAT much effort to avoid inequities in the real world, then we can’t be surprised when they strategically use emojis, change their avatar skin tone, change bodily characteristics, etc when interacting in the online world. It’s much easier to edit a bitmoji than it is to remove all traces of yourself from your house. In each case,

the individual is employing a utilitarian strategy; adapting their self presentation (real-world house as extension of self; online avatar as extension of self) for beneficial outcomes.

Operationalizing Avatars & Self/Identity

We have avatars on Linkedin, Instagram, Career websites, etc,

Our digital avatars are representations of who we are, and this is particularly consequential when it comes to vocational perceptions as the degree to which someone curates/updates their avatar (i.e., not just profile pic, but entire Linkedin profile/ resume/ CV) may reflect someone’s consistency & maintenance.

As such, job applications & resumes/CVs were the original avatars/ profile pages.

Devah Pager’s audit studies on employment discrimination were ethnographic studies in the sense that the applications she & her RAs would send out to employers were their avatars.

They would modify race, ethnicity, criminal history, etc, just as someone may modify their online profiles and/or videogame avatars. In each case, the criterion of interest is how the virtual public square will respond.


Diversity is Not Inclusion

Even in the 2020s, it is common for individuals to explicitly state racial preferences in romantic partner selection (Ranzini & Rosenbaum, 2020), though openness to interracial dating has generally improved over time (Newport, 2019).

“The odds of a White male marrying a Black-White biracial woman (54.4%) are more than three times higher than the odds of a Black male marrying a Black White biracial woman (15%).”

“It is still common for individuals to explicitly state racial preferences in romantic partner selection (Herman & Campbell, 2012; Mendelsohn et al., 2014). This occurs for sexual minorities as well as heterosexuals, and sometimes adopts openly discriminatory racial tones, for example “no Asians, no Blacks” (Paul, Ayala, & Choi, 2010, p. 533) — language that would be considered openly racist, and thus socially unacceptable, if done in other contexts such as friendships or work places (Apfelbaum, Pauker, Ambady, Sommers, & Norton, 2008; Thai, Hornsey, & Barlow, 2016).”

The Ultimate Codeswitch (Harvard Business Review — Podcast, 2021)

CHAD SANDERS: I decided that to get into the club and to be included and to feel like I had a chance to be promoted and to be a leader at that company, I needed to make myself whiter.

ALISON BEARD: So that’s like the ultimate code switch; being one thing to a certain set of people and then becoming another for a different group. Why is that so hard psychologically and did you find it to be successful?

CHAD SANDERS: Well, it’s hard because you’re trying to make yourself be someone that you’re not, and your body and your mind and your spirit can feel the jarring transition between identities every day as you dress yourself up to be someone else, which includes the way that you talk, dress, what you say you like, what you say you’re familiar with, your music tastes, your food tastes, the way that you talk about friendships & travel.

I learned, as a six year old, as an eight year old, as a middle schooler, how to think quickly on my feet because of the nature of the risky and high stakes nature of being a Black kid in this country.

I learned how to have empathy for different people early on in my life… I had to be able to pick up on social cues very fast and on what people liked and didn’t like, and what made them feel safe and what made them feel afraid very quickly because again, the stakes for a Black kid, if you don’t pick up on those things, are that someone could see you as unsafe and someone could cause you harm or call the police to cause harm to you in that way.

So those were the things I was giving away. Those were sort of the built and learned abilities that I was giving away by pretending to be somebody else. Eventually, when I came to realize the value of those things, they have benefited me very greatly in business and in art.

Gabrielle Union’s Letter to her Bring It On Character

(Excerpt from Gabrielle Union’s piece in The Cut)

Gabrielle Union, 2021

“Black and Latinx students in public schools like yours were disproportionately disadvantaged by a lack of access to AP classes.

In 1999, the year I created you, the ACLU of Southern California filed a civil rights class action lawsuit, Daniel v. California, on behalf of public high school students denied access to AP courses. The ACLU saw the trap you were in: completing an AP course gave students an extra point in the University of California system’s calculation of their grade point average, so AP students had the advantage of going over the 4.0 “perfect score.” They highlighted a school near yours, Inglewood High, which had three AP courses, while Beverly Hills High offered forty-five. And guess what? The ACLU pointed out that UC Berkeley rejected eight thousand applicants whose GPAs were 4.0 or higher, and instead took the kids with even higher GPAs.

Black girls like you thought they couldn’t be less than perfect.

And even that wasn’t enough. I had more advantages than you, and I didn’t even take AP classes. To give myself even more of an edge — anything to be chosen — I took night classes at a community college my junior and senior years of high school.

I decided you had to be studying at night for pre-college credits, too. This would have been off-screen, along with the parents of the Clovers they never showed in the film. I knew you had involved parents. Yes, I created a whole life for you, the girl who the screenwriters didn’t bother giving a last name.

This was one of the scenes where the Black actresses had to finesse the script day-of to avoid the embarrassing dialogue that was initially written for us. Left to improvise, I had free rein to put words in your mouth and ad-lib your thoughts on cultural appropriation. Not just that: Race and worthiness. Who gets opportunities and why. The scene would give white people a chance to see themselves as complicit in cultural appropriation, but the takeaway for marginalized audiences would be different. It could tell them, “You’re not crazy. Your physical and intellectual labor really has been stolen and repackaged for profit. It’s real.”

you would have to maintain a certain GPA to continue to play sports. And cheerleading, whatever people think of it, is a sport.

She’s All That, a movie for which, by the way, IMDB has no account of our characters’ last names, as opposed to the other nine “leads.”

That year he had started filming his role as Charlie on The West Wing. It was and is a white show. There were no other Black people on that show but him, so Dulé intimately understood how challenging it was to have conversations like the ones I’d been having on this set. You get a script and there’s something in there that doesn’t ring true at all or it’s problematic. That dance that you have to do, and all the compromises you make.

So, hand over the tape you made tonight and we’ll call it even for now.”

We’ll call it even. I thought you had to give them grace in the face of the thievery. You had every right to ask them to come forward publicly about what they had done, seek forgiveness, and work toward justice. But I made you educate, yet again, people who absolutely know better and still refuse to do better.

[Literally me after the racist profiling in December.]

You know what else people remember? You as a villain.

I once saw a poll of greatest movie villains and there you were. Why? Because you asked for accountability in the most civil tone I could manage? When people do their impersonation of you — to me! — it’s an aggressive, slang-talking girl threatening violence.

It doesn’t matter what you say, it matters how you make people feel. And you can’t control that. Knowing how you and I would be received, I should have just put the words in your mouth unapolo-getically.

You were the girl with no last name, but the star of every meme.”

I'm passionate about making a tangible difference in the lives of others, & that's something I have the opportunity to do a professor & researcher.