Two recent news stories highlight the limitations of equality legislation when it comes to the still fairly common existence of irrational prejudices such as racism and sexism – which sadly refuse to disappear.
Martha-Renee Kolleh who owns the Yeanon Café located in Ossett, West Yorkshire (pictured above) first became suspicious that the colour of her skin was an issue with some people when she noticed a higher than normal percentage of potential customers poke their head round the door to look inside and then going away as soon as they looked at her. In order to check that she wasn’t being paranoid she hired a white woman and, voila, found that suddenly this happened to a far lesser extent. Of course, one of the most frustrating aspects of this racism is that profound irrational prejudices can’t be legislated against.
Ms. Kolleh did, however, do something and put up a really witty sign in her window basically informing people that if they wanted to miss out on good food and drink just because they were racist then they needn’t bother poking their head around the door(!) Now what’s the betting that if she’d put up a sign outside her café reading: ‘WE DON’T SERVE WHITE PEOPLE’ (which, of course, under equality legislation would be illegal), the very same racists who didn’t want to frequent an establishment run by a black person would be amongst the most vociferous to demand entry and ironically probably now be rushing to take her to court for racial discrimination!!!
Our second recent case of stupidity based on illogical prejudices involves 18-year-old Hannah Miller (pictured above) a trainee mechanic who has had some 50 job applications rejected – with nothing whatsoever to do with the quality of her work – but, purely, it appears, because she happens to be female. In one case she was even told by the manager interviewing her that he couldn’t offer her a job because his wife would become jealous if she knew he was working with a “girl”! In another instance – and in what has to be one of the most pathetic excuses for workplace sexism ever – a prospective employer informed her that it would be against *health and safety* to hire her because they didn’t have separate changing facilities and toilets for women!!
I can vouch that this does go on. I have personal experience of this, not only as a transsexual woman, but I’ve also seen it happen to cispeople too.
I have a male friend who’s a qualified secretary and during the time he was unemployed applied for around 200 secretarial jobs. He conscientiously and patiently sent off perfectly-crafted application forms and curriculum vitae every day; he had a high standard of English plus all the relevant qualifications and experience, and in his frantic quest to find secretarial work even applied for much lower-paid, less skilled positions – such as junior typist. He did this for about a year with no joy, despite his diligent efforts not one offer of interview materialised – in fact, around 70 per cent didn’t even bother to send a rejection letter.
Then one day, he did something slightly different: instead of putting his first (male) name on the application form he just put the initial making it impossible for the employer to know what sex he was. About two days later, a letter arrives through his door offering him an interview, but addressed to a Ms xxxxxxx. Apparently, he tells me that it was so funny to see the look of shock on the male boss’s face when he got there and how this nervously sweaty guy felt the need to go off, entirely unprompted, into this long-winded spiel about how the organisation was an equal opportunities employer and would employ anyone on merit irrespective of irrelevant factors such as gender, race, sexuality blah-blah-blah – whilst meantime one of the secretaries pulled faces behind him, shook her head and rolled her eyes as if to say…”you really wouldn’t want to work in this dumphole, honey!”