OK, Parse This for an Israeli or Armenian Lawyer Who Works at Your Firm:

From the fourth edition of the Vault / Minority Corporate Counsel Association survey:

4. For this survey, minorities are defined as those whose race is other than White/Caucasian and include African-American/Black, Hispanic/Latino, Alaskan/American Indian, Asian, Pacific Islander, Middle Eastern and Multiracial. If your firm has not tracked and does not have data for one or more of these categories (such as Middle Eastern), you may include a footnote explaining which categories are not recognized by your firm. For example: "The totals above for minority men and minority women do not include Middle Eastern associates." Please note that for the purposes of this survey, "White" means "White/Caucasian" and does not include "White/Hispanic."

So is the Israeli a minority because he is Middle Eastern? Is he not a minority because it is not the case that his "race is other than White/Caucasian" -- but if that's so, then how would most Middle Easterners be minorities, given that under all the standard racial definitions with which I'm familiar Middle Easterners are considered white or Caucasian? Is the Israeli only a minority if his forbears case from the Middle East, as opposed to being from (say) Poland or Russia, and, if so, what should he do if he thinks your 2000-years-ago forbears did come from the Middle East?

Or are you supposed to say, "I know what the MCCA means, Israelis aren't real Middle Easterners or real minorities, because they're too Western, Middle Easterner means ..." -- means what exactly? Just people from poor middle Eastern countries? How about people whose well-educated parents left Iran following the fall of the Shah? Saudis? Are you supposed to try to decide based on how much discrimination the Middle Easterners are likely to face or have faced in America?

OK, now tell me what you do with Armenians. Does it matter whether they are from Soviet Armenia, Iran, or the Armenian diaspora? (I should note, by the way, that there are a lot of Armenian law students at least in the L.A. area.) Do they have to be Middle-Eastern-looking, as opposed to more East-European-looking?

I realize, of course, that there is imprecision in all measurement systems, and the imprecision, the opportunities for gamesmanship, and the difficulty to which people are put when they have to figure out identity labels for themselves and colleagues aren't reasons enough to abandon such inquiries. But they are costs to be kept in mind -- especially as groups keep getting added, and the costs and imprecision (who's "Middle Eastern"? "Asian"? "Hispanic"/"Latino"? "with disabilities or physical challenges"?) mount.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. "Is Somebody from Spain Hispanic?"
  2. "Do You Have Any Openly Religious Attorneys?,"
  3. OK, Parse This for an Israeli or Armenian Lawyer Who Works at Your Firm:
"Do You Have Any Openly Religious Attorneys?,"

asks a Stanford Law school "Addendum to NALP Workplace Environment Questionnaire." On the one hand, it's good that they are treating "diversity" as more than a code word for race. On the other hand, how would someone who is sincerely trying to answer this figure it out? Is a lawyer "openly religious" only if he wears religious garb or jewelry? Only if he publicly talks to people about his religious? And even if there are openly religious attorneys, what does that tell us about the firm's openness to lawyers of other religions?

One more, "For social events to which spouses, domestic partners, or guests are invited, are invitations clearly extended to the partners or guests of gay and lesbian attorneys?" I appreciate that gay and lesbian lawyers might in some firms feel uncomfortable bringing their same-sex spouses, partners, boyfriends, or girlfriends, and that this might cast something of a pall on the work environment for them. But are law firms really expected to formally write on all their invitations, "partners and guests of gay and lesbian attorneys welcome"? My guess is that the firms at which gays and lesbians are most accepted are precisely the ones who don't feel the need to mention sexual orientation on their invitations, and simply tell everyone that they should feel free to bring a guest.

I sympathize with people's concerns about whether a firm culture is open to people of various religions, to gays, and to other minority groups. And I also understand that when one is trying to gather and disseminate data on a large scale, the result will often look oddly bureaucratized. But some of these attempts to gather the data -- and, implicitly, to convey to employers how they are supposed to behave -- seem to me likely to be so imprecise as to be useless, and sometimes even counterproductive.

"Is Somebody from Spain Hispanic?"

A commenter says "no," "according to the government diversity manual." It turns out the answer is more complex — it all depends on which program you look to. A few examples:

36 C.F.R. § 906.2(k) (Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corporation): "Hispanic — is an individual who is descended from and was raised in or participates in the culture of Spain, Portugal, or Latin America, or who has at least one parent who speaks Spanish or Portuguese as part of their native culture."

24 C.F.R. § 81.2 (The Secretary of Hud's Regulation of the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae) and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac)): "Hispanic or Latino — a person of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin, regardless of race."

40 C.F.R. § 35.6015 (Cooperative Agreements and Superfund State Contracts for Superfund Response Actions): "Hispanic American (with origins from Puerto Rico, Mexico, Cuba, South or Central America)."

Cal. Admin. Code § 97700.29 (Minority Health Professions Education Foundation): "For purposes of this chapter, 'Hispanic/Latino' means a person whose ancestry can be readily traced to Mexico, Puerto Rico, the Caribbean basin, or any other country of Central or South America where Spanish is the recognized official language. A person shall not be considered Hispanic/Latino solely on the basis of possession of a Spanish surname."

Cal. Admin. Code tit. 2, § 547.80 (Equal Employment Opportunity Program / State Work Force Data Collection and Evaluation): "'Hispanic' means any person whose origin is Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Spain, or the Spanish-speaking countries of Central or South America. It does not include persons of Portuguese or Brazilian origin, or persons who acquired a Spanish surname."

Cal. Admin. Code tit. 22, § 7130 (California Department of Aging): "'Minority' means an ethnic person of color who is any of the following: ... Hispanic -- a person of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Central or South American, or other Spanish or Portugese culture or origin regardless of race." (Note then that to be a "minority" the Hispanic person must be "an ethnic person of color" of certain "culture or origin" -- but "regardless of race.")

Fla. Admin. Code Ann. r. 60A-9.001 (Office of Supplier Diversity): "Hispanic American: a person of Spanish or Portuguese culture with origins in Spain, Portugal, Mexico, South America, Central America or the Caribbean Islands, regardless of race."