It seems so far fetched, doesn’t it? That someone would go through all the trouble to make up such an impressive resume. The only examples I’ve personally witnessed (demonstrating my naivety, I suppose) have been in movies — like Catch Me If You Can in which a teenager successfully poses as an airline pilot, a doctor, and lawyer (based on the true story of Frank Abignail, Jr.) and like Don’t Tell Mom The Babysitter’s Dead in which a teenager successfully poses as a fashion professional (complete fiction, as far as I know).
But real life research tells us that (some) people embellish their resumes all the time. Apparently, men are more likely to embellish their resumes than women, but considering the typical (white) demographics of these studies, what these results actually tell us is that white men are more likely to embellish (e.g. lie) than white women. This makes sense considering women generally have to work harder than men for the same opportunity. What this research doesn’t tell us — but we know to be true — is that non-white people have to work harder than white people for same opportunity.
It is only within the schema of white supremacy and specifically the pervasive Sambo (lazy n*gg@!) stereotype that it seems unlikely that a black person could have earned an impressive resume in a majority white context (e.g. white schools, white jobs, white references, etc.). Combined with the harsh realities of racist laws and racialized politics, it seems entirely implausible that any black person — lazy or not — would have ever even had the opportunity to earn such a resume in the first place.
In what world was this possible? In what world could a black person possibly have achieved what is essentially regarded as a white resume? Clearly not the whitewashed bubble that (apparently) most white folks who end up in hiring roles have been living in. Not that I haven’t been living in a multicultural bubble myself.
It never would have occurred to me (indeed it never did occur to me) that anyone would have the audacity to question the veracity of my resume after I’d worked so very hard to earn each and every line item — indeed, every word.
I can recall conversations about my references: “Tamara says you walk on water.” So what’s the problem? I would be thinking. In hindsight, my resume was so improbably true for someone like me that even my references we’re thought to be fraudulent. And in the case where Tamara was a (highly respected) mutual acquaintance, I was such as improbability (perhaps impossibility) that my otherwise respectable reference must be lying.
I knew the one interrogation had to do with being black in a majority white field, but it really never occurred to me that the issue was that I might personally be lying. I can tolerate the double takes and extra hurdles I always anticipate having to jump, but attacking integrity is below the belt! In hindsight, I’m glad I was too naive to consider that not only was I being questioned but also my resume itself!
I only now know for sure that this was (and most likely continues to be) the case because a LinkedIn coach told me that without 99+ LinkedIn recommendations, my profile just “looks like [I] made it up.” Of course, this is sound logic that applies to anyone — LinkedIn recommendations are basic trust signals and social proof that we all need. But combined with my knowledge of and lived experiences with racism, every questionable interview interrogation suddenly made sense.
My resume, my references, and even my very being present were all just so unbelievable, and the only way I could possibly land myself in such a scenario was because of my name.
It all makes perfect sense now — As far as the interviewer was concerned, I had deceived my way into the interview with my plain vanilla name. Why wouldn’t I be lying about everything else, too?