Rent-A-Minority: the website taking down token diversity

Bethan McKernan@mck_beth
Wednesday 17 February 2016 18:20
Celebrities

Close-to-the-bone spoof website Rentaminority.com has been attracting a lot of attention online since it was launched last week.

The homepage reads:

Rent-A-Minority is a revolutionary new service designed for those oh-shit moments where you've realised your award show, corporate brochure, conference panel is entirely composed of white men. For, like, the fifth year in a row.

Suddenly you're being called out on Twitter and you need to look not-racist and not-misogynist fast. Actually doing something meaningful to disrupt institutional inequality would be way too much work; so why not just Rent-A-Minority instead?

The site boasts "a minority for every occasion", among them:

'Ethnically Ambiguous' ("exotic"), 'Cheerful Woman of Colour' (who won't embarrass you by being an "angry black woman", 'Smiling Muslim Woman' ("Certified not to support ISIS") and 'Intellectual Black Guy' ("Good for tech conferences").

It was set up by Arwa Mahdawi, who is half British, half Palestinian, and works in advertising in New York. Speaking to BBC Trending, she said she got the idea for the site after becoming tired with superficial gestures towards diversity she says are widespread in the media and tech sectors.

It's very frustrating when you're a minority yourself because while you're facing institutional hurdles, all the talk of diversity means a lot of people think you're benefitting from positive discrimination.

What actually triggered me to set up the site was someone asking me - in a very matter of fact way - if being brown and female was an advantage in advertising, which is absolutely ridiculous.

The site's FAQ page has some genuine suggestions for how companies can combat structural inequality, such as offering paid rather than unpaid internships which level the playing field, and making sure their recruitment methods and audits are dedicated to finding talent from different sources.

Arwa adds that she is actually available for hire "if you need a minority at your next tech conference."

More: The political party with a worse record on ethnic diversity than Ukip

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