Company Creates Software to Make Workers Sound “More White”
No, this is not a joke…
I'd like to think it was a joke, but it wasn't. Recently a colleague shared an article about a Silicon Valley company that was implementing software to make its telesales team sound more white. WTF! My first thought was what kind of white supremacist BS is this?
Then I started to break down all the reasons this bothered me.
First and foremost, it sets whiteness as the standard. Now we already know we live in a world where that's the case in many regions. This solidifies it. It's all kinds of disturbing especially because...
It erases the individual identities of the people, the Global Majority* people, actually doing the work. It wipes out one of the things that makes them different, their own unique voice to make them sound like some coder's view of an American. Speaking of which...
It reveals the big problem with homogeneity in the decision-making realm. I'd like to think there were no Global Majority people with power in that room (otherwise I'm giving them serious side-eye). Because it seems to me that only a group of white people could decide that everyone sounding white was a good idea. And they clearly DO think it's a good idea. They actually promote diversity. Make it make sense, please.
Now admittedly, some Global Majority people, some Black people use a “white voice” in certain circumstances as a form of codeswitching. But that is their choice, NOT a company deciding that their own voices aren't white enough.
And where will it end? Will we soon have Global Majority folks donning “digital whiteface” for their Zoom calls? It may sound farfetched, but it could happen. We already have the technology to make you look any way you want, so what if companies decided that looking “white” was the new standard?
Yet again, this is about some misguided notion of white comfort. Erasing people who look like me so that white people can be happier. Nah, fam, this ain't it. What this is is another manifestation of white supremacy, of keeping Global Majority people from bothering whiteness, of erasing their - our - identities. It's just plain wrong.
Would-be allies, I'd love to hear you speak out against this and make sure this software isn't used in any company you're associated with.
I’d also love to hear how this lands with you.
Thanks for reading,
*People of the Global Majority was coined by Rosemary Campbell-Stephens MBE.
© Sharon Hurley Hall, 2022. All Rights Reserved.
I am an anti-racism writer, educator and activist, Head of Anti-Racism at Diverse Leaders Group, and co-host of The Introvert Sisters podcast. If you value my perspective, please consider upgrading to a paid subscription.