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Disclaimer: I feel this is a huge "NO-NO" for me to do, it would just make me look like an ass.

My university is hosting a minority STEM job fair with the intention of bolstering hiring rates for minority students. I don't have problem with this, especially with me being a white male.

My roommates however, are minorities, racially and also immigrants. They trying to convince me to attend the fair with them as we all have the same degree and try to help each other out when searching for jobs.

I think that the employers at the fair would look down on this and my fellow students would also disapprove of this.

Am I right in thinking it would be inappropriate of me to attend?

Edit: I have no intention of going, but my roommates are insisting that it would not be an issue to attend, and will not accept my explanation of how bad it would look for me.

Edit: To clarify some misunderstanding: It is not that they "need me for support" or anything like that, it is just that they don't really get why I am so hesitant to attend. It isn't 'gun to my head' sort of insisting, just a general "hey, attend this with us to talk to some good companies"

Edit: My apologies on posting a controversial topic, I didn't mean to start an issue here

Final Edit: Apparently I have trouble explaining things correctly. The idea is that it would be good for my job hunting to go to the career fair and talk with employers, but I explained to my roommates that going to such a fair would not be beneficial to me as I am not the target recruit for this event.

Controversial Post — You may use comments ONLY to suggest improvements. You may use answers ONLY to provide a solution to the specific question asked above. Moderators will remove debates, arguments or opinions without notice.

closed as primarily opinion-based by gnat, solarflare, Michael Grubey, user91949, BigMadAndy Nov 8 '18 at 18:18

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Jane S Nov 9 '18 at 0:30
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Why not attend another career fair that is not minority focused with your room-mates?

Am I right in thinking it would be inappropriate of me to attend?

Yes, you are right - it would be inappropriate for you to attend.

The point of this career fair is to allow businesses to connect with minority candidates.

At best, you'd look out of touch with current affairs, at worst, you could end up as a meme or viral post.

EDIT: I wouldn't show up just to support my friends. That wouldn't stop someone who doesn't understand why you're there from snapping a picture and posting it with a negative comment.

I don't get the "support his friends" angle. It's a job fair. You show up, hand out all the copies of your resume then meet your friends after. This is a professional networking event targeted at a specific audience.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Snow Nov 8 '18 at 16:01
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    This could be improved by explaining why instead of just stating that attending would be inappropriate. – henning Nov 8 '18 at 17:41
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    @henning it explains it pretty succinctly in the sentence directly following that statement. You may not agree with the explanation, but it's there. Structurally, this is an excellent answer: 1. restate the question, 2. quote from the question 3. answer the question. 4. explain the reason for the answer, 5. explain the possible consequences of not following the advice in the answer – De Novo Nov 8 '18 at 17:54
  • @DeNovo It's perhaps too succinct. OP says he doesn't intend to look for a position or otherwise interfere with the purpose of the fair. So without saying how OP's attending contravenes the "point of this career fair", the explanation seems incomplete. There's room for improvement there. – henning Nov 8 '18 at 18:00
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    @henning - That's what the line above the edit is for. Why risk becoming a viral post. Even if he's just there to support his friends, other attendees won't know that. – sevensevens Nov 9 '18 at 14:49
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There's absolutely nothing wrong with you attending with your friends. You can support and encourage them as well as point out interesting companies that are participating in the career fair.

What would be questionable would be if you actively approached the recruiters.

If a recruiter should happen to approach or question you simply tell them you are supporting your friends.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Snow Nov 8 '18 at 16:02
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I see no problem in going there at all. Even if asked about your motives, you can (truthfully) state that you are with your friends that invited you along. Just stick close to them when on the fair, so there’s no doubt about it when you say it.

By the way, do check if there are no rules explicitly stating you’re not welcome. It would be very rude to disregard them.

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    It would be very rude to disregard them. It would also probably be illegal to discriminate against someone by race, ironic if that would happen at a "minority" job fair. – insidesin Nov 8 '18 at 4:45
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    -1 I wouldn't follow rules that uninvite me based on race and/or gender. – knallfrosch Nov 8 '18 at 9:49
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    @insidesin The sole point of a "minority anything" is to make overt discrimination appear politically correct. – alephzero Nov 8 '18 at 10:01
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    @alephzero That’s factually incorrect. Discrimination has a specific legal definition and there are both legal and legitimate (= ethical) reasons to discriminate. Discrimination based on race is generally not included in the latter, even positive discrimination. Calling it something else (i.e. “minority xyz”) doesn’t change that. – Konrad Rudolph Nov 8 '18 at 10:04
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    +1 Discrimination is discrimination. There's absolutely nothing wrong with attending. They've made their intent clear with the name of it, and your attending shows your resolve. – UKMonkey Nov 8 '18 at 10:56
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An important part of helping minorities is listening to minorities when they tell you what they need, and actually learning from what they have to say. As a woman in your field from a not particularly wealthy background, I've had rich white men talk down to me for not taking certain opportunities they felt would help me in my career. They never asked me whether I thought those opportunities were actually helpful based on my practical experience of being a woman in the field without money or connections. I would have had a lot to say about how these so-called opportunities didn't help me at all!

I think your palpable anxiety about being seen as a jerk for attending this event may be blinding you to what's really going on here. Your friends are telling you they would like you to come to this event with them, I don't know why, but clearly it matters to them. If you don't want to waste your time or just don't feel like it, then refusing is fine, but if you're just afraid you'll be wearing a neon sign of privilege above your head, I think you are missing the point. I wouldn't imagine you would be the only white man there - STEM has a diversity problem, that's the reason for such events. I would expect lots of potential employers and recruitment people who are themselves not minorities. In any case, as pointed out in another answer, the idea that you can assess someone's minority status visually is incorrect and it would be the height of rudeness for anyone to challenge your presence.

It is inappropriate to accept resources set aside for minorities. There is nothing wrong with attending an event with your minority friends, if actually invited, with the view of educating yourself about their unique challenges. Making out you know better than a room of minorities about what they want from you, seeking confirmation from a probably white-male-biased source before asking actual minorities, or even contacting the organisers of the event who would probably be happy to give you an indication of how your presence would be received, is far more inappropriate than turning up to that career fair would be.

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    "An important part of helping minorities is listening to minorities when they tell you what they need" I think that's an excellent point and I'm glad to see it made. But to me, the OP seems to be bending over backwards to make sure (s)he's not inserting him/herself into a situation where (s)he'll be unwelcome (and all credit to him/her for that) and there are more people involved in that call than just the room-mates. So while the OP should listen to his/her roomies, theirs is not the only valid input on the issue; the attempt to see a bigger picture is also worthwhile. – MadHatter Nov 8 '18 at 9:00
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    Actually theirs is one of only a very few valid inputs on this particular issue. I (perhaps overly as an afterthought) mentioned the event organisers as stakeholders who actually know how the event is supposed to unfold and will know if OP's presence would be uncomfortable. One would hope they act having consulted with, or having practical experience as, minorities. Assuming they are actually qualified to be running a minority career fair, they get to have the final say. And if OP is merely quietly accompanying his friends there is no scope for others to be offended. – Kami Nov 8 '18 at 9:42
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    OP seems to be bending over backwards to convince his friends there is a problem without bringing any actual evidence of this. It may be well-intentioned but that doesn't make it any less about OP's feelings rather than those of his friends or the actual situation. This is really the crux of the issue: just because you feel like you're helping someone doesn't mean you actually are. – Kami Nov 8 '18 at 9:45
  • Many of your points seem very fair to me; it was the organisers' view I particularly had in mind (though I see no cause yet to question their bona fides). The OP strikes me as bending over backwards to solicit all relevant views; I might suggest his/her effort best went into asking the organisers, and perhaps some of the other participants, rather than us, but that's as critical as I'd choose to be. To me, faulty targeting is the crux of the issue; perhaps each of us reads the situation differently to the other. – MadHatter Nov 8 '18 at 10:02
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It would not be inappropriate.

Your attendance at the fair is likely to make your friends feel more comfortable interacting with exhibitors, thus increasing their chances of getting meaningful information. Provided you are mindful of your supporting role and allow other attendees to be the primary focus of exhibitors, your presence furthers the goal of bolstering hiring rates for minority students.

If you are concerned about the optics, which is perfectly understandable in today's knee-jerk world, I have a few comments.

Firstly, there are likely to be a large number of exhibitors and event support personal who will look similar to you. Often at these events exhibitors will walk around and "spy" to see what other exhibitors are offering. You will not stand out too much, if at all.

In addition, it's worthwhile to note that a persons outward appearance does not dictate non-minority status, and thus it would be improper and rude for a random stranger to question you on your non-minority status. For example, someone that appears white and male may be minority based upon:

  • Biological sexuality (Intersex etc.)
  • Gender identity
  • Sexual preference
  • Social disorders
  • Having a physical disability
  • Having an outward appearance that doesn't match ethnicity

Now, I'm not suggesting you lie about any of this, you should certainly be honest about why you're there. However, your presence may have a secondary benefit of making these minorities feel a bit more comfortable.

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    +1 for "a persons outward appearance does not dictate non-minority status" – Underminer Nov 8 '18 at 15:54
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...my roommates are insisting that it would not be an issue to attend, and will not accept my explanation of how bad it would look for me.

The good news is that they don't need to accept your explanation because you're not going anyway. If you're looking to get them to stop asking you to go then you should emphasize that instead of trying to get them to agree with your reasoning:

  • Sorry, I'm not going.
  • I've already said I'm not going, please stop asking.
  • I don't need you to agree with why I'm not going, I just need you to accept that I'm not going to go.
  • My answer is not going to change.

Be a broken record. Be terse. Be boring. Don't get sucked into trying to convince them that your reasoning is sound as if you have to get them to agree before you're allowed to say 'No'.

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    While such a response may be entirely appropriate for a stranger, and someone who you don't care about, trying to make your friends understand and empathise with your point of views on matters is part of what builds relationships. You can take the moral high ground and say you don't need to justify your reasons, and you'd be correct, but when it comes to being a good friend, being this inflexible will hurt in the long run. – Gregory Currie Nov 8 '18 at 6:32
  • @GregroyCurrie This would make sense if the OP hadn't already tried that. He has and, to quote the OP, my roommates are insisting that it would not be an issue to attend, and will not accept my explanation. The OP should not have had to ask the Internet to back them up on this. Part of being a good friend means accepting the word 'no'. – BSMP Nov 8 '18 at 7:01
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    The OP isn't asking the internet to back them up. The OP is asking if it's appropriate. I agree with some of what you're saying however. – Gregory Currie Nov 8 '18 at 7:05
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Check out the event description / guidelines. There's a high chance that the fair is open to anyone, regardless of race.

Stating otherwise opens the hosting institution and organizers to criticism regarding the very aspect they are trying to address, and makes them meme material at best. At worst, they would be risking a lawsuit from someone who felt they were excluded based on race.

Incidentally, being a white male doesn't automatically exclude you from "minorities". You could be gay, AIDS-positive, suffering from cancer, etc., so there's no way a reasonable person could assume you're not a minority based solely on your looks.

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    I don't see why this is downvoted... That's usually the case as far as I'm aware. I've seen plenty of "females in STEM" type presentations and events that also state they are open to everyone, and usually more than willing to have males attend. Generally the goal is inclusion, not segregation, so barring people outside of the specific group your event focuses on is often counter-productive. – JMac Nov 8 '18 at 12:56
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    I agree their is nothing actually prohibiting me from attending, however it is more about the perceptions of the people there. While I am free to attend, it won't stop potential employers from looking negatively at me for doing so. – user91949 Nov 8 '18 at 14:17
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    @ArmadilloDisco I don't think anyone will look negatively on you unless you actually engage in job hunting there. Like I said, nobody will even assume you're not a minority unless you have a conversation with them, at which point you can reasonably explain why you are there: to support your friends. – Dmitry Grigoryev Nov 8 '18 at 14:32
  • @ArmadilloDisco I'm not trying to accuse you in any way, but from your comments and the accepted answer it looks like you've already decided not to go and want that decision validated by bystanders here. The point is, there is no objective reason for you not to go, but of course you can still chose not to. – Dmitry Grigoryev Nov 9 '18 at 7:27