Editor’s Note: This post has been updated with a statement from IBM.
Computer hardware company IBM is stirring controversy after using the terms: “Yellow”, “Mulato”[sic] and “Colored” for the ethnic group options in a job application.
The use of these outdated racial terms were discovered on IBM’s website for their UX/Interaction Design Intern/Coop job application.
When an applicant noticed these ethnic group labels he took to Twitter to criticize the company for their ignorance, writing, “aren’t these ethnic group labels a little antiquated? To make matters worse, I couldn’t submit my application w/o selecting an option. I ended up selecting ‘Yellow’ and ‘Coloured.'”
.@ibm applied for a job on your career site. Aren’t these ethnic group labels a little antiquated? To make matters worse, I couldn’t submit my application w/o selecting an option. I ended up selecting “Yellow” and “Coloured.” @verge @NextShark @angryasianman #racism #ux #design pic.twitter.com/4YTS0uTssB
— Richard Park (@RichParkNYC) February 18, 2019
While some Twitter users tried to make sense of the situation by suggesting this may be the result of cultural differences if the application was made for a position outside of the U.S., the application for this particular position on IBM’s website clearly states that the internship is located in several cities across America.
These labels, which are available under the “Additional Information” tab and “Please state your Ethnic group” section, lists “Indigenous”, “Caucasian”, “Black”, “Yellow”, “Mulato” [sic], and “Not a Brazil National” as its options.
Right below this question, there is a second “Please state your Ethnic group” category which is also compulsory and lists “African”, “Indian”, “Colored”, “White”, “None of these”, and “Not a South African National” as the options.
It should be noted that the use of the term “yellow” when referring to people of East Asian origin has been historically associated with violence, discrimination and exclusion. This method of racial color-coding was developed by westerners who used the term “yellow race” to their advantage, making it synonymous with abnormality. In the U.S., the arrival of Asian immigrants was also referred to as the “yellow peril” — a highly negative term that was designed to conjure up images of overpopulation, social regression and heathenism.
Likewise, the term “mulatto” dates back to slavery times, as a way of referring to mixed-race people. However, many linguists have explained that this term is derived from the Spanish and Portuguese word for “mule” and has long been used as a derogatory term towards bi-racial people.
IBM has since responded to the controversy telling NextShark:
“Some of our recruiting websites have been translated incorrectly, and we apologize. We have removed the insensitive language and are reviewing all sites to ensure there are no further issues.”