But not people like you
We're hiring, but not people like you.
I'm looking for a doctor, but of course, not someone like you.
We're putting together a study group, but we won't be able to include people like you.
Redlining is an efficient short-term selection strategy. At least that's what we tell ourselves. So the bank won't loan to people in that neighborhood or people with this cultural background, because, hey, we can't loan to everyone and it's easier to just draw a red line around the places not worth our time…
The challenge with redlining, beyond the fact that it's morally repugnant, is that it doesn't work. There's a difference between "people like you" and "you." You, the human being, the person with a track record and a great attitude and a skillset deserve consideration for those things, for your psychographics, not your demographics.
When there's not so much data, we often resort to crude measures of where you live or what you look like or what your name is to decide how to judge. But the same transparency that the net is giving to marketers of all sorts means that the banks and the universities and the hiring managers ought to be able to get beyond the, "like you" bias and head straight for "you."
Because 'you' is undervalued and undernoticed.
When we say, "I don't work with people like you, I won't consider supporting someone like you, I can't invest in someone like you," we've just eliminated value, wasted an opportunity and stripped away not just someone else's dignity, but our own.
What have you done? What do you know? Where are you going? Those are a great place to start, to choose people because of what they've chosen, not where they started. Not because this will always tell us what someone is capable of (too many people don't have the head start they deserve) but because it is demonstrably more useful than the crude, expensive, fear-based shortcuts we're using far too often.
In a society where it's easier than ever to see "you," we can't help but benefit when we become anti-racist, pro-feminist, in favor of equal opportunity and focused (even obsessed) on maximizing the opportunity everyone gets, early and often.