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In short, IBM asks candidates if they are "yellow" or "colorful"



It's a safe bet that IBM CEO Ginni Rometty has not personally reviewed the internship application form.
Enlarge / It's a safe bet that IBM CEO Ginni Rometty has not personally reviewed the internship application form.

Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

IBM was forced to apologize After drop-down menus on an American recruiting site, they asked the candidates to identify themselves under several terms insensitive to racism: "yellow", "mulatto" and "colorful". Not surprisingly, this sparked outrage on Twitter. A video is available here.

It seems pretty clear what happened here. The form actually had two different menus that asked "Please indicate your ethnic group", which is strange in itself. One of the menus asked candidates to choose from options such as "White", "Black", "Yellow", "Mulato" and "Not a Brazilian". The other included "Afrian", "Colored" and "Not South African National".

The first menu seems to be an awkward translation of the Brazilian racial categories. The Brazilian census uses the Portuguese word "amarelo" (yellow) to describe Brazilians of Asian origin. The census also has an official category for "pardos" – mixed race Brazilians.

Similarly, although the term "colored" has fallen into disuse in the United States, the British spelling is still considered a non-derogatory term for some Métis individuals in South Africa.

It is clear that code from Brazilian and South African job sites was accidentally inserted into an IBM trainee application used in the United States. IBM is based in Brazil and South Africa and may be using the same recruiting software around the world. In one way or another, threads crossed and elements of South African and Brazilian claims were inserted into an American form, causing serious embarrassment to IBM.


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