Chicago native turned Bedstuy Brooklyn artist, Amanda Moore-Karim is subtly starting important conversations about the duality of Black women in the workplace and beyond. As a racial politics writer for Fashionista and as a young adult who has traversed the rocky employment market over the years, she found herself amidst intriguing yet disturbing scenarios. In a dynamic photo series entitled Jekyll & Hyde: The Art of Code Switching, Moore-Karim illustrates the difference in perception when it comes to how a Black woman dresses, wears her hair, or carries herself in the corporate world.
The term code switching refers to the way we customize our style of speech to match the audience or specific group of people we are addressing. Moore-Karim explains that she first found inspiration for the photo series as an extension of her early work that was further inspired by her personal experiences with interviews.
“After going on a few job interviews I began to form my own hypothesis and conducted an experiment. I would wear my hair one way and note the difference in the way I was treated versus the responses I would get from more natural, vibrant styles. There is definitely a difference in energy from non-black individuals when a black woman wears her hair straight opposed to wearing natural hairstyles.”
The ideology behind the photo series is reminiscent of other independent research studies that compare how different the job finding experience can be for people of color versus their Caucasian counterparts. In 2001 and 2002, MIT-University of Chicago conducted a study where researchers sent 5,000 fictitious resumes for sales, clerical and customer service positions in Chicago and Boston. In 2003 they reported that applicants with white-sounding names were 50 percent more likely to be called for initial interviews than those with African American-sounding ones.
Although there are anti-discriminatory laws in place that aim to prevent racial bias from impending on employment opportunities, some situations are not so easily categorized. When the person or persons in charge have personal apprehension towards certain aspects of other cultures, they often lean towards applicants who feel more familiar. These semi-subconscious decisions can influence a company so much so that they shy away from diversity in all respects.
In the dramatic photo series, prominently displayed on the website for amandaluxe, Tyler Jordan’s streetwear fashion line, C.A.N.V.A.S., photographer Ryan McCaulsky and Moore-Karim’s double exposure and multiplicity editing techniques work together to capture the versatility that many Black women never discuss. The images depict her ability to switch her own image at the drop of a dime in order to adapt to the situation at hand. While the photos represent a situation that most Black women are familiar with, the sincere depiction should help to establish important conversations from all backgrounds about culture and inaccurate perceptions.