If you're familiar with that pesky feeling that your company and its board are made up entirely of white males, renting a token minority could be the answer. At least, that's the satirical premise of Rent-A-Minority, a parody website that promises "a minority for every occasion." As Rent-A-Minority explains on the site, it's a parody of "a type of tokenism that is particularly rife in the tech and media world." The website, which pretends to connect employers with potential employees of color, pokes fun at the idea of companies hiring employees of color for show, rather than actually working toward equality. "Actually doing something meaningful to disrupt institutional inequality would be way too much work; so why not just Rent-A-Minority instead?" the site quips. Arwa Mahdawi, the founder of the site, told Refinery29 that she was inspired by an offhand comment someone in the advertising industry once made to her (Mahdawi works at an ad agency in New York). The man suggested that being a woman of color was an "advantage" for Mahdawi in her professional career. "I realized a lot of people do kind of think that they are actually the ones who are at a disadvantage, because alternate discrimination is giving people a leg up, which is really not the case," Mahdawi told Refinery29. "So I kind of just wanted to make a joke about all these assumptions that people have."
Aside from assumptions that people may make about so-called reverse discrimination, Rent-A-Minority also skewers the idea of hiring people of color who aren't "too black or too Muslim," the website notes. A section of "Featured Minorities" on the site includes stock images of a "smiling Muslim woman," an "intellectual black guy," and a "cheerful woman of color" who "won't embarrass you by being an 'angry black woman,'" Rent-A-Minority promises. Mahdawi plans to add a person with a disability as another "Featured Minority." Mahdawi actually tracked down a couple of the stock models she featured on the site, including the main face of Rent-A-Minority, stock model and photographer Silas Lekgoathi, who was happy to be a part of the project.
"I think that often, we don't use humor enough in this topic," Mahdawi told Refinery29. "Because it's so controversial, it's so emotive — I feel like it's nice to use humor sometimes, to just kind of alleviate the tensions around the issue." While many outlets have praised Mahdawi and the site, some of the responses she's gotten prove how necessary the discussion is. "I saw one person tweet, 'Don't join the site Rent-A-Minority, it's a scam, you won't make any money,'" Mahdawi said, explaining that some people seem to have missed the fact that the site is a joke. "And then I got a couple of emails from organizations, like one from a big bank name, asking me if the service was available. I actually kind of think that they were serious."