Luke Visconti’s Ask the White Guy column is a top draw on DiversityInc.com. Visconti, the founder and CEO of DiversityInc, is a nationally recognized leader in diversity management. In his popular column, readers who ask Visconti tough questions about race/culture, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability and age can expect smart, direct and disarmingly frank answers.
When you feel your value to the society and region is dwindling, as a white guy, are you ever entitled to be angry?
I’ve received many e-mails about “reverse discrimination” and “tradition” and I think most are tied to the common human tendency to believe that life is a zero-sum game, i.e., if they win, I lose.
There’s good reason to feel this way. The National Geographic Human Genographic project has proven that humans originated in Africa. Although the trappings of life have changed in the past 200,000 years, the reality is that we’re still tribal–and deeply suspicious of other tribes–as was necessary for survival in an environment of limited resources.
If the other tribe kills the antelope, our tribe will go hungry. So we don’t like them–and we may have to kill them.
It is a “zero-sum” error to think that diversity diminishes white men. The actual situation is that preserving white dominance has been proven to diminish white men.
Unfortunately, some people would prefer to attempt to preserve the dominance of their “tribe” even when they understand the negative repercussions of doing so. The natural desire to gravitate to power (or try to become part of the dominant tribe) enables them to coerce other people to join them.
That’s how you end up with the Confederate Army consisting mostly of white non-slave owners fighting for slave-owning wealthy people who wouldn’t socialize with them under any other circumstance–and whose very essence of retaining wealth (owning enslaved people to provide free labor) was exactly opposite to their ability to gain wealth (free white people being paid for their labor).
To answer your question, I think it’s natural to feel that a change in the status quo is a loss for those who are dominant at the time. It’s natural to get angry about it. But it’s counterproductive because success in remaining dominant will result in decreasing wealth and power. You will become a larger fish only because the pond is decreasing. The problem with that philosophy is that no fish survive when the pond dries out.
If you’re a white man in this society, the only logical (and if you’re running a business, the most profitable) course of action is to orient yourself with the stream of humanity struggling to be free and achieve their human potential (life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness). If you’re an American, the only tribe you need to be concerned about is the tribe that supports and defends the Constitution. It’s difficult for the human mind to be that inclusive, but it is the only way for our country to be sustainable.
When I was in Florida, the election of [former] Gov. Jeb Bush, whose wife was Mexican, led to a rule that state documents, especially the homepage for the state, had to be translated into Spanish. Approximately 30 percent of Floridians as of that time spoke Spanish as their first language and some did not speak English. But the state employees doing this work were in North Florida.
I was intolerant of comments such as “If you live here, learn to speak English.” I had grown up in New York, where many folks who once lived in Puerto Rico live, and as long as the U.S. insists it must have that island nation as a protectorate, the fact is not all U.S. citizens speak English.
There is real sadness in some old Floridians, which I can appreciate. Evidently, environmental damage from the creation of Disney, the draining of the Everglades and so on has affected the whole state in a very dramatic way. There has without doubt been a reduction in the quality of life for some residents.
The anger underlying the remarks, invariably made by white men, seemed to have to do with their sense of displacement as the “real Floridians.” The immigrant rarely appreciates that he alters the culture of the folks who lived there before, but in fact each of us who moves does so.
Once, North Florida was a highly insular environment with a common culture. This has evidentially changed in great measure. Such enormous changes in one’s social milieu– all of which must feel like loss–must be extremely hard for the Floridians with family roots there. To have everything you knew as a child swept away, when consistency and tradition are core values for you, must be very painful.
I rather regret being quite so unfeeling. The fact is, Florida is not New York. The things said offended me terribly, but in fact, I never did learn to speak Spanish. The speakers whom I criticized so harshly did not intend to hurt me.
I remain somewhat at a loss about all this. When you feel your value to the society and region is dwindling, as a white guy, are you ever entitled to be angry?