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Are Whites Afraid to Communicate With Blacks at Work?

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Ask the White Guy Luke Visconti

Question:
I’ve joined a new company. All of my coworkers are white. I find it very difficult to build a working relationships with them. I often wonder is it my race (black). Do you think whites feel afraid to communicate with blacks on a professional level? In many cases I feel I can’t be myself in order to fit in with the culture of the department.  One of the coworkers just said “Hi” to me for the first time. I usually say “Hi” to the person first, but I never hear a response from this person. Is there something wrong with this picture?

Answer:
I would say yes, there is “something wrong with this picture,” and yes, many whites are afraid (apprehensive/intimidated) to communicate with blacks on a professional basis.


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But this isn’t the case in every workplace. Please consider where you’re working and if you can improve that situation. Is there a potential mentor you can reach out to?

Part of white culture in some workplaces is to be cold to everyone. I’ve yet to experience another culture where this is true. In my opinion, this is another good reason to work in a diverse environment.

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.

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5 Comments

  • “Part of white culture in some workplaces is to be cold to everyone.”

    I cannot agree. Does this wide, sweeping assumption suggests that “white” culture is some kind of American culture?

    “Part” and “some” allow a logical escape, but then one might say that part of any culture in some workplaces might be to be cold to everyone – why the racial factor?

    The world is a diverse place, and people might be New Zealanders or Italians, men and women, gay and straight, artists and bankers, rural and urban, younger or older…

    • Luke Visconti

      I don’t think you understand my point. In America, up until the 1990s, corporate culture was run by returning World War II officers (and people trained directly by them) who were led by senior officers (men, not women) whose backgrounds were in the small elite who attended college in America before the war. Yes, many officers were newly minted in the buildup, but the leadership’s roots were in pre-war industrialization, whose culture was driven by the wealthy, white, Anglo-Saxon “aristocracy.”

      This group enacted Prohibition (teetotaler Protestants in Congress reacting to “drinking”-class European immigrants) and stopped immigration in the mid-1920s. They were exclusive. A good example of the group was Woodrow Wilson, the worst bigot to ever occupy the White House. It’s important to note that prior to World War II, most Americans were employed on the farm and very few attended college (compared to today). The mass mechanization for the war resulted in most returning veterans being able to find industrial work, and the GI Bill funded college education for many people previously economically and socially excluded. But most companies still operate with a total disregard for the outcome of their corporate culture, which, by measurement, results in a leadership that is almost exclusively white, Christian, heterosexual, male and with no disabilities.

      In my experience, most (yes, most) corporations are run in the style of this white leadership, which is driven to be exclusive and not hospitable to people not like them. I feel this is the reason why there is 50 percent turnover in the Fortune 500 list over a 10-year period. Luke Visconti, CEO, DiversityInc

      • Ray Czahar

        What a load of garbage. Can this guy really earn a living making up quasi analysis like this? In addition, his analysis itself is in fact racist.

        Ray

        • Luke Visconti

          Your comment is nonsensical unless you can do more than a blanket condemnation. And to my Australian reader—you live in a very progressive country, but you’ve had plenty of your own issues. Perhaps you’ve heard of the “Stolen Generation” or the “Stolen Children”? And let’s take a look at representation in your government compared to the demographics of your people. Again, you have a very progressive country, but not one where women have 50 percent of the positions of power in the government. Yet. Luke Visconti, CEO, DiversityInc

  • Interesting observation. I reside in Australia and it is nothing like that here.

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