Ask the White Guy: Do ‘Those People’ Not Value Hard Work and the Right Priorities Enough?

Luke Visconti’s Ask the White Guy column is a top draw on 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.

Ask the White Guy: How Wealthy White People Get the Most Affirmative ActionI received this comment from a reader on my column “Most White People Think Blacks Are Intellectually Inferior”:

You bring up MLK and, like most liberals, cite MLK’s advances in society. Yet I haven’t seen it. The perfect example is affirmative action. And don’t give me the b.s. that white women benefit the most from it. That’s not the point. AA should be abolished completely.

In this country, the American dream only exists if you get a job, make the right decisions and pull your own weight. To go about this course of action, you can first start by organizing your priorities.

No doubt that priorities are important, but you’re naïve if you don’t think the most successful form of affirmative action is for wealthy white people. A recent New York Times article, “Harvard Business School Case Study: Gender Equity,” is a good starting point to understand this—ignore the gender aspect, read the article and put yourself in that environment with an average white American background. First of all, the average white American stands no chance of gaining admittance into that elitist environment, I don’t care how hard you work or how carefully you chose your priorities. This article points out that to be successful at Harvard Business School, you have to suck up to the right people to gain their acceptance (it has everything to do with social climbing) and have a callous kiss-up, kick-down ethic (you may already be ruthless, but you’d be competing with the professionally ruthless).

Nine out of 10 people that bombard this site with their hatred of “Obamacare” and preaching about “priorities” and “right decisions” is parroting the enslaving message given to them by people who wouldn’t even pause to wipe their feet on your head. Think about it this way: John Kerry (Yale) stands there with a straight face and tells us to believe the intelligence regarding Syria and who pulled the trigger on poison gas—even though nobody is in prison for getting us into a 10-year war based on completely flawed “intelligence” about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq that George W. Bush (Yale, Harvard) ordered up. We’re being expected to believe that Larry Summers (MIT, Harvard) is the answer to our economic problems, yet he was there during the decisions that led us into this disaster we’re in—and, mind you, NOBODY is in prison for that mess, either.

The only people who seem to pay the bill are the average soldier and the average American citizen. You get punished more for driving drunk than you do for decisions that lead to the killing of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians—or wiping out trillions of dollars of middle-class America’s household wealth. In fact, you don’t get punished at all for those things, you get rewarded. The same characters—and their sons and daughters—seem to have a mortal lock on all the top jobs. (Note that Lloyd Blankfein’s [Harvard] son is in the HBS article!)

Think about this: Our education system has now slipped to middle of the pack (17th out of 40 ranked countries in a Pearson study). Yet we’ve had two generations of Bush (Yale x 2, Harvard) men as President; another former President’s wife (Hillary Clinton, Yale) is going to be a front-runner in the next election; and congressional districts have been gerrymandered so that almost 100 percent of Congressmen and -women are reelected even though job-approval ratings are well below 25%. This make sense to you?

Before anyone responds that I’m simply bashing the Ivies, please read the article “Ivy-League Letdown,” also in the Times. Research shows that Ivy League schools are far lower than average in Pell Grant–qualified students. This tells you the truth: It’s not about intelligence, hard work or accomplishment at that level. It’s about connections and wealth. Affirmative action for wealthy white people. Period.

If you were smart, you’d be stomping your feet for real affirmative action; the average American’s hope rides on broadening access to power, not narrowing it. If “race” bothers you, advocate for economic-based affirmative action. But don’t believe the hogwash about “priorities”—the white middle class has been a victim of wealth inequality for years, a trend that has grown during our ongoing economic crisis. Wealthy white people, however, did quite well. Yet you’re being cajoled into rejecting “Obamacare” as healthcare benefits for the average American are being stripped away. THINK about it, instead of bombarding this website with platitudes about the “American Dream” you’re getting from websites like wakeupamerica. Think for yourself.



  • Michael J. Lowrey

    Some delightful truths in this one, and I’m sure you’ll be getting blowback accusing you of advocating “class warfare”. The dirty secret, of course, is that the United States has almost always been fine with class warfare, as long as it is waged by the upper class against the middle and working classes; or by the middle class, (mis)led by the uppper class and their toadies, against the working class.

  • Luke, your original commentor has completely missed the pont of Affirmative Action, as many people do. Affirmative Action goes far beyond race. It also ensures that people are not discriminated against based on their gender or any physical disabilities.

    In the many years I’ve worked for my current employer, I have worked for three white men and three white women – all of them good bosses and fine people. But I have yet to work for a black person, or even have a black person in my chain of command, even though there are black people in middle and upper management in my organization.

    We can think about abolishing Affirmative Action when the playing field has truly been leveled – that is, when we know for sure that organizations are hiring people based strictly on their qualifications and not things like their skin color, their outside connections, or even their bra size. But I don’t see us hitting that point any time soon.

  • Where did President and Mrs. Obama graduate from? Undergraduate and Law School?

  • Thank you Luke, very well said.

  • lincoln grant

    Revolting. Can we stop pretending all are created in terms of abilities. All must be offered equal opportunity. It’s a sad joke to keep fooling ourselves that capabilities are equal.

    • You’re right, we are not created equally in term of our abilities.
      However, I think people are created equally – what that means is that there’s an equal distribution of talent in every group. Where we, as a society, discriminate is in where our resources are going to be spent to develop that talent. Most people think of it in the context of where we spend our tax dollars – that’s the small end of the scale. Who gets the real break? Those who already have. For example, Apple declares itself an Irish company and pays almost no tax in the United States (don’t try that at home, folks). The Ivy League schools have enormous endowments that grow tax free – the spend it on building facilities for their (property tax free) campuses – not that they admit more people, it’s more resources spent on the same small percentage – that the rest of us who DO pay taxes subsidize.
      -Luke Visconti, CEO, DiversityInc

  • And just to add to the insightful comments by Luke, Michael, and Graham, who do you believe came up with the false concept of “reverse discrimination”? No doubt a wealthy white person who wanted to keep the race mongering alive as a means of keeping the rest of us from seeing the truth of where the real inequities lie. Discrimination is discrimination no matter who it’s levied against. The need for affirmative action was an attempt to correct unfair treatment against a specific race. It was later extended to cover more categories when people realized that not only were people of specific races being discriminated against, so were women, the disabled, poor people, etc. Who benefits by making claims of reverse discrimination? NOT people of certain races, women, the disabled or poor people, that’s for sure. It’s simply a diversionary tactic.

  • Affirmative action for the spawn of wealthy whites – it’s called legacy. If your daddy’s or mumsy’s name is on a building, you’re getting in. Once you graduate you are well connected through rich family and friends. Yet no one sues for that. Only because they believe some minority “stole” their place in line. I’ve said it for years, wealthy whites (and the ones who make themselves wealthy by spreading hate) keep so or make themselves so by pointing over there – at the welfare mom, food-stamp program, welfare, universal healthcare, illegal aliens, the poor – and tell you that’s where your problem lies. Meanwhile, they sell you guns so you’ll feel safe against an always impending threat (of what?) and shove religion down your throat, none of which values they actually believe in or practice themselves. One day, maybe the masses will wise up.

    Doesn’t anyone realize that these people are actually anti-social and in some cases sociopaths. If George Bush had taken a gun and shot each one of those soldiers himself, he would be labeled so. What do we call people who through their direct action cause death and destruction? We call them socio-paths, psychopaths, and terrorists.

    These people sleep at night. They. just. don’t. care. about. people (you).

    When I was a kid I would wonder why people didn’t see the truth. I still wonder.

    • More get it then you think. Thr best defense is a good offense. It is always the dark, sinister boogeyman at the bottom of why your “right” was stolen. The use of fear is an effective tool.

  • I guess women are intellectually inferior.

    And white men can’t play basketball.

    After all, empirical observation, unbiased studies, and anecdotal information backup those two statements.

  • Thank you–it’s about time someone said this about our overrated, overpriced universities.

    I happen to have known quite a few Ivy Greeders when studying in England: my university is, for better or worse, a dumping ground for those not working at Goldman Sachs or studying at Harvard Law School. Now, perhaps the crop I encountered in the English and history departments between 1994 and 2001 wasn’t the brightest; but whatever the case, graduate students from the Ivies always seemed to be in danger of failing or actually getting booted out. (I call them “Roads” scholars–more remarkable for the distance they’ve traveled than anything else!) They would then whine about the British discriminating against Americans and downgrading them. (Interestingly, however, if you try to discuss racial discrimination with these folks, they will tell you it doesn’t exist as we live in a postracial society, etc.)

    What a farce–especially since exam papers were never identified by name, just candidate number. How is anyone supposed to distinguish an American Emily Jones from a British Emily Jones? But then again, the poor dears were also used to grade inflation at their $50,000 a year universities where it’s not uncommon for professors to tell their consumers–oops, students–“I will give you 2 grades: one on your paper–your real grade; another on your transcript.” (See an article by Ross Douthat in The Atlantic, “The Truth about Harvard” March 2005.)

    The Greeders I’ve known at other universities are not much to crow about either. Let’s face it, the vast majority of the Greeders are not dumb–but they’re not the geniuses they pretend to be. Only a mere 1% can be considered “brilliant,” and that’s what you’d find anywhere else, statistically speaking. Apart from folks like our “Is our children learning” former president, they are mostly what we’d consider above average–kids who’ve been able to profit handsomely from their upper middle class resources.

    At the end of the day, our various systems–the government, corporations, and academe–have largely been rigged in favor of these so-called “best and brightest.” And if they look and dress the part, even better! They are the ones who’ve learned how easy it is to trick people into believing outright nonsense through rhetorical ploys like “Yes, but….” or “Little do people realize that…” That is how right-wingers like Bill O’Reilly, Ann Coulter, Laura Ingraham, Heather MacDonald etc. have peddled their rubbish. That is how our bailed out bankers have done it. (“Well yes, we lost 5 billion; but it could have been worse–15 billion. That’s why I deserve my bonus,” said Harvard, MIT educated John Thain of Merrill Lynch). That is how the likes of Paulson and Bush have granted the bailout. (“It may seem like a lot–but our nation needs…”)

    The fact that they rely as much as they do on the good ol’ boy network means they are also less likely to rat on another: hence, the repeal of Glass-Steagall, deregulation, and bailouts. And why Yalie (numb)Skull and Bones(heads) Kerry donned kid gloves when campaigning against S & B Bush, while Obama in turn failed to investigate and prosecute fellow Harvard alum Bush like he promised in 2008 (even if Bush from the B school rather than law school). It’s much the same at universities, which are largely supervised by Ivy Leaguers, from college president to provost to dean, etc.: incidentally, it is these very people who have been corporatizing academe over these last 40 years with steep rises in tuition and next to zero subsistence pay for adjuncts.

    My advice for anyone electing or hiring an Ivy Leaguer? Buyer beware. You may get something good. But then again, you may not.

  • Wonderful! Absolutely wonderful! Mr. Visconti, you’re on fire, totally on point with this!

    I literally had a similar conversation with someone this afternoon. I was dumbfounded by the attitude & twisted thinking. Evetything that was brought up as valid “reasons” was poorly masqueraded classism & racism, emphasis on the classism.

  • I don’t disagree with your general premise, but I do want to point out that the causes behind patterns we see can be complex. For example, I’ve read that Ivy League schools have a hard time recruiting minority and lower income students. They have quite a bit of scholarship money to help lower income students. In fact, Ivy League schools can sometimes cost lower income students less out-of-pocket than less prestigious and (supposedly) less expensive schools. Unfortunately, most high school students do not understand this and are put off from applying to Ivy League tier schools by fear of the cost. But the Ivy League schools do want more minority and lower income students. So, when your note that the Ivy League schools have mostly affluent, White students, consider that one reason may be that not enough qualified students from other backgrounds applied. High schools counselors, especially in lower income areas, need to encourage their most talented kids to apply to their “dream” schools and see what financial aid package might be offered.

    • Luke Visconti

      Do you expect anyone to believe that Ivy League schools can’t figure out how to persuade a few poor kids to apply? Preposterous. Just in case all those geniuses can’t figure it out, here’s how you do it: Create a program similar to Rutgers Future Scholars. Our first RFS class graduated from high school last June. Of the 200 children who started the program in eighth grade, all but one graduated high school, more than 90 percent went on to college and 130 qualified to go to Rutgers (where they will receive a full scholarship). Every one of the students who were accepted at Rutgers were fully academically qualified and competitive. We have one working in our office as an intern—a well prepared, hard-working, ambitious young man.

      I did a little math: Rutgers has 1,000 students in the RFS program. If you take a ratio between the Princeton endowment and the number of students at Princeton and the Rutgers endowment and the number of students at Rutgers, if Princeton served our nation in the same proportion as Rutgers, it could afford to put 173,000 poor students into a future scholars type of program. The RFS program guarantees full scholarship for students who qualify and are accepted into Rutgers. If Princeton had the same success rate at matriculating its future scholars, it would have 112,450 new freshman. Considering Princeton only has 5,100 undergraduate students, adding 112,450 mostly nonwhite poor kids would change things quite a bit, no? Here’s the problem: Do you know how many Princeton has in a program like RFS? ZERO. Luke Visconti, CEO, DiversityInc

  • NonWhiteHispanicPR

    I agree with Luke’s point. Wealth itself can be compared to “Affirmative Action” for those who enjoy its perks regardless of race, gender, language, ethnicity, disability, etc. (Side note: There is racism and discrimination within those upper class groups but that is another topic). Many strive to become part of the top echelon, the elite class, in order to do so they must follow a specific strategic blueprint; these designs are sometimes developed through personal objectives and on other occasions they have been “written” or settled by predecessors. While attempting to reach the same goal, Affluence, many chose diverse paths such as Education, Music, Art, Business, Politics, Banking, Commodities, Sports, Crime, etc. Once they have adopted such status and life style they adapt to learn, implement, and abide by the unwritten norms established by that culture to sustain their position. Even some whom, initially, were well intentioned by attempting to climb social ladders to address economical, educational, and medical disparities to make a difference in our societies have succumbed to the pressures and every so often must implement the ideologies and plans of those of higher hierarchy to avoid becoming outcasts within their circle. Although there are many different perspectives, political views, religious practices, ideologies, philanthropy, economy, welfare, advocacy for equality, etc. that create disagreements amongst upper class members, it is evident they are in accord and do agree for the most part to maintain their power, status, and wealth by all means necessary.

  • One of the greatest benefactors of Affirmative Action in recent history is George W Bush. Too bad AA is so misunderstood. Try not to believe the propaganda–Think!

  • Luke thank you for posting an interesting article on this subject. I enjoy the lively conversation and sometime debate- please keep challenging the world to shift the way we think about a few things.

  • RE: “those people”

    “…when it comes to getting an education too many of our young people just can’t be bothered, they’re sitting on couches for hours, playing video games, watching TV, instead of dreaming about being a teacher or a lawyer or a business leader, they’re fantasizing about being a baller or a rapper,’” – Michelle Obama.”

    The quote came from a commencement speech made by the first lady to graduates of Bowie State University last spring.

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