Ask the White Guy: Is the Oxford Dictionary Definition of Racism Too White for You?

The short answer: yes. But an understanding of white privilege is required for further insight.

The two most contentious issues on this website are the definition of racism and the concept of white privilege. The concept that racism is power based—and flows from power to lack of power—is hard to grasp for majority people (defined in this country as white, male, heterosexual, Christian and with no disabilities). I can understand the frustration: Racism is hard to grasp. But white privilege is almost impossible for a majority person to truly understand. The comment below is on a column I wrote years ago. (Note: The person commenting used a lower case b for Black; we use an upper case B.)

By your definition, black people (for example) cannot be racist to a white person.


Um, black people cannot subscribe to “the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races”?


Is that what you’re saying? Or is the Oxford definition of racism too “white” for you?

Actually, it is. If you look up who runs the Oxford University Press, which publishes the Oxford English Dictionary, you’ll find that the staff fits the very definition of “too white” (as do the top editors of the OED). Therefore, the definition of racism found there lacks nuance and is incomplete.

Racism is directed from majority to those not in the majority and has its roots in economics. In China, for example, racism would be directed from Han Chinese to any of the other 55 ethnicities. Instead of “white” privilege, China has “Han privilege”—same concept—and from Tibet to Xinjiang (where the Uyghur people live), there are protests, sometimes violent, over Han economic domination.

It is deep in the human psyche to think of life as a zero-sum game—that denying some people access to resources will concentrate your power. This might work in a hunter-gatherer society, but in an economic system, we all gain when everyone participates; the innovation and industriousness of a free people will trump a group whose freedom is limited. This is why the United States is still the world’s dominant economy: Despite our problems, a person can achieve more of his or her potential here than anywhere else on the planet. It’s also a major factor in why our DiversityInc Top 50, expressed as a stock index, trumps the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500.

The concept of white privilege confuses and frustrates many white people, especially people who don’t perceive themselves as being in a position of power (a recent comment started with “I grew up in a trailer park”). This is an important point because white privilege is leveraged against ignorant white people to do the bidding of more powerful white people who have an economic agenda—the Koch brothers, for example. It’s been used by people from Father Coughlin to Rush Limbaugh to whip people up and build audience share for financial gain. Most of the white people killed on behalf of the Confederate government in our Civil War owned no slaves—but they died for the right to compete with enslaved labor. Most recently, we’ve seen this with the organized and vigorous effort to smear Trayvon’s character. I’m almost certain that this is emanating from the gun lobby, which is concerned about maintaining the tremendous boom in handgun sales that the combination of “Stand Your Ground” and “Shall Issue” concealed-carry laws has generated.

It’s a problem for corporate leaders—you have to manage people who are susceptible to hateful messaging as this “jobless recovery” turns a lot of majority people who were previously “haves” into “have-nots.” This is exacerbated by a trend that economist Enrico Moretti wrote about in his recent book, The New Geography of Jobs: There is a migration of smart people to cities that have the perception of being successful. The folks who are left behind are even more economically depressed than before—and far more susceptible to racists who will provide an easy rationale to their problems.

Racism is more subtle than bigotry, and the concept of “majority” privilege is far more subtle than racism. It’s extremely important for leaders to understand racism—and white privilege—for this is a core limiting factor in their potential success, and therefore a fiduciary responsibility. Racism can be measured: Black households, for example, have one-twentieth the wealth of white households. Majority privilege can be measured, too—no company we measure has achieved equitable talent development—and the average women representation in the top levels of corporate management in the DiversityInc Top 50 is half of college graduation rates (roughly 25 percent versus 50 percent for people in that age bracket).

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.

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  • Good column. It is all about power. And we each of us need to accept the ways that we
    have privilege. It doesn’t mean that we asked for it. But just by being in the world with a
    lot of power differentials, there are assumptions made, and privileges exist.

  • Mealy mouthings and weasel words, Luke. Your upper case B and your “blacks can’t be racist ’cause they’re not a power group in America, so when blacks discriminate on the basis of skin color, they’re merely bigoted, not racist” song and dance routine reminds me of Rachel Jeantel trying to expound to a CNN interviewer on the difference between ending the n-word with -a versus -er. Or maybe you’re more like a black entertainer explaining how it’s perfectly acceptable for blacks to spew that n-word “because when we use it, we own it.”

    Total blather, Luke. Empty words. Nothing.

    • Luke Visconti

      Anyone may use any language they wish, Andy. There are repercussions for language, however, and my column (and this publication) is targeted toward people who are interested in having their communications understood as clearly and accurately as possible, without hurting people they don’t wish to hurt. Bigotry and racism are of the same nature, but racism, having the leverage of power, does more damage. Luke Visconti, CEO, DiversityInc

      • Raymond Lee Moser

        Luke what if your employer is black. Your supervisor is black. And you live in a city with a black mayor and majority black city council. Can the bigotry expressed by those in power toward that white employee in that circumstance be considered RACIST?

        • Luke Visconti

          No, it would be bigotry. Why are you racists so wrapped up with this issue? It seems like you want to have racism work both ways so you can absolve yourself of your self-loathing and guilt. It’s like all the people obsessed with other people’s genitals and what they do with them—they (like you) are consumed with the issue. You need counseling for this lifestyle, not a change in definition of one word or another. Luke Visconti, CEO, DiversityInc

      • wonderful article, maybe racism / bigotry it would be easier understand if Americans were walking in the shoes of native Americans… thinking of the racist mascots like the Washington redskins or Cleveland Indians… Americans like to think racism is a black and white issue .. they always forget the genocide and living Holocaust if the American indigenous community…

  • Will Saunders

    Very good article. This raises the notion of how we need to realize we share the world with others and we have an obligation to embrace others, even those who are not like us or who’s beliefs differ greatly from our own. Honestly, I cannot imagine living in world with everyone who looks, thinks, acts, and believes the way that I do. It’s the diversity that everyone brings that makes life so much more interesting.

  • So to be sure I understand correctly, an ethnic minority can be a bigot, but not a racist.

      • John Reynolds

        So by your reasoning it is impossible for South African whites to be or have ever been racist, as they are not and never were the majority.

        • Luke Visconti

          Good comment. Numerical majority is immaterial. Power is about monetary superiority, which white South Africans still control, as the wealth distribution program has failed. Monetary oppression from minorities against majority peoples is the basis of the current crisis among the Uighers in China and the revolution in Syria; it was also behind the downfall of the CIA-installed Shah of Iran and the CIA-installed Saddam Hussein. All of these examples have racist elements, especially in China. Luke Visconti, CEO, DiversityInc

          • Moving the goalposts?
            [Racism is directed from majority to those not in the majority]

            majority (plural majorities)

            More than half (50%) of some group  [quotations ▼]

            The majority agreed that the new proposal was the best.
            Those opposing the building plans were in the majority, so the building project was canceled.

            The difference between the winning vote and the rest of the votes

            The winner with 53% had a 6% majority over the loser with 47%.

            (dated) Legal adulthood

            By the time I reached my majority, I had already been around the world twice.

            (UK) The office held by a member of the armed forces in the rank of major

            On receiving the news of his promotion, Charles Snodgrass said he was delighted to be entering his majority.

            Ancestors; ancestry.
            I trust an anonymously contributable, majority-moderated dictionary is unbiased enough for you.

  • In the past few weeks, a five year old niece was told by a White male classmate that he didn’t want to play with her because her skin was too dark, and a four year old daughter of a friend was told by a White female classmate that her dark skin was ugly. The friend told her daughter she was beautiful. Her daughter replied by asking how could she be beautiful since her skin was dark. White kids growing up the U.S. don’t have to deal with that stuff. That’s privilege.

    • Luke Visconti

      Black people who hate white people they don’t know, just because they’re white, are bigots. Luke Visconti, CEO, DiversityInc

      • Wrong, a bigot is a person who is intolerant of people who hold other opinions, viewpoints or ideology. Doesn’t have to do with race. Ironically, you seem to be a bigot yourself, as you attack people who disagree with your assessment of meaning of a word even though every dictionary disagrees with your definition.

        • Luke Visconti

          Wikipedia: Bigotry is a state of mind where a person strongly and unfairly dislikes other people, ideas, etc. Mind you, I’ve already commented on how white and male the minders of Wikipedia are.

          I don’t know why the concept—because racism involves economic power—that blacks cannot be racist drives haters crazy, but it does. It’s a word that defines a condition, not an indictment of white people. Luke Visconti, CEO, DiversityInc

  • Excellent column. I’m involved with several organizations where we’re pursuing diversity and inclusion efforts — and examining majority privilege is a critical part of that process. While it was a tangent, the column states: “Despite our problems, a person can achieve more of his or her potential here than anywhere else on the planet.” Last Sunday, Fareed Zakaria’s show GPS examined recent studies on the geographic discrepancies in social & economic mobility in the U.S. The panelists went on to discuss why the U.S. is now falling behind some other countries in upward mobility (see Zakaria’s GPS website). Maybe this could be a future DiversityInc column.

    • Luke Visconti

      Thank you. Regarding Fareed Zakaria’s latest show, I read the column associated with it on CNN’s website. There’s no doubt that the U.S. is going to fall behind developing countries in upward mobility as the global middle class grows explosively. However, there’s a big difference between economic growth in a country like India and ability to achieve your potential. In my opinion, an SC/ST person (Dalit) will still have a better chance to succeed in America than in India—and will for years to come.

      This is due to economics. In our country, we have a far higher demand for talent than they do in India—it’s why almost half of our workforce is women (college and non-college educated); in 1960, it was only 21 percent (and I’ll bet 90 percent of that 21 percent were nurses and school teachers). Our economy grew to the point where women were fully integrated. This is a virtuous cycle: As more (formerly excluded) people are pulled into the workforce, both quality and innovation increase, as excluding people by factors irrelevant to talent (like gender and race) is a self-limiting factor.

      This is counterintuitive to most majority males. If it weren’t, 50 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs would be women, 50 percent of Congress would be women, etc.

      I’ll close with something that some people might feel too jingoistic: It was our victories in World War II, Korea and the Cold War that paved the way for developing countries to start down this track. And as limited as it was at that time compared to now, it was “inclusion” during World War II that facilitated our winning that war. When World War II started, we had the 17th largest military (behind Romania). We came from behind to vanquish the oppressors—and it sowed seeds of revolution globally, including in our own country. There’s no doubt in my mind that Black men learned military organization during World War II and Korea and used it back home to manage the civil-rights movement.

      In closing, our helping the French recolonize Vietnam—and our subsequent involvement in that war—are widely acknowledged to have been a tragic mistake; I think our incursions in Iraq and Afghanistan are/will be considered mistakes as well. We’re not perfect. But our overall trajectory is on the right side of history. Luke Visconti, CEO, DiversityInc

  • Ramdas Sankaran

    In my long journey to understand racism I came up with what I call a mirror test i.e standing in front of a mirror and asking the question whether I have said, did or at least thought something that others would not describe as being racist. I have been an ethnic minority person all of my 62 years; firstly in India and the last 35 years in Australia and I failed the Mirror Test. I doubt that the capacity to pass the mirror test has anything to do with colour, gender, ethnicity, power etc

    Power is an important factor in understanding systemic/institutional racism but much less so at the individual level.

    Arguably, it would be more productive to focus on what is racist and deal with it appropriately rather than determining who is racist!

  • It should be called, “Racial Majority Privilege”. People only call it, “White Privilege” because they live in a majority white nation. Any minority, likely can face discrimination regardless of the nation they are in. But by saying “white privilege”, that implies white people are impervious to hate.

    No human being is impervious to hate.

    • Luke Visconti

      You make a good point and I agree with your reasoning. “White privilege” is the common phrase in this country. I’ve noted in several columns how “privilege” applies to the majority—and the majority isn’t always white. There are other “privileges,” too, such as religion and orientation. Luke Visconti, CEO, DiversityInc

  • To me it seems has if the definition is tries to combine “racism” and “racial discrimination”, which leads to less clarity.

    Rasim is the believe that one race is supirior to others on the basis of physical charatistics.

    Racial discrimination is the practice of letting a person’s race or skin color unfairly become a factor when deciding who receives a job, promotion and being treated equal.

    • I agree, Susan.

      Racism is when a person believes that a person belonging to (mostly any other) race is limited/inferior by birth.

      Racial discrimination is when a person’s belief (racism) makes that person interact/behave differently with a person of another race. It could be minority discrimination by a majority (average African American pay is lesser than average White person’s pay for the same work) but it could be otherwise (eg: Asian waiter serves more to Asian customers than White customers).

      Racism is not entirely an economic or power struggle. There could be an impact but what racism is at the core is the belief that a particular race is inferior.

      • Racism always has a economic root, not understanding that will lead you to incorrect conclusions. Bigotry, on the other hand, is independent of economics. -Luke Visconti, CEO, DiversityInc

      • It seems to me that any awareness at all of the race of any individual that influences any decision whatsoever from employment to romance to whomever one chooses to sit next to in a theater or church is racism. If racism is present and it catapults a person into behavior that constitutes any kind of discrimination, that is bigotry.
        Speaking as a white person, I worked for many years in our City Hall, and I faced racial cruelty of every stripe from black people. It hurt me, almost daily. I’m not kidding or being facetious or sardonic; I am completely serious.

        • It’s very unfortunate but fortunately, you only have to deal with it at work. You don’t have to worry about acquiring a home mortgage. In 2012. Country Wide Financial lost a suit in the discrimination of over 200,000 mortgage applicants. 200,000 and that’s only one court case. There are far more discriminated against for loans or jobs that do not take the steps to address it. I’m guessing that you find yourself preparing each morning for how you are going to handle this treatment to get through each and everyday. If you were Black, you would have to ask those same questions every time you went to the store; a movie theater, a restaurant and at any company you worked for in every office or position. When you get pulled over by police officer, you don’t have to wonder whether the officer is going to treat you with respect as an American citizen. You don’t have to worry about the racism your grade school children are going to have to endure while attending grade school. When you are Black and apply for a job, you have to ask yourself each and every time, whether the person interviewing you will judge you equally and fairly and will not be influenced by your race. I am a manager at a large firm and I know of several specific ways companies discriminate in their hiring practices. I plan to write about it. One of the largest frustrations for some African American’s is that unless you are Black, you don’t have a fair chance of understanding the plight of the individual’s who are Black. – Many of the situations I spoke about above are invisible to every single person who does not have to endure and experience these situations. This is not an easy subject to understand and it can take years but unless people are open to the wisdom and care that lies within the human soul, it will never be resolved. And that would be so unfortunate. I do hope you take the time to at least try to understand and just perhaps, you will be able to share your wisdom with others.

          • You make a lot of assumptions about this person’s personal life, struggles, and experiences based on her race. You have no idea where she lives, what her community looks like, or what she deals with outside of work. I live in a community where I am the minority and it is infuriating to be told I have no idea what it’s like to be a minority from the majority!! And no, the majority here is not white. It isn’t anywhere in this area. I’m made fun of in public (kids at the grocery store make comments), constantly insulted by my neighbors, and that’s all in addition to what I’ve faced at work. I count myself lucky that I currently work for a business where I don’t feel discriminated and put down multiple times an hour every single day at work. Don’t make assumptions about the personal experiences of others based on race. It doesn’t make you a better person and it won’t fix the problems this world hady with race.

  • Racism is so much more prominent these days than when I was young. Take the film Dambusters for example, nobody batted an eyelid at the name of the black labrador (“Ni**er”). It’s all so political these days, as a result of the media perhaps? People are more offended when it’s in their face on a global scale.

    What about when racism is mixed with comedy. Is that offensive? For example, I read an article about building development in Perth Australia, and the content seems very offensive against native Australians, but it’s all in humour. Is that racist, I don’t know.

    • Luke Visconti

      Thank you for your post. We took out your link (we almost always do), but to answer your question, racist humor is … racist. I think “humor” like the film Borat, or Chris Rock talking about Black people to an audience of white people, isn’t funny at all. I’ve been involved with humor within a group—for example, I’m an Anglo and a long-term member of a Latino professional group, and I’ve been in situations where ethnic jokes are tossed around among the insiders (I politely walk away), and I’ve joked around with other Italian-Americans about the old-school guys we grew up with, but it’s not a good idea. Luke Visconti, CEO, DiversityInc

  • I always try and see the positive side. If anything is said in jest that can be taken in jest then it can’t be a bad thing. It makes me think of people who wish to have a party instead of a funeral, to celebrate life instead of morning death. It’s about the reaction more than the source. With the word “n*gger” it wasn’t taken as offensively a few decades ago as it is now, but society dictates to us it’s offensive so that’s what we believe. I’m English and live in Australia, so I’m a “pom”. I hear that word all the time, and it could be taken offensively (along with the “English don’t wash” jokes), but to me it’s silly, it’s in jest, and I’m not going to get worked up and offended over it.

    No probs about taking out the link – I just thought it was really good. I loved Borat by the way!

    • Luke Visconti

      You don’t know what you’re talking about. Luke Visconti, CEO, DiversityInc

  • Might I add, Mark, that the society you speak of comprises all of us? Human beings are society. Therefore, as you said, we can all dictate what’s offensive. That means that people in the minority have the same right to speak up about what is offensive to them as the majority does (although minority voices are often unheard or disrespected). I dare you to find a “positive side” to racism. As a member of the minority its use offends the most, I can tell you that the ‘n’-word is, has been, and will always be insulting, particularly when used by people who are not Black. It is a slur. There is a long history behind it; look it up. Although I am not an advocate for usage of the term by anyone, I think there is something to be said for the move on the part of some Black people to try to reclaim the word and turn its meaning on its head. This doesn’t mean that non-Black people can use it now. By doing so, non-Black people appropriate the concept of the Black struggle, which, putting aside all mockery, actually exists. As you only shared your nationality, I am not going to make assumptions about your race. But you don’t get to equate being called a “pom” with being called the ‘n’-word. It will never be the same.

    The source can be more important than the reaction. For example, the source of your post is ignorance, and my reaction is of an incensed nature. See? I have an excuse for my irritation–someone tried to undermine the impact of a disparaging word born over a hundred years ago of pure hatred toward people with dark skin. Even if I weren’t Black I would be upset with your words. What’s the excuse for your ignorance? You have the internet at your fingertips. Take a minute to find out why “society dictates” that the ‘n’-word should not be used. We have our reasons.

  • I have been told by black coworkers that since I only watch hockey and NASCAR because I can identify with men playing a sport with similar physical characteristics (eg height and weight) , and avoid football & basketball for the same reason, that I am a “racist”.
    Now that NBA participants have declared they are a “black league”, am I still the racist?
    I await your answer.

  • I’am currently in a heated debated about this topic and I don’t know how to respond to something that pops up quite frequently. I was wondering how would you respond to a comment similar to this.

    “My intent is not to put anyone down in anyway, I just don’t seem to understand how using the same term to describe for example two individuals’ very similar experiences is harmful. If one person is denied a job due to race and another person is denied a job due to race, they both are out of work regardless of if one was denied a job by a white person and the other denied a job by a non-white person. Their collective life experiences may be different, their difficulties with institutional racism different, but when making reference to the job denial, all I see is “racism”.”

    This person recognizes that there is white privilege and that there is institutionalized racism. but they can’t or don’t want to let go of that dictionary definition of racism. They argue that someone losing their job is economically rooted.

    • Luke Visconti

      When I was going through flight school, there was a popular saying: “Never try to teach a pig to sing—it’s a waste of your time and annoys the pig.” I suggest you get a T-shirt made up and wear it around your acquaintance. Luke Visconti, CEO, DiversityInc

  • The author claims to be trying to make the language clear by redefining a well known word to mean something else, when in fact it will only lead to confusion and resentment – especially when the new meaning already has several perfectly useful terms that describe it (‘institutional racism’ comes instantly to mind).

    I would go further and suggest that the only reason to redefine such a strong and emotive word is to attempt to stifle and/or control debate on the subject. It is a scarily Orwellian tactic to attempt to change established language in pursuit of a political goal – especially when your change seeks to disenfranchise a specific demographic. By the actual definition of racism this needless change could be considered racist.

    • Luke Visconti

      1. If you’re scared, I suggest you find other reading material.
      2. Well-known phrases and well-understood phrases are sometimes far apart (for example, “global warming”).
      3. Do you “have a dog in this fight” or “skin in this game,” or are you just a troll?
      Luke Visconti, CEO, DiversityInc

      • Some of your replies seem increasingly knee-jerk and perhaps based on fear that you yourself have. You don’t really address the man’s comments, you just shut him down by calling him a scared troll. I thought this was a more enlightened article, by internet standards, but I’m starting to have doubts. Your tagline says CEO DiversityInc, but anyone who disagrees with you is given some snyde remark with no attempt at meaningful dialogue. It seems you have no tolerance for diversity of opinion.

        • Luke Visconti

          That’s not true, Karl, but I have no tolerance for gay bashers, women haters, bigots and racists. I seem to have touched a nerve with you. I have “some doubts” about your motivation, Karl. Luke Visconti, CEO, DiversityInc

  • The people writing dictionaries list meanings based on their common usage, not those decided by political movements. You can feel it’s inadequate, but it’s not going to change – being so entrenched – and people who use racism to describe discrimination on the basis on race alone will continue to be correct.

  • This all seems benign enough. The problem I have seen in practice is that this line of thought leads minority groups to think it is acceptable to to hold negative racial stereotypes against white people. Since you cannot be racist to white people is OK to call them honkeys, or crackers or racists devils. In fact it is admirable to hold white people and their white privilege in contempt. Not an attitude conducive with peaceful cohabitation.

    • Luke Visconti

      Gee, do you think it’s my website, or the evidence in front of their noses, that tells nonwhite people they have reason to think they’re being screwed over by our society? Let’s meet in Trenton, Camden, Newark, South Chicago, Oakland or Gary, Ind., to discuss further. Luke Visconti, CEO, DiversityInc

      • Luke,

        You’re own racism and bigotry shines through. You attack whites for the conditions of black people in those cities yet the majority of the political leadership is black in every one of those places so you should really blame black people for screwing over other blacks. It’s not my fault the minorities in places like Chicago and Baltimore continue to vote for the same politics and politicians year after year then blame white Republicns for all Thor problems despite the fact we have no power or political influence if any significance in these places. In FACT it had been over a half a century in these coyotes since strait white Christian males like myself had any power. So go look in the mirror and stop the lies and nonsense to cover up you’re own ignorance and racism. Then come up with phony concepts such as “White Privledge” to justify you’re hate and intolerance then useing it push you’re communist politics while calling for the redistribution of wealth and racist concepts like affirmative action in the name of fairness. The esucTed have known for 100 years this is front for communism. Heck the NAACP was in fact founded by communists but you are to ignorant and uneducated to know anything about history.

        • Luke Visconti

          If I urinated in your Wheaties, would you blame the resulting taste on yourself or General Mills? (Oh, how I wish I could try this for real.) Luke Visconti, CEO, DiversityInc

      • Luke: Your response to Greg does not at all address what he said. Greg is saying that reacting to oppression with more hatred does not help the situation, and your response to him is, “Are you saying there’s no oppression?” No, that’s not at all what he’s saying.

        • Luke Visconti

          Busy today with my website, aren’t you, Karl. That’s not what Greg said, nor is it what I said. Luke Visconti, CEO, DiversityInc

  • It seems illegitimate to start a debate by saying that the white majority simply cannot understand “privilege”. Since you have already structured the argument based on the presumption that I can’t truly understand because I am part of the white majority, that I am incapable of understanding, this post is nothing but an example of a common logical fallacy, the appeal to false authority.

    To imply that blacks in the predominately black areas you mentioned, i.e. Trenton, Camden, Newark, South Chicago, Oakland or Gary, Indiana are disadvantaged simply because they are black ignores all other economic reasons that there are no jobs there…and if we are to assume that its true, how are we to explain the poor whites in Appalachia and the rural American South?

    According to the Census, in 2012, while blacks in deep poverty exceeded non-Hispanic whites by 12.7% to 4.3%, the raw numbers show that more non-Hispanic whites were living in deep poverty – 8.4 million – than blacks – 5.1 million. That is to say that there 165% more whites in deep poverty than blacks – I’ll bet those whites aren’t too jazzed about their “privilege”.

    Isn’t this the same as adopting the self-righteous and sanctimonious position that I hear from people when they want to appear intellectually superior but have nothing but their own opinion and anecdotal evidence to buttress their position – that conversation typically terminates when the other person says, “Well, I can’t explain it to you because you just wouldn’t understand.”

    You say that power is rooted in money and then lament that “redistribution has failed” in South Africa in the comments. He seems to imply that there would be no racism if we were all economically equal.

    It looks to me that your comments and the content of this post seem to have more to do with cultural Marxism and a desire for the redistributive basis of a communist economy than actual racism.

    By the ground rules set forth in this article, the use of the words “white privilege” are racist because it assumes that all whites are “privileged” simply because they are white – but what amount of preference constitutes “privilege”? Growing up poor, I worked after school and weekends, plus taking care of farm animals before and after school, I had to bust my hump to pay for college and after graduation, I had to compete to get a job. If my dad asked a friend to ask a local business owner to look at me for a job, was that enough for “white privilege”? If there was no person of color as qualified at that exact point and time I was hired, am I still guilty of “white privilege”?

    By your definition, are not all blacks who are favored by affirmative action programs guilty of “black privilege” and if they are, do they know it? Or they just as incapable of understanding this legally sanctioned favoritism as white people are theirs? Just how did whites earn this “privilege” – could it have at least as much to do with hundreds of years of Puritan work ethic as it does alleged racism”?

    The process of defining “racism” through the use of terms like “white privilege” are attempts to stigmatize any action of discrimination (defined as choice) or preference and to institutionalize and make racism against whites socially acceptable.

    I don’t doubt that “the evidence in front of their noses, that tells nonwhite people they have reason to think they’re being screwed over by our society” because it is much easier and far more satisfying to blame others than it is to do something about it. There is no nobility or honor in being poor and disadvantaged – but to stake a claim that this whites somehow have an exclusive “privilege” seems to be talking the easy way out in analysis of the issues.

    • Luke Visconti

      I’m not going to argue with you. On your website’s homepage you have a cartoon of Calvin pissing on the President’s name, and you call people idiots and dummies. According to, we have 360 times more web traffic than you—your arguments are garbage and you can’t scrape together enough audience to fill a Buick. Buzz off. Luke Visconti, CEO, DiversityInc

  • So does this mean we can redefine “sexism” as well to have institutional power (+ economic control) as the full spectrum of the definition / a necessary trait to be classified sexism (vs bigotry)? So that only men can be called or considered sexist?

    • Luke Visconti

      I object to your characterizing the definition of racism as a redefinition—it is the Koch/Rove propaganda machine that is trying to conjure up the concept of Black racism to excite white bigots. We used to get all sorts of posts about the “New Black Panther Party”; if it weren’t for the chief media arm of oil billionaires (FOX), nobody would have ever heard of them, as there are fewer NBPP members than thin McDonald’s aficionados. What you’re seeing here is a widespread misunderstanding of the definition of racism (much like the way that most bigots who post here don’t know the difference between your and you’re). Perhaps the correct analogue is that misogyny can only be directed from men to women, but sexism, like bigotry, can go in either direction. I think the root of both problems (misogyny and racism) is fear rather than hate. Misogynists fear women. Luke Visconti, CEO, DiversityInc

  • So, to determine whether an individual is cabable of racism or not , you refer to….their race??

    You’re proposed definition of racism is not only idiotic, but a clean example of true racism.

    • Luke Visconti

      If the basis of the word racism is race, then who’s the idiot for denying it? Luke Visconti, CEO, DiversityInc

      • You know, Luke, I’m actually one of those people who would tend to your side of the political argument. But you seem to embrace vitriolic backlash just as much as those right-wingers you love to hate. I thought embracing diversity, equality, and social justice meant being better than that. I’ve read the last last comment of yours that I care to.

        • Luke Visconti

          I don’t think it’s fair to be civil to a gay basher, bigot, woman hater or any of the other perverts who come here expressly to upset this audience with their filth. If you are nice to people like that, they’ll never learn how offensive they are and will not have a chance for redemption. Luke Visconti, CEO, DiversityInc

  • Hey, great read.

    I’d been thinking about this alot recently. I’m of Indian decent but born and raised in Australia and I used to always deny having faced racism when my white friends challenged it, ussually just to keep the peace and since i argued nothing ‘serious’ ever happened. Other than once being pointed out as ‘supposed to be slaves’ by a little girl and my overhearing the odd comment about another person of my race, often a crude one, that would end in my friends shushing up when they realised i’d heard.
    But things we can ignore right? So i did, and always appreciated the teachers who treated me the same and such.

    Fast forward to college and looking for jobs, and basically entering the ‘real world’, that subtle undertone of being inferior just grew. Hearing stories about my cousins or uncles facing racism, both blatent remarks and, more frequently, job-wise angered me to no end. Those little things that i thought wasn’t a big deal and would recide when we all grew up didn’t. It was something my dad told me to get used to and that to get anywhere i’d have to work harder than my white friends.

    So now i’m in india studying medicine, and what do i find? There’s racism here too. Between casts – mainly just against the lowest cast, which they assume by skin tone no less. And against the minority religions, and sexism ofcourse.

    You’re spot on. It’s all about power. And those with less power can’t exactly oppress and discrimate against those with more power. It’s clearly a human thing that needs to be shed off by evolution. I don’t think i’d have seen it or understood it had i never been in that position myself.

    Oh, and you’re awesome lol

  • First, to be clear, I understand the purpose of the definition of racism that is supported by the author of the article and why its important. But, like how many other people pointed out, it seems wrong that a term is to be redefined from its commonly accepted definition on the basis of some sort of social gain. Can white people in America be discriminated based of their skin tone? Yes. Does it happen often? That’s relative, but for arguments sake, lets say no. Is it bigotry? Yes. Is it right? No. Does changing the definition of racism such that white people cant experience it by a technicality marginalize the discomfort of being a victim of racial bigotry? I think it does, and I think many others, based off their comments, think it does. That’s why some people have aproblem with the proposed “fix” to the definition of racism

    • Luke Visconti

      It’s not a redefinition. It may be different than what you assumed, but the concept of race is based in power and always has been—just trace the law, right back to the Roman Empire. Luke Visconti, CEO, DiversityInc

  • I have just retired after teaching for 50-some years. Although I am white, my direct supervisors have been almost all either Black or East Asian, and of those, most were women. Never was race (or sex) a problem, but had it been, since the power and money were on their side, wouldn’t that make fault on their side possibly due to “racism” and fault on my side possibly due to bigotry?

    • Luke Visconti

      If there were a problem, it would still be bigotry, because the larger society is still controlled by white men.

      In New Jersey, there are school districts dominated by Asian Indian children, but if you go further up the org chart, the power is still with almost 100 percent white men. When a lack of diverse appointments was pointed out to our governor, he said, “We’re not building Noah’s ark,” in his bulldozer tone of voice. I’ll point out that the only state worse than New Jersey in post-recession job creation is Mississippi, according to Pew. Who knows where we’d be without those Asian Indian immigrants. We could ask the governor, but he’s busy giving the President advice about leadership. Luke Visconti, CEO, DiversityInc

  • Luke, I love your site and respect your perspective, but about this particular issue I disagree. I perceive racism to be rooted in white supremacy, and to be specifically based in the concept that lighter skinned people are superior to darker skinned people. I don’t agree with your Han example in China; I would characterize that as bigotry or cultural prejudice. Same goes for, say, Tutsi and Hutu in Rwanda.

    With your definition, I think you muddy the water and open the door for white people to play that “what if” game of which we seem so fond. In the same way, sexism is about misogyny, or hatred/oppression of women by men/patriarchy. I’m with Albert Einstein: “Racism is a disease of white people.” And we white people need to fix it. Thanks for all you do.

  • I think racism/sexism and privilege are conflated if you suggest that people of colour or women cannot by definition be racist or sexist. I understand the point that they really are incapable of perpetuating the systemic and institutionalized prejudice that women and POC face, however at an individual level it is preposterous to argue that the term racist or sexist cannot apply to acts directed at ‘whites’ or Men.

    • Luke Visconti

      You’re right, racism and sexism are separate concepts. I did not intend to confuse the issue. Luke Visconti, CEO, DiversityInc

  • “By your definition, black people (for example) cannot be racist to a white person.”

    • Luke Visconti

      But they can be bigoted. I know the concept of Black racism is being pushed by the wacko right, but it’s a fallacious concept. Economically, it’s like a sparrow strong-arming a hawk. Luke Visconti, CEO, DiversityInc

  • I’m trying to figure out the logic here.
    If I’m Chinese and I live in china, and I hate white people I’m racist. If I then move to the United States, I’m not racist?
    It seems like my ideals haven’t changed.

    • Luke Visconti

      If you’re Han Chinese you’re a racist, if you’re one of the other 56 ethnicities, you’re a bigot. Right now, I’d say it’s borderline for Han Chinese in this country.? Luke Visconti, CEO, DiversityInc

  • As a white, I’m not afraid to admit that there is white privilege in america. There is ALWAYS some sort of privilege in a non-minority group in comparison to it’s minority counterpart. For example, straights have the right of marriage when gays do not. Christians have holidays more widely accepted and easily celebrated than, per se, muslims. And those are only a few examples. Yes, privilege exists in all minorities, and are not limited to race.

    But, this new definition of racism, I can’t agree with.

    I completely agree that the power behind racism needs to be acknowledged, because without it, racism has no source of growing to the point of being the problem that it still is today. But why must you change to original definition of the word “racism” to do this?

    Changing the definition is completely stepping over the fact that racism is not just a point of action. It can be a way of thinking as well. Someone can have a racist way of thinking whether they are a minority or not. This may not be near as much of a problem without the “power” aspect, but the attitude is still there and can still affect people, even if on a smaller scale.

    Also, changing the definition of “racism” alone completely ignores the power-influences of all other minority-targeted discrimination. Though “sexism” has it’s own, nice, shiny word to define, what about all the other minorities that don’t have that one specific word? Instead of changing the definition of racism to fit the “power aspect,” why not create a new word to describe the power influences used against EVERY minority?

    The argument for this new “racist” definition is flawed, and the fact that you had to use a dictionary writer’s race as an excuse to invalidate it’s original definition makes it hard for me to respect you as a reliable source.

    • Luke Visconti

      It’s a more accurate definition, not a new one. I’m sorry you’re confused. Luke Visconti, CEO, DiversityInc

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