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Ask the White Guy: Isn’t It Good Enough to Love Everyone But Not Approve of the Gay ‘Lifestyle’?

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Is it good enough to love everyone but not approve of the gay lifestyle?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.

Q: I am a huge Duck Dynasty fan. From the humor, to wishing I lived like them, to loving the fact that they share their religion at the dinner table, I find the show enlightening. I was disturbed to see that Phil Robertson was suspended for voicing his opinion about his Christian views. I am Christian, I love everyone, but it doesn’t mean I approve of everyone else’s behavior—however, I don’t hate them for it or not want to work with them because of their lifestyle choices. I believe in a diverse society, different views, different ideas, different lives. It would be a boring world if we were all the same.

Being truly diverse is agreeing to disagree … correct? How do you all feel about this?

A: UPDATE: In what appears to be one of the most cynical examples of leveraging hate for their own benefit that I’ve seen recently, A&E not only ran a Duck Dynasty marathon on Christmas, but the network also reinstated Phil Robertson during the holiday season. I thought A&E had made the right decision, but the timing tells me this was planned—and executed very well. I have to admit that the executive staff of A&E seems to have pulled a good one over on the public. We’ll let you know what the advertisers decide.

Thank you for your considerate and pleasantly worded email.

I read the article and thought Phil Robertson’s comments about LGBT people AND Black people were offensive. Although either one would be grounds to separate company from him, the combination is so offensive, A&E, a network with almost no diversity in its executive ranks—and whose website doesn’t appear to have the word “diversity” on it—was able to quickly make the right decision.


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Managing “diversity” does not mean forced equivalencies of opinions and beliefs. Everyone’s entitled to his or her beliefs, but when expressing those beliefs creates a hostile environment, productivity is diminished. An employer would not tolerate someone smashing office equipment, nor should an employer tolerate someone smashing people’s feelings. I doubt many people who have LGBT loved ones and/or friends would want to work around Phil Robertson. It is management’s responsibility to understand this process—and to promulgate clear-cut ethics and values so people know where they stand.

Although your email is respectful and earnest, in my opinion, describing LGBT people as being a “lifestyle” is offensive. It’s like saying “preference” when it comes to orientation. There’s plenty of evidence that orientation is not a choice—look in the mirror for proof. No matter what happens today, when you go to bed tonight, are you going to “prefer” a woman? Not unless you’re a lesbian. As far as lifestyle, LGBT people have lifestyles as varied as hetero people, and anyone who works for a large company can see that for him- or herself—unless you’re in the kind of place where bringing your whole self to work isn’t possible. “Preference” and “orientation” are dismissive words; they diminish the humanity of LGBT people by painting them as separate, even abnormal. I think that’s just wrong. To be clear, I doubt you think that way from how you worded your email. I’d imagine you’re a fine person to work with (so please consider dropping that word from your vocabulary).

Finally, we are very fortunate in this country when it comes to religion. Our Constitution’s First Amendment guarantees protection against a state-run religion—and also that religion has protection from the state. However, we are 73 percent Christian. Expressing the majority religious view as absolute and irrefutable is, in my opinion, anti-American and destructive to a diverse work environment. It makes for a claustrophobic work environment if you’re not a Christian—or not religious (at 20 percent, the fastest-growing segment of our population). I attended a business meeting where the CEO closed his otherwise uplifting opening remarks with “in Christ’s name we pray”—I’m quite sure the non-Christians understood that they’d get only so far in that company. This doesn’t mean that a leader can’t be religious. Mr. J. W. “Bill” Marriott is a devout and prominent Mormon, yet Marriott’s first non-family CEO, Arne Sorenson, is not Mormon. I am quite sure that the company’s executives know that being a Mormon isn’t required for advancement. Also, Mr. Marriott publicly came out against Proposition 8 in California—a move, he described at one of our events, that did not make him popular at his church, which strongly supported Proposition 8. This is one of the best expressions of establishing corporate values and living by them that I’ve ever seen.

In conclusion, there are times when we can agree to disagree—and differences treated as assets are a powerful force for talent development and innovation. But an organization has to have clear values and draw the line on behavior that destroys the well-being of the whole entity.

 

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21 Comments

  • Well said, Mr. Visconti! I would only add that in addition to being entitled to our own opinions – and voicing them – we are also all subject to the universal law that actions have consequences. As do words. Mr. Robertson is now experiencing the consequences – from both the people he offended and his employers.

    Thank you and Happy Holidays!

    • You couldn’t be more wrong and are condescending in your response.
      You should embrace this opposing view and E courage people to disagree with you if they so choose. Encourage diversity.

      You appear to want homogeneous thought and try to “correct” any thought not like your own.

      This is NOT diversity. This is bullying with a velvet glove.

      • Luke Visconti

        You have your lifestyle and I have mine. Luke Visconti, CEO, DiversityInc

      • This Luke person is just some prick, —> ‘take a good look at a picture of Pat Buchanan and Charles Murray. Now look at a picture of Bull Connor. Look at a picture of Governor Wallace. Look at a picture of Edgar Ray Killen. They’re birds of a feather. Their hate and bitter thoughts are etched on their faces. They look like people who would scare any child witless just by glancing at them. What kind of person is proud to be associated with the bunch of them?’

        I mean, for a guy masquerading as a diversity champion, a statement like this in an end in itself for your credibility. Sounds to me like you are just another bigoted pretender trying too hard to carve yourself a niche in the echelons of compassion and humanity. I mean, if you can pick on individuals, based on their physical features and denigrate them solely on that basis, then you really need to go read the meaning of the word diversity all over again in the oxford English dictionary. There are a few things I’m sure about, Martin Luther King wouldn’t have said such bull, Nelson Mandela neither, the REAL champions of diversity!!! With all due respect Mr Luke, there is nothing wrong with creating hype in your articulations of your advocacy by incorporating real life ‘sketches’, but there is everything wrong in doing so by trying to impress your audience spreading even more hate and chauvinism. I wouldn’t be surprised that there is a fair share of people on this comments list (black and white alike) who wouldn’t mind taking up those denigrated faces??? Anybody?? Yeah.. and really wonder, what the black person you were trying to impress with that statement thought of when he looked himself in the mirror, what, “Luke said Pat’s face and that of Governor Wallace would scare any child witless just by glancing at them, Yeah, think that will make me sleep much better tonight!”

        • Luke Visconti

          So I’m a bad guy for pointing out how your heroes look, and you’re OK calling me a “prick”? Couldn’t find any quotes from Dr. King or President Mandela that used the word “prick,” so I’ll leave you with two quotes I did find that apply to your pals Buchanan, Wallace, Murray and Killen:

          Dr. King: “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.”

          President Mandela: “To deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity.” Luke Visconti, CEO, DiversityInc

  • Cassandra

    Luke,

    You ducked answering the core of the question, which was how can a person state their religious precepts – which is what mr robertson did. You described his comments as offensive, but those comments regarding gays were direct from the new testament.

    So how do we square the circle of allowing for religious views and simultaneously the denouncemeny of people who express those views?

    The transitive property suggests that if Mr Robertsons comments were offensive, than so is that religious text.

    Where do we go from here?

    • Luke Visconti

      Maybe you didn’t understand me. People can express whatever they wish, wherever they wish. But when it becomes a detriment to workforce esprit—when it becomes offensive to customers—good management has a fiduciary responsibility to eliminate people from the workplace who hurt the feelings of a significant portion of their coworkers and/or customers. Mr. Robertson’s comments about Black people being so happy to work the fields in 1959 Louisiana are obviously offensive to most people. Perhaps his comments about LGBT people offend a fewer number of people, but not appreciably so (more than half of Americans approve of same-gender marriage). The fact that you—and most of the people who commented on this article—didn’t mention Robertson’s horrendous comments about Black people tells me you are willfully ignorant of the person you champion. By the way, religion was used to justify slavery and to deny women the right to vote. It’s currently used to to justify female genital mutilation. Deciding whose religious view—or, more to the point, if an interpretation of a religious text—is correct or not is not a business function. Understanding corporate values and offensive behavior is. Luke Visconti, CEO, DiversityInc

  • According to A&E statements there are members of the LGBT community working on the crew that films the show. It seems that Mr Robertson (and his family) has treated everyone with respect and dignity or we would have heard about it. So I do believe that this whole matter is simply religious intolerance.

    • Luke Visconti

      That’s not what I’ve read. According to TMZ, there were LGBT people who were offended on the set. Also according to TMZ, the folks at A&E knew exactly what they were getting themselves into. Looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, must be a duck.

      The cynical executives at A&E are leaning into the bigot barrage they stirred up by running a Duck Dynasty marathon over the Christmas holiday. $$$

      An employee is not in a position to complain about a superior/star/money maker without jeopardizing his or her job. Further, it’s not their job. Setting values is the leadership’s responsibility. Finally, I guess the racist part of Robertson’s GQ interview didn’t bother you, my brother’s keeper. Luke Visconti, CEO, DiversityInc

  • I don’t agree with Mr. Robertson being suspended from the show. The show is about the whole family which he is an integral part. And guess what, the show is a huge hit for many reasons including how backwards some of their opinions or way of life appear to me. During a recent rerun, Phil remarked that only girly men cook. Should I be outraged as a man that enjoys cooking? Perhaps. But until the ratings indicate to A&E that viewers are so upset by the comments by the family that they turn the channel, I say keep him on. P.S. Even if I’m a girly man to Phil, my wife thinks I’m all man when I prepare a meal for the family.

    • mposeyjohnson

      I don’t recall anytime in history where men who cook had to fight for their right to cook, vote or marry.

  • Jamie McIlvain

    I believe your update is most accurate in that this was more about leveraging controversy than doing the right thing by the LGBT community. Duck Dynasty and its stars are entertainment as is the controversy surrounding A & E’s treatment of such. I do not feel this scenario is relevant to a workplace diversity discussion.

  • I am Gay BUT I Disapprove of a Good Portion of the Gay “Lifestyle”, the “Lifestyle” is, whether anyone will admit it or not, Jumping from bed to bed, Treating “Partners” as Disposable at the First sing of a problem, Hatred of ANYONE who disagrees with you, ect, ect, ect
    Life is About Adversity AND Diversity, if you cannot deal with Both the Good and Bad Equally, then You are part of the problem in Society, and That Includes GLBTs. NOT EVERYONE IS GOING TO ALWAYS ACCEPT YOU….GET OVER IT, and move on. We Are Not Robots, and We Are ALL Allowed out DIVERSE Opinions. Phil Robertson’s Opinion is Just As Valid as Anyone Elses, and in Some Ways, hits Right at the Heart of the Problem in Society, which is More about How we live, than with Whom We Live and Love.
    I am a GAY-Christian-Libertarian, and I apologize to No Human, Cause Only I Will Stand before God to Answer for MY Life, The Same As the rest of you (whether you choose to believe that or not),
    And IF you Shoose to read what Phil originally Said, NOT what you were Told to Believe, but with an Open Mind, you Will See what he Is Really Saying, He Does Not Agree with being Homosexual, But it is Not for Him to Judge Anyone, and he Loves Everyone Equally.
    Stop being So Reactionary to Everything you come across. Life is too Short to Create Drama that doesn’t exist!

    • Luke Visconti

      I’ve been married for 25 years, so I have no direct/recent experience. Are you telling us that heterosexual people have stopped being promiscuous? Luke Visconti, CEO, DiversityInc

    • See the problem is this notion that opinions are valid. They actually aren’t. Opinions by nature are personal reflections. There is no validity in a personal reflection. That’s the problem. People are confusing “opinions are valid” with “the having an opinion is valid.” Yes, everyone can have an opinion. But in no way shape or form are those opinions valid. They are based on personal experience, learning and truths as an individual sees it. There is really no validity there. So this overwhelming desire for people to spout out their opinions as if they are meaningful, truthful, right or having a sound basis in fact .is just ridiculous and wrong. People need to stop spouting out their opinions because no one cares and they’re really not that important. Now if you’ve got verifiable data to back up your opinions then you’ve got facts and then meaningful dialogue can happen. But if you think throwing your opinions (which again, mean nothing to anybody but you) out and about and not caring about the impact it has on others around you makes you a good human being in a good member of society, then you’re wrong. It does not make you a good person at all. You don’t live in a vacuum. You live in a society with other people who are vastly different from you. No one cares that you love them if you feel the need to stand in judgement over them (what do you think “I disapprove of their lifestyle” says?). You say you don’t want drama, then stop sharing your opinions.

      • Luke Visconti

        I disagree with you about opinions—here’s one that you state, which I believe is profoundly valid: “No one cares that you love them if you feel the need to stand in judgement over them.” Luke Visconti, CEO, DiversityInc

  • Michael J. Lowrey

    Luke, have you noticed over the years how often the more bigoted or ignorant opinions in the comments here are semi-literate: misspelled, poorly punctuated, and so forth?

  • It makes me sad that A&E, which used to have much better programming than it currently does, would orchestrate a stunt so hurtful and base. I used to watch Duck Dynasty occasionally because it was funny, the brothers and their uncle are such doofuses. I ignored the religious undertones in part because I am an atheist and I do not enjoy what often seems to come with fundamentalism in any religion. When I heard about Phil’s comments, I was disgusted, but not surprised. His fame has apparently gone to his head and he feels it is necessary to spread his vile word to the world. His comments, of which we really only know of a couple of instances, demean those who are different than he, really out of nothing more than his own ignorance and his belief that his god has created people who for some reason are inferior to him. He professes to love everyone, but how can he if he believes and spreads that belief that there is something wrong with people who are homosexual just by virtue of being who they are?

    He certainly has the right to ink whatever he wants to, but so do I and I will exercise my right to not watch Duck Dynasty again.

  • Luke, you and I disagree on this issue and unless you change according to the law of God’s holiness, we will always disagree. You know from our previous public and private conversations that I respect you and my other associates that engage in this lifestyle. However, I wholly condemn the practice because it is not godly. I say without apology and fear that it is wrong to the human body and to our human existence. It is also a sin before the God of creation. No one at their best efforts can prove that homosexuality has value. I didn’t say the person practicing the act doesn’t have value, I said the very act. No one should ever approve of this act; also no one should hate people. Only Christ can help us love them that have a lifestyle that is extremely contrary to our existence.
    Please, no one out here, don’t stick your foot in your mouth and say you were born this way. God did not make a mistake when he and he only created the 46 chromosomes and said be fruitful and multiply. He also created sensory nerves in our bodies so that while we are in the act of sexual expressions, we will feel good. But, he did not intend for us to use our free will to gratify one of the same sex. Christ can help all of us with our sinful habits; sex, drugs, alcohol, nicotine, lying, thievery, witchcraft and all other divisive sins. Sorry Luke, you will never be right on this issue. But, you have been a great help helping others understand the need for diversity. For this I am with you 100%.

    • Luke Visconti

      Franklin, I think you’re a great guy, but you have a significant flaw in your thinking. I’m going to persist with you because I think your love for people will eventually overcome your misguided perception of what you think our creator wanted for us. Love is love. Luke Visconti, CEO, DiversityInc

  • It sounds like you are saying that Diversity is a great thing as long as a persons views or perspective is aligned with your thoughts and opinions on the topic. You mentioned that homosexuals should be able to bring there whole self to work “unless you’re in the kind of place where bringing your whole self to work isn’t possible” shouldn’t Christians or anyone else that does not believe that homosexuality should be considered normal be able to do the same?

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