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ATWG: ‘Isn’t DiversityInc Part of the Problem?’

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.

Question:
Lou, when I read your articles I am truly reminded of a great man, someone you are familiar with and who has a wonderful quote to describe you and your organization’s mission. “I’m afraid there is a certain class of race problem solvers who don’t want the patient to get well, because as long as the disease holds out they have not only an easy means of making a living, but also an easy medium through which to make themselves prominent before the public.” Booker T Washington

Answer:
If this is an easy way to make a living, I’d hate to see the hard way.

I’m afraid you do not understand the context of this quote. Mr. Washington had an accommodationist philosophy for most of his life; however, he changed his mind and became more aligned with activists of his time, such as Dr. DuBois, when the racist movie “Birth of a Nation” was released. Your quote is from before Mr. Washington’s philosophical change. You may want to look up accommodationist; it’s a “go along to get along” philosophy that didn’t work then and doesn’t work now.

Regardless, we very much want to see the “patient get well.” In fact, we’re activists in that cause. Our perspective is to document how good diversity management increases corporate profitability, promote best practices as determined by actual accomplishment and, at times, expose business practices that are predatory as an object lesson.

Our primary editorial function is to produce the DiversityInc Top 50 competition. It’s a metrics-driven process and has a firm editorial methodology that does not take into account any business conducted with the company. By looking at the results over the past 10 years, there’s no doubt in my mind that the DiversityInc Top 50 competition has changed the course of corporate diversity efforts. This is because we have structured and standardized diversity-management measurement, and what is measured gets done. Over the past four years alone, the total points earned by participants in the DiversityInc Top 50 competition has gone up five-fold and the points earned by the top companies on our list has gone up three-fold. The number of companies participating in that time period went up more than 70 percent, to 449 companies last year.

Our standardized methodology, whose results are well publicized, causes direct action because there’s no such thing as an “incrementalist” shareholder when it comes to return on equity, and shareholders don’t “accommodate” weak management. When the data’s available, good business people take decisive action.

“Action” in the case of best practices in diversity management includes workforce-building practices, such as mentoring and employee-resource groups. The percentage of employees in these programs has risen three-fold in the past four years, stimulated by our asking the question in our survey, but sustained by the actual benefits to the companies that practice them (in-depth analysis of best practices for diversity management may be found at BestPractices.DiversityInc.com). Economy-building practices such as supplier diversity have risen as well, including the practice of asking diversity questions on RFPs, which is now done by almost all DiversityInc Top 50 companies. We will be asking about spend to businesses owned by people with disabilities, as certified by the new program at USBLN. With us helping as a catalyst, I’m sure that, in a few short years, USBLN will be successful in encouraging corporate America to include these businesses in their supplier-diversity spend.

We also have exceptional policies ourselves—you can look up what we do at www.DiversityInc.com/aboutus and read about our foundation. I am a board member of three schools, including one HBCU and one HSI. I’m also a board member of The PhD Project. In short, we practice what we preach—and like Mr. Washington, I feel education is the path to liberation.

Finally, there may have been a difference of opinion on achieving social justice 100 years ago, but there is no difference of opinion about what worked. In more recent times, Dr. King, who was practically the opposite of an “accommodationist,” was especially effective in actually changing the course of history. His activism gave us the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act and led to the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977 (and the ADA). I wrote “us” purposefully. Social justice creates wealth for societies. It’s why, despite our problems, this country has created the greatest economy on earth with a small percentage of the total world’s population. Social justice and civil and human rights don’t just help the oppressed; they build all of our wealth. “They win, we win” is how economies work. Unfortunately, people are predisposed to think of life as “they win, we lose.”

I believe the same economic principles that apply to economies also apply to corporations. Organizations that proactively manage equitable recruitment, promotion and retention have workforces that are more engaged, productive and innovative. This is certainly the way for the “patient to get well,” and when the “patient gets well,” we are all better off.

So, Mr. Anonymous, thank you for the opportunity to bring clarity to what we do. And my name is Luke, not Lou.

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11 Comments

  • Anonymous

    Luke or Lou, by any other name, you are still partly to blame for the reader’s anti-’lou’ view.
    I’d buy into the genuineness of you, your company and DiversityIncs articles if you didn’t make personal attacks, didn’t incite anger for your own needs and realized that whites are as imporant an element of diversity as minorities.

  • Anonymous

    Luke,

    I think “Mr. (or “Ms.”) Anonymous” wanted to draw a parallel between those who disagree with the people typically accorded more prominence by the media, for example, who on one hand drive the public conversation, and on the other make it easier for people (perhaps like Anonymous) who think we have outgrown the need for diversity training, affirmative action, equal opportunity and more.

    As I read Anonymous ‘ comment, he or she would like the reader to substitute “Sharpton,” or “Jackson” in place of those unnamed “race problem solvers” so frequently described as being desirous of perpetuating inequality because they are always talking about inequality.

    Anonymous would prefer the folks just not talk about the continuing need for diversity, or improved race relations, tolerance, equal employment opportunities, because like so many Americans, he or she probably thinks it we don’t talk about it, it will just go away.

    Keep up the good and hard work, as your organization deals directly with the decision-makers who can change our evolving society.

  • Anonymous

    The first person to post in this thread is a little off base. I have read Mr. Visconti’s articles and I do not ever think he says that white people do not have a place in diversity, but rather that the motiff for white people and people of color for combatting racism are different. For instance, a white person who wants to strive for diversity because they think they are the key to ending institutional racism and system oppresion are subscribing to a very paternalistic view. For a white person to think that they must liberate non-white people in order to achieve equality is simply wrong and another form of racism. White people who strive for diversity must do so because we see the evil in racism and oppression and want a world without it.

    In many articles, Mr. Visconti merely touches upon this point and never says that white people are absent from discussions on diversity, but that motiffs may differ.

  • Anonymous

    -Thank you for your kind words, but it was a “Mr.” Anonymous. I’ve become a connoisseur of hate mail. Luke Visconti, CEO of DiversityInc

    Luke, unless there is more to the comment than what you published here this person is merely expressing a difference of opinion from you. I did not see that “Mr. Anonymous” used any insulting words or phrases. By disparaging his disagreement as “hate mail” it serves only prove his point about making personal attacks. As I said, if there was more to his comment than what you published and it contains true “hate speech”, please accept my apology.

  • Human nature as it is , the patient will never get well. But managed care is possible, education is the key and DiversityInc does educate. I think we all have had eye openers on both sides of issues, from articles and from the comments posted. To Anonymous just because the patient does not complain does not mean he is healed. The patient’s attendents need to know his complaints to address his treatment.

  • Hi,

    Promoting one person over another for any reason is economic and and power redistribition. Who is the judge who says who gets what? Is that you?

    Why force redistribution?

    Paul

  • Anonymous

    I am a male with a fairly light skin tone. I don’t describe myself as white or black because such descriptions are inherently racist – categorizing people by the color of their skin. The only people I hear talking about “black people’ or “the black community”, or more crass refernces to skin tone or ethnicity are people who appear to fit within that community. Basically, the only time I ever hear about “white people” or “black people” is when someone’s using that to make a political statement or gain. Our society has 99.99% moved past race as an issue. If “race” leaders could just quit with the name-calling themselves don’t you think that would finally get us where we need to be. The sad fact is, as long as “the black community” refers to themselves as “the black community”, there will be racism.

  • Anonymous

    I am late in entering this discussion and am a bit alarmed at why Mr. Visconti is being attacked when he eloquently just stated the facts. I might add I did not find his tone hostile at all. This seems to be part of the way racism works in our country. When we answer with history and facts we become the agressor. However, racism also known as white supremacy is part of the fabric of this country, it is in the air we breathe. We only have to look at the disparities in education, housing, healthcare, etc. . We know that inequality and disparities, exist then why do we continue to do business the same old ways? This only continues to perpetuate, grow and produce the same outcomes. Anyone who has ever tried to work on a problem as big as this – eradicating racism, knows that several approaches are needed It is my opinion that Diversity Inc, and their methodology are one approach and we know more needed to be enacted,

  • Anonymous

    Luke … yr comments black tea partiers = Jewish Kapos in Nazi concentration camps. Who are you to say that! Are you some enculato from Sicily or Napoli who finally after 3,000 years of utter poverty and barbarism made it, while the rest of your family is still chasing goats to survive?

  • Anonymous

    There is an interesting thought by some in this country that if we stop labeling ourselves (African American/Black, or Hispanic, or Asian-American, etc) or our communities, that all problems of race would go away. As if the titles are the problems themselves. Let’s use that theory and now everyone is just “American.” Now we lose the richness of diversity and the uniqueness of the variety of cultures and the betterment that we have a country b/c of what each individual community brings to the table. Why are we so focused on eliminating titles as opposed to accepting that they are there, and embracing that we are different and that’s what gives us different ideas and thought processes. This is not a bad thing unless people make it a bad thing by thinking that different = incorrect. There is a fight against diversity b/c there is a fear of what is different. Thank you Mr. Visconti for your effort, and for those that are like you. America has made great strides, but until we fully understand and embrace diversity, we have a long way to go.

  • Anonymous

    Some here might benefit from reading “The Lathe of Heaven” by Ursuka K. Le Guin. There is much to be gained from embracing diversity, and much to be feared from a lack of it.

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