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Being White Doesnt Mean You’re ‘Normal’

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.

Ask the White Guy Luke ViscontiQuestion:
Why do white people considered themselves “unraced” but think everyone else is … AND … what can I do as a minority to counteract that without coming off with a “chip on my shoulder”?

Answer:

I completely concur with your observation. Being a member of the majority culture allows you to view yourself as “normal.” By definition, every other culture is “abnormal.”

You hear this in corporate America in phrases like “You’re so articulate” or “We want more than just normal applicants.” I also think the use of the word “affinity” for resource groups is part of this;white people don’t feel they need an affinity group, do they?

Twenty years ago, an African-American friend of mine, Tony Cato, gently nudged me in to a greater reality by pointing subtle bias and bigotry out to me. At first, my response was, “Oh, that must be an exception” or “You’re being oversensitive.” Then I realized that it was my error in observation, not Tony’s.

My humble suggestion would be to pick the white people you’re going to mentor carefully. By being kind and persistent (as Tony was with me), you will convert people. Not all of them, but you will get a few.

I realize how ironic it is for the oppressed to be forced to help the oppressor, and how difficult that is when the oppressor does not see the oppression. However, when you are successful, you will see that the fruit of your labor is heavily leveraged. White privilege is not diminished by sharing. When you liberate a white person from the narrowness of their vision, they can give “the gift that keeps on giving.”

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