Ask the White Guy: Can a White Man Speak With Authority on Diversity?

Are white men irrelevant to diversity? Here's my response.

Ask the White Guy, Luke Visconti, DiversityInc CEO


Upon returning to my office, re-energized by the DiversityInc event, I shared the information you addressed during your talk [when you] spoke about DiversityInc and mentioned your Ask the White Guy feature. When mentioning your feature to a group of white female colleagues, one responded by saying, what does he (a white guy) have to do with diversity; how does he create something like DiversityInc and how could he possibly speak with authority about diversity?

I created DiversityInc as a consequence of having my consciousness raised by a friend, Tony Cato—at the time, a fellow Naval Aviator. He helped me start the thought process that led me to where I am today. He didn’t have an agenda; we were simply swapping stories as we worked together, a consequence of his volunteering to help me when I was assigned to be the Minority Officer Recruiter in Naval Recruiting District New Jersey. Tony is not a go-along-to-get-along guy; he’s tough, disciplined and very smart. He told me stories of being denied fair treatment because he’s Black. It took me awhile to understand how profound those stories are, but it did sink in eventually. I learned to share his indignation at poor treatment meted out as a result of discrimination—and the damage it does to our country.

White men are a part of diversity and there is a great deal of diversity among white men. [Read how corporations are showing white men what’s in it for them: Do White Men Really Need Diversity Outreach?] I recently spoke to a group of 900 police and fire chiefs in Oregon—97 percent white men. I made the point that they might not think they have diversity as they sit around the fire house or police station and see nothing but white men—but some of those white men grew up in single-parent households, some grew up in large families, some went to college on athletic scholarships, some worked their way through—and some didn’t go at all. Some have a gay brother, some are gay themselves (and perhaps closeted). I told the chiefs that they could utilize the diversity they already have to gain new perspective on problems and in doing so would better fulfill their missions: to save lives. My point is that it is not skin color, gender or orientation that makes one “good at” managing diversity but mindset.

This mindset for majority-culture people requires an epiphany or an evolution in thinking that brings one to understand the extent of the discrimination around all of us that is perpetrated mostly by the majority culture.

Anyone can become “authoritative” about diversity. Nobody comes to the table that way. How you get there, in my opinion, starts with understanding history. I’ve gained a lot of perspective by reading books like Beverly Tatum’s “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria,” Iris Chang’s “The Chinese in America,” Isabel Wilkerson‘s “The Warmth of Other Suns,” Douglas Blackmon’s “Slavery By Another Name,” Ira Katznelson’s “When Affirmative Action Was White” and Taylor Branch’s trilogy on the civil-rights era.

Watch Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf discuss his personal commitment to diversity and how he holds his leaders accountable for diversity goals.

History is important, but what I’ve found transformative is personal involvement in organizations that do not serve you directly (by “you,” I mean loosely you as defined by gender, race, orientation, etc.). For example, I’m a trustee of Bennett College for Women, a historically Black college, and on the foundation board of New Jersey City University, a Hispanic-serving institution. At Rutgers University (where I am also a trustee), I co-chair the fundraising committee for Rutgers Future Scholars. We have raised $2 million in the past three years. I donate all of my speaking fees through the DiversityInc Foundation, which has distributed more than $500,000 since 2006. The life experience I’ve gained by serving these institutions has been invaluable.

Any executive can take the same steps to broaden their experience and cultural competence. We see how people work so hard to complete advanced degrees—and they are important—but life experience is how an executive does not become a Hosni Mubarak as our country and world change dramatically. This change is not just visual; it is about the rising power of liberated people to destroy the concept of “melting pot” as they gain the economic ability to command respect—as they are.

I will note that people who are not in the majority culture must deal with the majority culture as they try to retain their own identity, but those in the majority culture do not really have to deal with anything BUT the majority culture (doesn’t make it right, but this is the reality). In this country, the majority culture is defined as white, male, heterosexual, Christian and not having an ADA-defined disability. But just because a person in the majority culture starts out with a much wider “blind spot” than people not in the majority culture doesn’t mean it’s impossible for white men to become open advocates for diversity and inclusion. It also doesn’t mean that a Black woman (for example) comes with an automatic Ph.D. in diversity management (it’s just a lot easier for the Black woman to see the problem in the first place). We must all come to the realization that, as a reader put it nicely, “I am not different than you, I am different like you.”

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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  • March 29, 2011

    Dear Luke:

    Great response and greast answer! I know Luke personally and I have been involved in the work that he does. I am a true believer and a freind of Luke’s. He’s the real deal and a true devotee to insuring and inspiring diversity and equality for everyone.

  • Perhaps you need to look at the New York Times article of March 27, 2011 titled “Non-Hispanic Whites Are Now a Minority in the 23-County New York Region”. As far as I am concerned, I am now a minority where I live and work. Time for you to revise your view about “majority culture”

    • Ted Sessions

      I would caution the use of the term minority in this case. If you examine the article, non-hispanic whites now comprise 49.6% of population in that New York region. That means all the minorities combined out number non-hispanic whites by less than 1%. Therefore, the more accurate term would be that non-hispanic whites in that region are now a plurality not majority but are still largest racial group in that region. Very different meanings and implications based off of that. You are right though that the concept of the majority culture will have to be revised on all sides of the racial/ethnic spectrum.

      • Keener Tippin

        Majority and Minority in this usage of the word is not referring to numbers but the group of people who control a disproportionate amount of the wealth, power, access and social status (majority) as opposed to people of color who dod not (minority).

    • Look at the leadership of this country. Its politics, its teachers, judges, lawyers, senators, cops…the power and access is still controlled by a generally homogeneous group.

  • I agree. I’ve received this question to me over the years as a white male conducting training in EEO and diversity. It’s what each person brings to the table based on their life experiences, skills, and one’s willingness to step our of his or her comfort zone to learn about bias. It all starts with me. Thanks.

  • As a white American male with a Masters Degree who also happens to be gay, I couldn’t have said it better.

  • I believe a white “man” CAN speak with authority on diversity topics as long as he or she has more than three CLOSE friends or family members who are not white. Good article.

  • Your response is well stated Luke…. but I would add an additional thought. When people ask what white males have to do with the diversity & inclusion discussion I have come to realize that in essence they are talking more about a concept more akin to Affirmative Action. They don’t understand that diversity and inclusion efforts are really all about managing change in general and about leveraging the unique experience that everyone bring to work every day to benefit the entire organization. The only way to do that is to work towards a culture change in the organization. Maybe culture enhancement is a better way to say it since there are always some good things about an organization’s culture… but there are always areas of opportunity to enhance an organization’s culture to make it more inclusive and supportive of the possibilities that can arise from embracing all of the experiences, backgrounds, ways of thinking, etc represented in all the people in the organization. This includes of course, white males.

    • Sometimes people are speaking from an environment where white males constitute the largest group in population or in power. So they represent the “in” group. Other groups (women, blacks. latinos, etc) represent “out” groups. Therefore the concept is to include the outgroup people who have been excluded and that doesn’t mean white men. This is what people are referring to not affirmative action. However I do believe that inclusion means everyone including white men. White men are diverse but so is everyone else. Black women are diverse, white women are diverse, black men are diverse, etc.

  • Luke in your thinking, you are of the minority. There are not many individuals that look like you, think like you. If Mr. Cato touched your conscious, then your readers are blessed for it. Keep doing what you do.

  • You ALMOST hit the mark by saying, “it is not skin color, gender or orientation that makes one ‘good at’ managing diversity but mindset.” However, I was disappointed that you did not go to the “next step” by acknowledging that it is not color, gender, orientation, or ADA-defined disability status that makes one “diverse.” EVERYONE is diverse in some way–geography, education, life experiences. As such, anyone can be an authority on diversity. Until we move beyond well-defined, protected classes to the more malleable facets of diversity, progress in achieving diversity will remain limited.

  • We are all diverse ibecause God made us all different. However, Iwe talk about wanting to fit in, yet we make such an issue of being diverse. Why don’t we just look at people as people, stop with the labeling. I get tire of seeing Black, Hispanic and whatever else. why isn’t it just a person, male or female.

  • wow…what a frameshift in perspective I had never viewed diversity within this context

  • What a great way to start your day! I am just blown away by this article. I hadn’t read something so powerful and inspiring about diversity for a long time. Thank you so much for writing this. Everything you said validated my feelings, thoughts and experiences. I’m also considered a white woman, but I’m an immigrant fromt he Middle East and was a minority there. I’m a Diversity Manager and have had to tolerate many critical looks and attitudes from Black and other ethnic looking coworkers who are wondering how I could be possibly qualified to do the work, even though I have a Graduate Degree in Interncultural Education. Again, thank you for this thought provoking and inspiring article.

  • Back when I was in the JC’s (Junior Chamber of Commerce, I invited a friend of mine to one of the meetings who happned to be in the 100 Black Men organization. In turn, I attended one of their meetings and was shown the same couresy as he was at the JC meeting. That was nice to experience, and I occasionally run into him from time to time, and he calls me hs JC Brother.

  • Thank you for sharing. I wholeheartedly agree and truly believe diversity is a very sensitive and personal tpic and everyone has a story. There’s lots of life lessons in it for all to benefit and learn.

  • I happen t be white, male, heterosexual, Christian, and I don’t have an ADA-defined disability. By your definition I am part of the majority culture. But I am also Hispanic. What does that make me, then? A minority culture is not that easy to categorize. Only when the human race stops trying to pigeonhole people into groups wil true integration take place. Notice that I say integration, not diversity. Let’s get further together, not promulgate diversity, That sounds to me like a growing apart. The exact opposite of what you are trying to achieve.

    Next time you show a group of “minority culture” people, don’t forget the white, male, heterosexual, Christian, not ADA-defined disabled. The truth is you just never fully know who is what.

  • I for the past few years serve on a Board of a multi-cultural organization where sadly being a White Male is a rarity. It has been a positive experience for me personally and professionally. Your article hit a homerun with me!!!

  • I found the ariticle very interesting and insightful on the topic of diversity and i do believe that white poeople do have much to contribute but the fact remains that a person of color do not have the ability to ment into the dominant society. We are out there, figuritively speaking, alone or as a group without the opportuniy the white population has; speak diversity take on important issues/or make statements that may raise some peoples ire but having said that disapear or blend in with the rest of monochromatice population. Look forward to your response, Peter

  • I really appreciate his stance! It is kind of like I tell people, what does not affect you directly will eventually! Thanks, this reading was much appreciated!

  • I think this article is about your efforts at trying to see all sides of race in Diversity.. that is the issue? Correct?
    The race problem, which is and always has been the biggest problem in America is something I feel from your article that you really want to feel and find out what is going on. However, you will never ever know what is going on because you do not know what it is like to feel discriminated against just because of the color of your skin…Nothing more, northing less. This is something that is imbedded in America. It will probably not change. The Hispanic community for which Blacks laid the groundwork for them along with white women is business never had fire hoses turned on them or dogs attack their small children.
    You are trying to find a perspective (or justification?) by doing some homework but still it sounded like at first you did not even believe your friend until probably you realized it must be difficult to make up this stuff.
    Yes diversity to most African Americans in todays’ work place is a joke; they still place us in positions as tokens or simply ignore our problems with the old school small and little minded old white manager. We are still discrimated against.
    What today’s Diversity programs say to me is: I know that a 22 year old white female college grad can and will be given my job with much more money at any given time and just for the record, as an educated Black woman the diversity problem is NOT easier for us to see… such a remark.

  • In the US Federal government, white men are not considered to have anything to contribute to diversity and EEO work. NIH’s former EEO complaints manager once stated that “white men have no basis for filing an EEO complaint.” That misinformation comes from a prejudiced culture where EEO and affirmative action programs are abused to further the victimization of persons of color while while using the programs to retaliate against the ‘white majority.’

  • Great article. I seriously don’t understand your comment… “This change is not just visual; it is about the rising power of liberated people to destroy the concept of “melting pot” as they gain the economic ability to command respect—as they are.” It sounds like you are saying “melting pot” is a bad thing.

  • One of the first things I learned growing up in Toledo, Ohio, is that there is great diversity among White males. That fact helped me to dismiss the myths that were being sold to me about the superiority of White men and the inferiority of Black men. There are areas where I have been dominant and blinded by my own dominance to the challenges that non-dominant people face. My desire to learn and grow, but most importantly, my ability to listen and change my behavior has led towards a rising tide that lifts all boats. Our greatest challenge as a country and as a global community is to embrace pluralism rather than assimilation as the highest level of diversity and inclusion. Thank you for writing the article: it was well-written.

  • How wonderful that you have ascended to a higher plane of understanding the human condition. It is a goal to which we should all strive. I am a Black Woman and yes, much more sensitive to the majority’s opinion and pigeon-holing of my position in society. However, if we can all just be positive and look for the “positive” in each peson, regardless of differences, we can solve all of this world’s problems.

  • Quite honestly I don’t think a white man can speak about diveristy until he’s actually experienced exclusion in a bad way. Yes, we are all different but to speak to the heart of the matter requires experience or real empathy. I’m sorry to say that most white men don’t get it because they don’t live it and they choose to exist on the side with the majority and having things their way. It’s so bad at the company I work for until when real eye-opeening exercises are suggested for Diversity they are turned down because no one wants to offend the white man. What kind of thing is that? How will you ever bring about awareness if you can’t involve realism.

  • Luke, you’ve done it again! Thank you. Your insight is valuable. I agree that a white person can talk about, teach, etc. diversity. First of all, white is a race. And just because someone is not a minority doesn’t mean that they can’t understand diversity or have not been discriminated against. I receive questions, as a black woman, about why I hired a white male as my Asst. Dir. It was the best thing I could have done. He’s compassionate, educated about the laws and diversity issues and works extremely hard for those he feels have been treated unfairly. Keep up the good insights.

  • Yes, Luke. A White guy can be versed on diversity but only if he has an open mind and heart to “hear” what is going on around him. Thank you for being able to “hear” what folks of different ethnicities, cultures and races are saying.

    • I second those sentiments and couldn’t have said it better. Thank you Luke for having both the ears and the heart to truly hear, absorb, and understand what is the truth. Thank you for being who you are and doing what you do. DiversityInc is so very needed. Keep up the excellent work!

  • Interesting article. In California, there is no “majority”; we grew up in and deal effectively with a diverse culture on a daily basis. With the influx of multi-nationals, as well as the current society, a thinking person cannot help but learn first-hand about diversity. It’s not something from a book.

  • I thoroughly enjoyed this article!

    I believe the minority groups DO have to be more patient and understanding of those who fall into the category of the majority. The “ephiphany” that you experienced whch changed your thinking is a testament that CHANGE CAN HAPPEN. And POSITIVE change can happen when our eyes are open. It is the kind of experience that you had which gives you authority – because that experience resulted in a change of thinking that we all can benefit from if we are willing. Thanks again for the enlightenment! May we all continue to live and learn….

  • Understanding what “Diversity” means i believe gives anyone the authority to speak about this topic. Knowing what it means and living it on a daily basis will avoid labeling so many things, gender, race, disability, hair color, weight…I mean come on why is so hard to understand that we are all different instead of imposing our own little thoughts of superiority due to our skin tone or place of birth! The truth is I did not choose my skin tone or place of birth and…neither did you so get a grip, open up your eyes and see the world for what it is and stop placing so many unnecessary labels. I am human and my parents gave me my name so ill tell you what to call me. As far as the rest is pretty simple in my eyes. Is all a matter of being humble, respecting and others and putting arrogance where it belongs. It is a step in the right direction to speak about it so we can all learn from each other move on and grow.

  • Great article, White guys have a lot of insight regarding Divesity issues . They are the majority of the decision makers in business and among the leaders when it comes to implementing change when it comes to Diversity.

  • I wish we were living in a society which was color blind with no prejudices. Additionally Diversity should not be a catalyst for undermining people achievement. After all, it has been scientifically proven that we have a common origin and physical vitiations are simply evolved coping mechanism for dealing with various environments

  • Great article. I enjoy reading intelligent, focused, open, mind searching, topics regarding diversity. Just mentioning the word “Diversity” draws just all kinds of responses; negative and positive. Some up lifting and some down right ugly. What should be admirable is a person like Luke Visconti has placed his being in the limelight of such ‘sensitive’ issues of race, diversity, cultural differences, etc. Should we not praise dedication toward someone whom communicates our “differences” to the same table? What saddens me and is rather alarming when I read from “intelligent” folks who dont’ quite get it, “The truth is you just never fully know who is what..” that kind of response tells me that some people still have a long way to go toward accepting people for who they are: just regular people who deserve respect, honor, kindness, and love. It’s very simple. Yes, there really are people like that in the world.

  • Thanks for the insightful article. I agree that a “white man” can speak out about diversity, but I wonder how much of an advocate a “white man” can be without experiencing the discrimination minorities have experienced or the limited success minorities have attained even while consistently outperforming the “white man” from an educational and job performance perspective. Let’s face it, most minorities attain limited success in their professional careers even when they are exceedingly good at their jobs. The problem is that the “system” is designed to discriminate. For example, how many blacks and hispanics occupy top positions in major and mid-sized companies and in law, accounting, and consulting firms? How does this scarcity of minorities at the top impact promotions and hiring decisions? How much does client pressure impact appointment of a minority to handle their account? How much discrimination occurs through employment background checks? Unless you fix the system, you won’t fix the clandestine discrimination that permeates our society. That is not to say you shouldn’t speak about diversity, but I think you have a tough charge if you expect to have a noticeable impact on diversity.

  • It is true that people of color “cannot melt into” white society. It is just as true that a white person cannot “melt into” a minority social group, which is something that we face fairly often.

    And quite often the “diverse” person who looks like a member of the majority group may feel just as unrecognized or alone as a person of color does. One of the diversity staff where I work is an American Indian with white skin, freckles, and red hair. The point is that we should not judge what people know and understand based on how they look.

    The same point was made in a cultural competency training presented by a black woman. She was very dark skinned, with very curly hair, and quite overweight. She said people might assume that she was the first one in her family to earn a college degree, when actually both her parents had masters degrees and her family was solidly middle class. There were several white people in the group who had grown up in poverty and were indeed the first individuals in their respective families to earn college degrees. Surfaces can be deceptive.

  • Excellent article and response to the question regarding whether a white male can relate well enough to diversity and inclusion to be a speaker or writer on the subject. I am a white female and after enforcing the US Dept of Labor’s Affirmative Action Executive Order for many years, I now train employees and managers on how to live and work in a respectful environment. While there may be initial doubt from the audience that I cannot understand cultural differences, the doubt is quickly overcome through life-experience (I have lived overseas and have been a minority in other cultures), knowledge, and respect. The passion required to pass on the truth is not one we see in many other fields of work, as the lessons of diversity and inclusion must reverberate throughout your core values and come from a place deep inside one’s heart. Those who fake it will not last long. Luke, you are real in your earnest desire to change our world and make it a better place to live and work for all individuals. Thank you.

  • Luke, good article. The issue in my mind is not whether a white man can speak to diversity but rather the issue is to whom the majority audience will respond. To that end, the white man absolutely can and should address his peers about diversity when and wherever possible. This conversation however should be well informed by research that capsulate the minority voice and issues for redress. This is why your work at Diversity Inc. is so important.

    On a more general note, who is the “white man” in 2011. My experience is that many European white men do not align with the historical perspective of the “American white man” when it comes to diversity.” Maybe it is time that we take a closer look at the social identity of ‘the white man’ and break this group down into smaller parts and highlight the diversity within (i.e., immigrant, socioeconomic disadvantages, foreign national, etc.). May then we can get a better foothold on diversity by driving your point home that we are all diverse.

  • Luke, what initially sparked your interest about diversity was hearing from your black friend about his workplace issues, correct? When we talk about diversity (at least in the workplace), more often than not, it is RACIAL diversity that causes the most friction, and more specifically, groups who are and will most likely continue to be considered in the minority. One of the most exploited and out front on this issue is the black minority. I’m glad that you got a chance to dialogue honestly with your black friend. I’m glad he got the chance to shed some light on what we as a people go through on a daily basis just trying to survive and feed our children, much less thrive in a professional environment. Most white males will never hear this. Most don’t care because they’ve always had the luxury of not caring.

    That being said, when I first read the title of this article, my first (gut) thought was, “No, a white man could not possibly be an authority on diversity — unless he has lived at least five years in black skin.” Many of the comments before this one speak about having all kinds of diversity. What is defined on this comment board as “other minority groups” really waters/dumbs down the issue. To a black woman who has experienced racial discrimination my whole life, it is almost insulting to lump my background in with other types (i.e. geography, education, life experiences ,et al) of what you all are calling “diversity.”

    I understand that you might not understand why that would offend me. And I understand that you may disagree with me being offended. But I am. My difficult experiences will never be yours unless you have tried as I have to build a professional career in this black skin.

    Until you walk a mile in my shoes, you’ll never truly understand how racial discrimination impacts a person’s life. If you truly understood, you would immediately stop doing what you are doing and never do it again to anybody else.

    “But what are we doing?” you might say. Very slight actions are done everyday to keep minorities from achieving, progressing, getting promoted. Promote a less qualified white person over a more qualied black person. Give the white person the job and leave the black applicant empty-handed. Give the black person the job, but offer them less pay/benefits than you would the white person. Inact double standards so that the black person never achieves the goals you’ve set for him/her as a requirement for promotion. Use petty personal preferences as obstacles to keep a black person in the same position year after year. Close the door on any black person who tries to get your ear for mentoring opportunities. Only mentor or create opportunities for those who look like you. That is what you do.

    These actions are actually racist. But most majority culture doesn’t see it this way. Most majority culture defines racism only as calling a black person the “N” word and hanging them from a tree. Majority culture doesn’t consider any other actions as racist. Consequently, most of the majority culture don’t consider their actions or lack thereof as discriminatory. Therein lies the real problem of discrimination.

  • Think a white male can’t be discriminated against? I’m a white male nurse. Heard any good murse jokes lately? No I’m not gay, no I didn’t drop out of med school, and no I don’t want all of the unruly or overweight patients.

    • Federico Forlano

      Your last statement made me laugh out loud. I was at one time working retail when I got out of college. I was the only male most of the time working at a “big box” office supply store. I spent a good portion of my day doing heavy lifting because I was “able to”. I was always helping people load desks, chairs, computers, printers, boxes of paper etc. in their cars and always had to unload the truck delivery while still maintaining my regularly assigned job duties. I kept a smile the whole time, but to me it wasn’t a fair workload.

  • I appreciate the question and answer and threaded discussion. It provides insight and broadens my understanding of the topic and everyones perspective. I agree that a white male can speak with authority about diversity and that we all bring something to the table. These conversations keep moving us in the right direction as expressed in the comment: “I am not different than you, I am different like you.” When we can embrace, accept and integrate these words into our walk and talk we’ll be moving in the right direction of what true diversity and inclusion can mean and bring to us all as human beings; after all we are still one people with different shades, cultures and experiences.

  • Great article Luke. I think we need to hear more stories from the “majority”. This perspective gives us a view rarely expressed. There’s a lot of credibility that comes with a successful Diversity Leader who happens to be in the “majority”. I am taking a class on Multiculturalism and, if the subject arises, I would like to share your perspective. Let me know if I have your permission. Thanks, this article made me think. Maybe you’ll have a book to follow…

  • Racial Identity Theory is an intergral part of the enlightenment of all races. A must if people are to have civil discussions about race and if white men are now going to be experts on minorities they need to know where they stand intrinsically. Knowing where you are by using a tested barometer is helpful to you as an advocate and to the people you are advocating for. There is a theory cited in Dr. tatum’s book for Black Racial Idnetity and the stages that Blacks go through there is also a White racial identity stage theory. I invite people to be engaged entirely in a process by first recognizing their own frailties.


  • There is no doubt through personal experience and education and wth intent focused, anyone can learn or discover how to be represented of an ideology which is not a matter of political correctness. In reading the posts and your comments across the years, I am always reminded of the statement made in the report called “The Moynihan Report.” Though Moynihan’s name doesn’t appear, the conclusions in the introduction of the report and specifically chapter one has been grossly and intentionally ignored. As a matter of reality, the report has been used to constantly used contrary to the original purpose. This is why I personally have had doubts about the ability of White males and females to really comprehend the struggle which they find themselves and are quickly to make statements in the name of freedom of speech which has hinder progressive moves. The Moynihan Report needs to be re-examined by Diversity pundits and critics of diversity.

  • I think it depends on the specific situation. Having two or three minorities as “friends” and having a Master’s Degree in diversity doesn’t make you an authority on Diversity.

  • Very well written and explained. The great part and the hope I see in this article is that he finally stopped and really listened to what his friend was saying. Took the time to investigate and not just conversate but took action. Like so many say “not just talk the talk but walk the walk”. This can be said of all cultures and races. I believe so many grand ideas, cures, leadership and just overall greatness because we still color before we see character

  • It is a fact that many times (not all the time) in corporate America the higher the rank the lighter it gets (if you know what i mean). As part of the “minority” i am Hispanic but the black kind if you’ve ever heard of it lol. There is blatant racism among Hispanics as well! Which is just plane stupidity. There is racism among families and this makes family gatherings more interesting! So no African Americans are not the only ones experiencing discrimination…please they (“the majority”)does not know how to label me. I am black because my skin tone is dark brown but i was born in Puerto Rico with Dominican parents…ah and my mother is “white Hispanic” and my father is black Hispanic…ah and i am woman which seems to be an issue for some people too because i can potentially bring children into the world and that means too much down time in the workplace. Is all so ridiculous and full of such nonsense. We will all experience discrimination period end story. Is how we handle it what makes the difference. I can only be myself. I have learned to focus on myself and my own young family and not put so much energy on someone else ‘s bitter ways or opinions of what i am capable or not capable to do due to whatever made up reason or excuse to not give me a chance. Each culture discriminates within or outside their circle and has their own definitions of what acceptable or not acceptable. Example, i was not even qualified to rent a home because the owners where not “diverse” enough to rent to a Hispanic family! This problem is all around us. I am glad we have the freedom here to speak about this very sensitive topic.The world is bigger than we think it is there are things he have yet to see and learn specially when it comes to respecting each other.We can not change those things we do not acknowledge. That being said understanding diversity whether in the part of Mr. Visconti or the rest of the world means the opposite of racism.

  • Dear Luke,

    Even as a child I knew I didn’t need to stick my hand in a fire to know it was hot.

    Of course a white man can speak with authority about diversity–please, continue to do so!

  • >I believe a white “man” CAN speak with authority on diversity topics as long as he or she has more than three CLOSE friends or family members who are not white. Good article..

    Does that mean a person can only speak with authority as long as they have more than three CLOSE friends or family members who are not ? We will only achieve true diversity when we stop focusing on people and just treat people as people. Despite the sins of white males in the past, no race, gender or creed is immune from racism or bigotry.

  • Well said, timely and inspirational. This happens to be a hot topic in one of my workgroups.

    I’d like to add one point, diversity MUST not be confused with affirmative action.

    There are many people who hear the word “diversity” and immediately assume they are excluded.

    I think anyone passionate about respecting others enough to hear eachother, would be based on the person’s ability to inspire others. :)

  • Mr. Visconti,

    Please stop trying separate us. I have experienced discrimination but that just made me work harder and now I am doing better than my white peers.

  • First of all, what does DIVERSITY really mean here. Does it mean color? or does it mean DIVERSIFY? Have you all looked around the room lately? We are all DIVERSITY people. Work with it.

  • I am a 60 yr. old white female who has been aware of racism, discrimination and bigotry since I was six years old and made friends with the only Black girl in my first grade class. It was a changing moment in my life and I made a vow to myself and to God that I would never treat someone as “less than” because of the color of their skin or being different than I. Dr. King was/is my role model for peace, justice and inclusion. I am a Silver Life member of the NAACP and believe in Dr. King’s dream of building an inclusive Beloved Community. A white person can be a strong advocate for diversity. All it takes is agape love and the willingness to serve others. Walk what you talk. Somebody will follow when they see through your actions that you are authentic and REAL.

  • So true. I’m white, male, straight, US-born, without an ADA-defined disability. Though I’m a practicing Buddhist people perceive me as being in the majority and those with authority to define such things might agree. But what opened my eyes was growing up in rural NC in a solidly middle class white neighborhood with my closest friend being Black living in a turn of the century sharecropper house down the road. It wasn’t the difference in our living conditions that was the eye-opener, but rather the difference in how he was treated when he visited my neighborhood versus how I was treated when I visited his home and family. That experience gave me an awareness that has opened my eyes to much more of what’s around me and lit the path that I’ve taken for social justice, diversity, and equality ever since (mind that I’m an Engineer, not someone in HR or anything like that).

    In a meeting some years ago, a colleague was having trouble understanding the accent of a peer who worked in another location and he saw that as the reason that his project was running behind. But rather than just saying so he said, “This is behind because the guy I’m working with is …. ‘diverse’.” That last word was preceded by a slow, deliberate look around the room to ensure he was in the company of all white, all male, presumably all straight, etc “safe” people. When his presentation was over and he went to leave the room, I followed him out, stopped him, and calmly said that I took offense at how he communicated what he saw as the reason for his project being behind. He looked confused as though he were wondering why someone who looked like him would be offended so I explained: “You very deliberately looked around the room to check your company before using the word ‘diverse’ as you did. My second family is Black and my immediate family and I were chased from our home by racists when I was a teenager, so when you look around a room to see if anyone is not white, please see me as being not white. Further, I’m the VP of our LGBT employee network and several of my most beloved family and friends are gay, lesbian, and one of my best teachers is transgender so when you look around the room to check your company before saying something against gays, please see me as gay. Oh, and I am the proud father of a little girl who is very bright and I’m sure will be capable of doing any job as well as any man, so when you look around the room to see if you’re around any women, please see me as female. Please, just make this easy and when you wonder if you’re in the company of anyone who you might think of as ‘diverse’, please see me as that person because I am diverse, and you are too.” It was a good moment and from then and in the years since, he’s seemed to get it.

  • I suspect that the question “how could he possibly speak with authority about diversity?” had little to do with skin colour and more with what are *your* qualifications. The individual probably knew little about your experiences other than you set up the site and do speaking engagements related to diversity. Nevertheless, Irving Goffman had pointed out pointed out in Stigma: Management of an Image Spoiled that there are three categories in the relationship with exclusion: the accepted, the stigmatized and the wise. A white guy amoung the wise can speak to diveristy with aurthority but might have a hard time speaking with force on the impact of discrimination unless he has felt it as a member of a stigmatized group (e.g., disability, sexual orientation, lived in a oppressive country, etc.)

  • Luke:

    Appreciate every word said. It is about time individuals like yourself who understand the issues of diversity speak out. More individuals need to say what is in their minds regarding this divasive problem in our society. We must be welling to carry the tourch for improving our socierty and how we treat one another..

    Again good job and keep it up. We need more white men like you to speak up who understand and get the true meaning of DIVERSITY.

  • In response to “Can a White Man Speak with Authority on Diversity?” I think that we are asking the wrong question. The question is “Should a White Man Speak with Authority on Diversity?” I believe that the answer is absolutely. Historically, white folks have largely benefited from, if not contributed to the inequalities that still exist in terms of equal opportunity and access in this country. I believe that it is incumbent upon white people to learn about diversity issues—their own as well as others’; to embrace their responsibility to become culturally competent about racial and other diversity issues and to shoulder some of the burden of educating themselves and others about issues of inequality related to diversity and non-inclusion our country faces…. if not out of altruism then out of enlightened self-interest. The world is changing. You can be a productive part of the change and be competent to compete in this global economy or you can be left behind.

  • Thank you for your considered response, Mr. Visconti. Thank you also for helping your readers to understand that diversity exists within what seem to be homogeneous groups (i.e. hundreds of white guys) as well. What I wish to challenge you with, however, is staying focused on the question about whether or not white men have the “authority” to speak to this topic. The unfortunate reality remains that white men will typically have “authority” (sanctioned, approved, implied or otherwise) to speak to just about anything in this nation. That is not particularly a bad thing but it does constitute our reality. The more important and more appropriate question, I think, is whether or not ANY man or woman has established some measure of “credibility” and authenticity in doing so. I would also caution everyone not to use these terms as if they were synonyms. Diversity and inclusion, for example, are not the same thing. EEOC, as a further illustration, could not be more different a discipline than is the study and practice of diversity.

  • I totally agree that has the concept of diversity doesn’t have straight relationship with race,gender and sexuality,it is some kind of believe.It is related to the pursue of freedom,represent the love to this world,to people!

  • Very good article, glad you opened up the discussion this way…DIFFERENCE is the KEY. I am black, I worked with a white guy, that was treated like dirt. Now I am a fighter, so I would comment on the way the COMPANY and other employees treated this guy(YOUNG MAN 21 years old). I knew what the whole problematical situation was, remember I am black. One day the young man came to me very upset about the way people treated him, I could tell in appearnce that he could not take it any more, THIS YOUNG MAN HAD DONE NOTHING WRONG, HE WORKED, NEVER LEFT HIS WORK STATION,just a regular guy coming to work to make a living. Outwardly he looked like any other young white male, but I knew what it was that bothered THE COMPANY AND CO-WORKERS, he did not associate with the status quo, would not engage in their jokes and horseplay, HE WAS DIFFERENT, he would take his breaktime talking to me sharing his artwork. He was fired for being different, so was I.

  • Great article! The threaded discussions (in their own way) support your analysis and opinion that “mindset makes us ‘good at’ diversity.” Discrimination, harassment, inequity can only be aimed when the target (physical or cultural characteristic) is known — mindset. Efforts to prevent this blight in America have been laws and diversity — mindset. Before you came into our lives Luke, I am sure white males knew of if not experienced discriminatory actions and many chose to paricipate in, justify or ignore its continuance. But it thas taken public discussions/awareness of this atrocity, such as yours, a sort of view from the other side, to make all of us face the reality — mindset. Keep up the good work! Heaven has a place for you!

  • Interesting article! I KNOW a white man can speak on diversity. Just look at Michael Fosberg! The problem is that there aren’t enough white people talking about diversity openly and honestly as it is.

  • I am amazed! I think this article may have had some truth, but the bottom line is that, while it is important to accept different cultures, just because you are white, male, and Christian it doesn’t mean that you aren’t diverse. For goodness sakes, diversity is made up of experiences. Everyone has to come from somewhere and that in and of itself represents diversity.

    So, does this mean if you are an Irish, Catholic male, you can’t be diverse? I don’t agree that the amount of melanin in one’s skin speaks to whether or not a person can be diverse.

    No one can tell me if I am diverse or not, and certainly can’t say that I am diverse as long as I accept his/her definition. I am American Indian. That doesn’t make me special or different-it just means that the two people who created me were American Indian. What makes me different is what I do and think-that defines who I am. And besides, as a wise friend of mine once said, “When you look down, you are either a man or a woman!” Well said!

  • Wow, very powerful article and related comments. I particularly liked the comments from the Guest you encouraged his unenlightened colleague to view him as more than just what he sees in front of him. We are all diverse; we all have a story and experiences that make us who we are. I have no interest in assimilating; I am that I am. Not only should White people speak about diversity but all People should speak about diversity and all that makes this issue both riveting and complex.

  • Chalette Renee Griffin, M.A.

    Very refreshing response to a complex question. Unfortunately, the issue of Diversity is very complex and many people will have a hard time grasping what it means and how it can empower not only their businesses, but also enrich their personal lives.

  • I am employed by a large healthcare & trauma center and am a white middle-aged woman. I previously worked in an area where family members and friends of the trauma victim would come to wait while the patient was in surgery or while the medical staff were working with the patient in one of the Intensive Care Units. One nite several people of a motocycle gang (it was pretty apparent based on their dress and tatoos) came in because one of their members had been badly hurt. The security dispatcher knew they were coming to me because he had seen & talked with them to give them after-hours access to the hospital. Each person of this group was very respectful of me. My preconceived notions of what a motorcyle gang “should be” completely vanished after the doctor came and talked to his friends. Immediately, they stood up, joined hands and prayed. Even though this happened many years ago, it made a lasting impression on me. Then I could look at the members of this gang as a group of wonderful individuals that was there to support their friend. I have always viewed this as a powerful learning experience for me and one I will never forget.

  • It always amazes me that when the subject of Diversity arises; some people or groups of people want to tune out or discredit someone because of their ethnicity. To question anyone because of their belonging to or deriving from the cultural, racial, religious, or linguistic traditions of a people or country would mean that they are not biased; as biased is based on facts, but prejudice occurs without a person knowing or examining the facts .

  • It takes all kinds of people from all different walks of life to make true change. As a Black, spiritual leaning (as opposed to a specific religion), bisexual, 3rd generation college female graduate, I am a diverse oddity on many levels. Does that mean I can only speak to diverse issues within the communities in belong to? Of course not.

    I think another thought that is missing here is that who better than those who hold the majority of the power in our society (White, hetero, able-bodied, Christian men) can communicate to others like them. One of the most important aspects of diversity training is meeting people where they are. White men who choose to enter diversity training have already (hopefully) unlearned much of what society has told them about diversity; hence, who better to reach others who are likely the MOST skeptical about issues of diversity. Who better to educate and assuage their fears?

    I takes a village…it takes many different villages to become the ever changing melting pot of America’s past, present and future.

  • The problem with this essay is that the majority culture coopts all discussion about culture to make it about them. Yrs there is diversity of experience among white men. But why is the conversation still about white men??

  • As a white male diversity practitioner, I have two sides to the same answer of YES! First, as a professional, I am NEVER precieved as having a self serving motive when addressing diversity. Second, diversity is NOT EO! Diversity is about differences and simularities, NOT about race, gender, ethnicity, religion, etc… We use those as indicators of the success of our diversity programs. EO is about fair opportunity, diversity is not. The two are different programs that leverage teh successes of the other for thier own good. If race is a factor for those who work and manage diversity, then the program is a sham and just about race relations and EO.

  • I am responding to the guest who posted on Tuesday Mar 29, 2011, ‘Perhaps you need to look at the New York Times article of March 27, 2011 titled “Non-Hispanic Whites Are Now a Minority in the 23-County New York Region”. As far as I am concerned, I am now a minority where I live and work. Time for you to revise your view about “majority culture”.’

    Do NOT mistake majority culture simply as the number of individuals of color inhabiting a particular place. While you may now live in an environment where white people are fewer in number, I assure you that the power and control in that area still is in the hands of, for the most part, whites, or the “majority culture.”

  • I completely agree. You say this very well. I came to my epiphany after six years in Kenya as a child and returning to the US to go to college. As a White, Jewish middle class woman continue to broaden my views by being on our local NAACP board, joining We Refuse to be Enemies (a Jewish, Christian, Muslim group), attending workshops and community discussions, reading books and watching movies created by people from cultures different from my own and….traveling. It is about perception and moving through the “feeling threatened by other” stage enough to reach out a hand and truly see the other person’s humanity.

  • I am an American Hispanic living in Iowa. Yes, an American Hispanic.

    One of the most intriguing comments I have heard was when I was serving in the military. I was in a small aviation unit with soldiers from all walks of life and very diverse backgrounds. As we were preparing to invade Iraq during Desert Storm, the topic comes up of how all of us are here to serve our country and keep our American flag flying high. Each of us had a common denominator. We were all born in the United States.

    It was then that we decided to still recognize our ethnic diversity, but it would not preface who we truly were…Americans! I was now an American-Mexican, some were American-Africans, and others were American-Asians. Having this common denominator reminded all of us we were a team with differences, and all of had something different to bring to the table.

  • Luke, here is one African American man who appreciates you You have been consistent over the years that i have know you, and you make it plain in a way that should be a model to others. I often refer to you when recruiting white men in affirmative action/diversity efforts. I would add that the history of white men is also a history of power and even when they enjoyed superior power President L.B.Johnson and a white male congress passed the civil rights acts, in the context of the movement for change personified in Dr, Kings leadership. Sometimes epiphany meets self interest. Please keep leading from where you stand and from your authentic self because we need you on that side of our family.

  • Bravo and well said Mr. Visconti! You have been an asset tot he Board and the women of Bennett College which is where I first learn of you & Diversity,Inc via Dr. Cole. I’ve been a huge fan since.

    Warmest regards.

  • Reminds me of when I joined the International Club at the University of Wisconsin and was asked why I (an American) did that. I said, “America IS part of International you know/.”

  • I agree that the root cause of discrimination is one’s mindset. Consequently, if we are going to be successful in developing more inclusive organizations, the training that is provided needs to be directed at changing persons’ mindset. I believe that allowing time for interpersonal conversation, in a dyad format, is an important way to help one focus on the components of their mindset.

  • First, I like your article and it hits home to anyone who would take the time to understand. Like you, I too am prior military and feel my Diversity training started there. Now days I work for the US Air Force in an HR capacity, and I am also a Qualified Diversity facilitor. I received my training from Dr. Samual Betances in 2006 and have been teaching/facilitating ever since. Having been a production supervisor/manager for over 20 years I found out and feel that we humans are more alike than different, regardless of color, gender, culture. More to the point I want to footstomp and add to your your comment that it is mindset and attitude that makes a good Diversity facilitator, not skin color or culturial background. There are a still a lot of people that still try and bunch Diversity and EEO in the same breath, showing they don’t truely understand. If we ever get people properly educated and working toward the MISSION, most of our issues will go away. Until then all we can do is keep teaching and preaching.


  • Mr. Visconti, the short answer to your question is YES from the perspective of a 30-something living in America today. For a 60-something like me the answer is absolutely not. Born in the shadow of Jesse Owens’ 1936 Olympic performance, the afterglow of the original audacity of hope stamps my perspective on your question. Our nation’s institutional resume shows that our country took the high road fighting this heinous dictator Hitler while winking at the world with its own onshore atrocities. The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment sanctioned in full by the U.S. Health Services from 1932 to 1972 happened in my lifetime. Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act was signed a month after I graduated from high school. But just because it was law didn’t make it so. The historical perspective that you mentioned is more important than most think. It certainly doesn’t encourage trust of the majority. My father’s biggest challenge was to raise me to be a man when our country treated him like a boy. My father was a 2nd Lt. in the U.S. Army and my father-in-law was an original Tuskegee Airmen. Their service and sacrifice was commendable given that civilian life offered overt racism and discrimination in the workplace after their military service. In the late 60’s I served in the USAFSS as a Russian Interpreter in Europe and the Middle East but could not find a job upon my discharge. I thank God for men like Dr. Warren Bennis who personally touched me when he was President of the University of Cincinnati and Admiral Benjamin Hacker who opened his home to me. Our 30-somethings have probably never been refused service, never been unable to get a gas station restroom key, never seen a cross burning, cannot reconcile “Freedom Riders”, never been stopped by the police for going 36 in a 35 mph zone or don’t know anything about the 1921 Tulsa Race Riots,. For them Dr. Martin Luther King is a postage stamp and shopping holiday? It is amazing how I went from “boy” to “sir” in a short 50 years. This is a better, not bitter diatribe. You keep talking about diversity and I may investigate personally speaking with authority on the pain of childbirth. Stay after it!

  • The point that many of the 30-somethings don’t recognize the discrimination of the past is a sign of the progress that has been made. Certainly discrimination still happens. We all discriminate every day. A hiring manager must discriminate to match the appropriate candidate to the position. But when it’s purposefully done in response to some personal bias, it needs to be legally addressed. When it’s an adverse impact issue (unknown personal bias or affect) then training and teaching needs to happen. But many of the comments (from all sides of the topic) that pit “us vs them” in any manner of language is as ethically discriminatory as anything that the average individual in this day and age is likely to come across. Educate yourself to clear your rose-colored glasses the best you can…and do your best to respectfully inform and teach others so they can do the same. Recognize the positive aspects of individuality and don’t obsess on those that you may view as less than positive. And let the “us vs them” attitude that this topic always reeks of, die! Only then can we find equality in individuality.

  • Another good follow up question is: When and to whom is it appropriate for a white man to speak as an authority about diversity, and when might it be time for someone else to have a turn to speak and be an authority? Being an ally with any kind of power or privilege on behalf of those who don’t is important in many situations. Studies on gendered communication habits and the tendency of groups to listen and hear what different people say have shown that many white men feel most entitled to speak at all times on all things and take up the most air time or positions of authority in many given groups. This is something to consider for any white man who wants to be an ally for justice on an ongoing basis. Is it really my turn or is there someone else who should really get a chance to say something now? It’s an important consideration.

  • The assumption that white, Christian, heterosexual, nondisabled men have a monopoly on prejudice, EEO/diversity based bullying, “barnyard harassment” of people who are “different”, general harassment, exclusionary behavior, ethnocentric ideas about other faiths or no faith, physical beauty, etc is untrue. We all know that bullying of women by women occurs frequently in the school and workplace, skin /facial features and accent prejudice and mixed heritage prejudice exist within minorities and there are plenty of persons with disabilities who thin “I am more disabled than thou.” We can only deal effectively with diversity and inclusion when all of us take personal responsibility for promoting including and opposing exclusion, including self examination of our own attitudes and conduct. That includes recognition of any prejudices we may have towards any non-minority men. We all have to avoid the current fad of sweeping under the rug what has happened in the past (i,e, “lets look all be color blind starting now and not get hung up on the past”) without using the past as a club to beat people over the head or be ashamed of ourselves because of who we are or are not.

  • I believe all ethnic groups should promote diversity regardless of skin tone. This is America…we have a diverse population of peoples. There are some who might not like the diversity of this country, but if America is to progress, we must unite as one people, one nation. A nation divided against itself shall fall/perish, now that’s a fact! There is no US vs THEM we are all Americans. The racism cancer is destroying our society. We need more people like Luke who is willing to take a stand against this deadly disease, by sharing information that can bring healing.

  • I think Mr. Visconti’s points are well articulated. Admittedly, it is a mountain to overcome when you are the “white guy” doing a diversity presentation. I have found myself in this position and I consciously limited the my proportion of program activity, as not to be percieved as the only credible testimony. I “am” a white guy without a “gay brother”, and I have only been married once (25+ years), so this normally puts me at a disadvantage. My professional conduct in the business world and personally is the only base for my positive reception.

  • I agree wholeheartedly with this point of view. I am disabled, and my husband though a healthy white male can very much relate to the difficulties disabled people deal with. Diversity is reality, racism is make-believe. Racism and “abilityism” only exist because there is no good reason for someone to discriminate against another person, so they have to make something up.

    Another interesting point as a “mildly disabled” person, I am able to take advantage of various programs that some severely disabled people can’t. I can work full-time with significant accommodations (accommodations that I was told by previous bosses would make “everyone want them” even non-disabled workers with no accommodation needs), I can take care of my kids without damaging my health by using a handicapped parking placard, and I contribute to society.

    I have continued to be pleased and hopeful about Diversity Inc, and as a “white” person with at least ten different ethnic backgrounds including two Asian ethnicities, the diversity within the “white community” itself is great. WASP is still the rule in most executive offices, having an accent or being a woman requires 10 times the drive of the “average guy” to get to the top.

  • Every one has some element of difference from every other person in this country, in this world. Can you imagine an illterate white guy joining an MIT/Harvard fraternity, a poor white guy walking into a New York womens club…a white guy driving a jalopy…a white boy without parents in a school of others with a solid community full of kids in a two paretn family. The resentment people have with people who wear their diversity on their sleeve, blame others for their condition will always be rejected in whatever human interactions. No body deserves anything for nothing; when they ask for it, let alone demand it assures a negative reception from anyone who has done it on their own.

  • I am glad that you brought this topic up sir, but there are some things that I noticed were not brought up. Growing up I realized that every human being is not exactly alike and so I grew to respect the differences of people in turn hoping they would respect that I was different. When I got to college I saw something that horrified me (I went to a college that was very “diverse” if by that diverse meant there were people from every walk of life there.) There are so many “races” who hide behind their race, group together, and don’t “integrate” with other races. I spent time at first trying to go to “multi-cultural” events and I was shocked to find that those non-white races just didn’t want to join in with others, or let others join in. I tried to befriend Blacks, Asians, Indians, Native Americans, Hispanics, and even other Whites. I was nice to everyone I met and gave everyone the same chances (I am a very culture and language curious person, so any bigotry I may have had was washed away by my want to know about other people and how different their lives were) This was to no avail. I actually was discriminated against because I was WHITE, and it was made very clear that I was not wanted in their little groups of bigotry. As a young white woman, I was given the stink eye for showing up at African American events, and if I showed up at an Asian conference, all hell broke loose (even though these events were ones that said “everyone is allowed to come join in the festivities and culture”). People always claim it is White people (men and women) who are always racist and unwilling to “diversify,” when I have actually realized that it is not only White discrimination that keeps us from all being of the HUMAN RACE, it is all races. I hate being stereotyped as having White privilege, because honestly, I grew up in some rough conditions and if it weren’t for my determination, I wouldn’t have made it to college either. I know this, because my other white friends of the same background (male and female) who did not try, did not make it to college, they are sitting at home doing nothing with their lives. I see plenty of people complain to me about how they cannot do something because they are a minority. I believe that if you want it bad enough, you will get it if you are qualified for it. You may have to keep trying, but giving up is admitting defeat. Life is a lot like sales, you have to accept “no” as an answer and not give up. Yes, there are prejudice people out there, but they are not just White, they are of all races.

    I guess the biggest thing I want to point out to all people of all races and cultures and everything else is: We are all of one race, the HUMAN race, and we should treat others accordingly. I have a rule to myself: Unless someone is trying to steal, harm, take away my human rights, or kill me or the ones I care about, they deserve the same respect I would give anyone else and it depends on their actions how I would “judge” them accordingly. If you are a jerk, you will be treated like a jerk. If you are nice, you will be treated as such. I don’t care if you are green, pink or purple; male, female, both, or neither; christian, muslim, or any other religion; you are HUMAN. It is your actions that bring about judgment of who you are, nothing else. I believe if this belief was passed on there would be much more tolerance to others and “hate crimes” and bigotry would slowly fade (they will not just up and disappear because ideas die with the people who believe in them, and some people will never change their minds).

    There will always be people who will treat others poorly, no matter what. I have seen this. I have been treated poorly by other white women because they thought that somehow they were better than me, so I know that superiority complexes exist and race/religion/ethnicity/sexuality are not the only triggers, and it is not always against people who are different than the “bullies” who torment you.

  • To say that white men have no place to speak on diversity is to deny the power of their voices in the perpetuation of racism, classism, sexism, heterosexism, ableism, etc. Mr. Visconti’s consciousness was raised by a black friend. However, since minorities are just that, minorities, every white person may not find a minority person to help them out (or who wants to help them out). So just statistically speaking, white people must educate each other in order to reach enough people to affect real change.

    It took Mr. Visconti some time to identify w/his black friend’s struggles. Especially in the early phases of consciousness raising, many whites don’t truly “hear” what minorities have to say. White people need other whites to help them move efficiently from denial and guilt to productive diversity work. (Which is somewhat funny, since this all started with a white woman who didn’t want to listen to a white man.)

    Finally, I’m glad Mr. Visconti noted that minorities aren’t automatic PhDs in diversity. Some minorities use their privilege against other, less privileged, minorities instead of seeing the common struggle. (ie – Perhaps a gay man uses sexist language.) In addition, internalized oppression can hinder a minority person’s consciousness raising to the point where they wouldn’t be a good diversity trainer. The persistence of the N-word in black culture is a good example. Minority groups need just as much training as dominant groups, otherwise, none of us can move from a dominant/minority relationship to an “everybody’s awesome” social/cultural/economic structure.

  • I too think white men can definitely contribute to diversity. We can absolutely be discriminated against. Many believe this is not the case because we are white males. Rare is the US citizen who does not say the XXX-American. By that statement, most people are minorities!

  • Re: “Melting Pot”: I’ve argued against this concept for years. I am of the opinion that America (the only country in which I’ve lived) is and has always been (at least since European influence, possibly even before) a “Stew.” There is an overarching conept of American-ness but with local concentrations of carrots, onions, tomatoes, spices, meat, potatoes, etc. And sometimes one only gets broth.

  • How refreshing to see some honesty. I’ve often thought that if we really talk ot each other about these issues honestly we will get somewhere. But, as a majority WASP, I’m reluctant to speak out to my own group or minorities. Glad to see someone with the courage to lead some discussion.

  • I think that this is an interesting article, and under some circumstances I agree that it is powerful to have a non-minority articulating the virtues of diversity. And while all people bring “differences” to the table, this country has never owned up to the pervasive discrimination that exists historically, and TODAY against racial and ethnic minorities. Do you think that a white male President of the United States has ever been asked to provide his birth certificate to prove his nationality? Are American Indians still called “Red Skins” in the nation’s capital? Let’s finally acknowledge that no how many differences we generically bring to the table, some people will remain more different than others–and without power in the society.

  • Most white people do not understand what it is to be in the minority. I actually do, because I was the only white in a Black neighborhood. My mother and father divorced, and both married Hispanics. I married a Japanese woman. My family includes some Jews. So, when I saw the ugly racism of the 1950s and 60s, I felt it as directed against my neighbors. When I heard the racial slurs against Jews and Hispanics, I felt it as directed against my relatives. And when I went to Japan, I learned what it is to be a minority of one. Even so, I don’t believe I come close to fully understanding what it is to grow up Black in America.

    I’m always glad when people join the struggle to treat everyone fairly. But I think most white people are dreaming if they think they get it, and I know for a fact that a lot more are racists than think they are.

  • Chris Burgess

    Luke, I mirror your comments, I think being part of the majority requires you to overcome sterotypes like the one that you always get (being White and championing Diversity/Inclusion) and there’s a strong need to have the majority educate the majority, especially when the “majority” thinks you’ll go along with racist/homophobic slurs, jokes and generalizations.

  • I am a white immigrant who came to the US from Brazil as a child. Living in Queens, New York, and joining the YMCA I was exposed to many kids of different ethnicities, races and religions and had no trouble interacting (once the language barrier was overcome).
    That said, I have since integrated into the “majority culture” but have always considered myself non-racist, open-minded, empathetic and “diversity-sensitive”…that is until my daughter expressed an interest in dating a Black boy.
    It is then that I discovered that it is one thing to intellectually proclaim one’s non-racist, open-minded, empathetic and “diversity-sensitive” mindset, and yet another to admit one’s lurking, innermost, subconcious prejudices.
    Acknowledgement is the first step towards reconciliation.

  • Paul Robinson

    I am one of three white males in a large group of technical service engineers. We all work for a major oil company. In our group, we don’t discuss diversity. We do talk about our families, which live in India, China, Vietnam, Surinam and the United States. We especially enjoy learning how to eat new and interesting food. When we were told that we had to engage in diversity acivities, we visited King Tut in Houston, because there are no ancient Egyptians in our group.

  • I’d just like to thank you for including the “ADA-defined disability” point. Perhaps because “disabled people” are very difficult to box up neatly as a monolithic group (though really, if you look at it carefully, every group is this way–including the majority), disability (or “different ability” or however one refers to it) seems to be the “forgotten child” in discussions on diversity.

  • My first job out of college began in 1969, as a White token in an all-Black office, located in an all-Black area in Dallas, Texas. Needless to say, it was a total education to me. I quickly realized that the racial segregation that was still so predominant had disadvantaged me, an Anglo female, just as it had disadvantaged the people of color who were its primary targets, although — obviously — in very different ways. The Black people with whom I worked, some of whom became life-long friends, knew all about White people and the majority culture. I, on the other hand, although highly-educated and open-minded, was largely ignorant of African-American culture and society. Without a doubt, I had the advantage over women of color when it came to opportunity, but was clearly disadvanted when it came to broader societal knowledge and insight. My entire life was transformed by the experience. Needless to say, I understand and appreciate the value of diversity, even though I am White.

  • Carman Burney

    I thoroughly enjoy DiversityInc and all of the light is shines on humanity. Often times, we forget that we have many idiosyncrasies that challenge us to think differently about ourselves as well as others; however, we have to be mature enough to recognize then change our thought processes. Diversity, at all levels, is truly what makes the world so awesome! I too am over the “melting pot” flawed concept but I am totally in love with a great pot of stew where each ingredient maintains its unique color, texture and flavor when placed in the same cooking temperature.

  • Franklin E Rutledge

    Can a White man tell a Black man not to hate? Can a White man tell a Black man that he needs to get a job? Can a White man tell a Black man that he can be successful? Can a White man tell a Black man that he needs to take care of his family? Let’s not confuse the issue between telling a ‘person what is right, and telling him to do wrong.’ Of course a White person (man) can speak with authority on diversity. In
    America who is better to fix the mess that the White Europeans have created. It is the White man! The Blacks can only appeal to the White man. The White man has the power to make a difference. “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” (President Ronald Reagan).
    The problem many have is that they don’t define truth as an absolute. Saying a White man can’t understand how it feels to be discriminated against is like saying, a White man can never speak the truth. It’s like saying, Franklin, you can’t put a splint on that person’s leg, because you’ve never had a broken leg. The truth is that the person has a broken leg and I know that the splint will help a person with a broken leg. Truth is the key here, not whether I have had a broken leg. The American Indians were lied to so many times by the White man, and when one told the truth they didn’t believe them until he put his life on the line. In the diversity issue, if truth is to be perceived for what it is, then the White man is the better one to put his life on the line.
    Yes a White man or person can talk with authority on diversity issues. There are diverse issues among the Whites as well. What is the problem?

  • The article brought up a good point. The group of police and fire chiefs had more diversity within than it would appear on the surface being 97% white male. In our soundbite culture, every group is reduced to a monolithic “they.” Be careful when you or any group is reduced to an all-encompassing “they,” “them,” or “those people,” in your presence (or in your mind).

  • Jonscott Williams

    The question itself indicates how often people conflate “race” – which is essentially, as it is presently used, a concept from the 17th century – diversity. And it is ironic that Americans (the “rugged individualists”) seem unable to recognize the many facets and factors that make up diversity.

    Scott Brown’s recent dismissal of Elizabeth Warrens heritage – “Professor Warren claimed she was a Native American … and as you can see, she’s not.” – is unfortunately typical of the thinking (or lack of thinking) of too many people.

  • Well said. How does someone who has never been discriminated against because of their skin color (nothing more and nothing less) explain that to anyone. How do you understand the feeling of this when it never has and probably never will happen to you. Whites can be disliked for various reasons, but Black people are disliked often on sight. At first glance, a Black person is often immediaely determined to be less than, not matter what the situation. q

  • normallysane

    Hey Sheriff Luke, very well stated, that in recognizing and utilizing the varied skills and talents within a group it takes a mind skilled in looking for diverse skills and talents or an understanding of a different culture. That isn’t really very new, but it is a good thing that folks are seeing it in other contexts beyond skin color.

    • Luke Visconti

      Empathy helps you intellectualize what others experience viscerally. Not perfect, not a replacement, but human. Luke Visconti, CEO, DiversityInc

  • Will Saunders

    Diversity impacts everybody. It transcends skin color. Sure a white guy can speak with authority on the topic. All those things that fall within those protected traits, i.e., race, religion, national origin, disability, etc., is a part of diversity. Diversity is all about creating a space in which the people in it are eclectic, with a broad array of backgrounds and from all walks of life. Anyone with an understanding of that can certainly speak about diversity.

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