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April 19 | Cipriani Wall Street | New York City

 

Does Playing the Race Card Make You Racist?

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:
Wouldn’t you say that those who “play the race card” are showing themselves to be racist?

Answer:
It took me a long time to get this straight, but it is impossible for a non-white person to be racist in this country when referring to white people.

Racism is oppression based on racial hierarchy.

Bigots come in all races, but by definition, black people (for example) cannot be racist to a white person.

Some non-white people do “play the race card.” However, I’ll point out that white people “play the race card” every day of their lives. They may not know it, but they do. Such is the privilege of being white in this country.

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15 Comments

  • No, people who “pull the race
    Card” have experienced racism in a country that is content to ignore the blatant examples if racism seen everyday. The very term “pulling the race card” was made to trivialize people who have experienced racism and is detrimental to society. In short: no, talking about racism and recognizing it existence or being victimized by it does not make you racist….

  • Steve Cummins

    “Bigots come in all races, but by definition, black people (for example) cannot be racist to a white person.”

    So when I have been called white trash by a blackman, that’s not racist ? You’re not helping yourself are you?

    • Luke Visconti

      It’s not racist. Probably bigoted, although it could be simply descriptive. Luke Visconti, CEO, DiversityInc

  • Joe Iannone

    So you are telling me when I white person is at work and his boss and many of their coworkers are black they cannot experience racism? Now they are at the bottom of the hierarchy. They can now be ganged up on because of their race. Allowing them to experience racism. This broader racial hierarchy which you speak of does nothing for them. When a white person is targeted and beaten just because he is white, this is not racism? When a city has a black mayor, black police chief, black fire chief and a majority of black council people where does this racial hierarchy actually come in favor of the average white person barely getting buy in the world? White people are not controlling anything then. It’s not like all us white folk are pulling in 300,000 a year The majority of people on welfare are white. They sure would like to know what being white in this society has done for them. So I don’t think your racial hierarchy thing stands up.

    • Luke Visconti

      That’s correct. A white person, given your interesting scenario, can experience bigotry but not racism. The rest of your post is a crock. No Presidential aspirant ever tried to score points with bigots by denigrating white welfare recipients. Ronald Reagan’s “welfare queen” was Black and completely fictitious, but that example—and his starting his campaign in Philadelphia, Miss.—was enough of a dog whistle for racists. It’s a shame, because he didn’t need their support (especially coming after the disastrous Presidencies of Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter). He was the only President, before Obama, who was honest about immigration. He also stopped the Soviet Union in its tracks without having to fight World War III. I voted for him, twice. Luke Visconti, CEO, DiversityInc

  • You’re contradicting your own definition of racism – when you say that in a city where a white male is the minority and is treated poorly because of his ethnicity – isn’t racism. By your own definition, that would equal racism, because they are at the bottom of the social “hierarchy” in that region. I think we can all agree that bigotry and stereotyping is wrong no matter what the demographic is. But, unfortunately, it will always exist, because no matter where you go, there will always be people who are trying to be a better person than the next. Until they stop competing, (which does not seem likely) prejudices will always exist.

  • Luke visconti- you’re an idiot.

    • Luke Visconti

      So, you spend time on my website. What does that make you? Luke Visconti, CEO, DiversityInc

  • Is there any difference between “white supremacist” and “racist” or are these synonymous?

    Can an individual white person without defined power be racist by this definition? For example, if a white employee says he hates working for black people, can he be considered “racist” since he is not in a position to oppress anyone and the specific power flow does not align with a white supremacy paradigm?

    Why do dictionaries consistently disagree with this definition of racism? How does defining the term in this way further our discussion of the topic?

  • Reader comment sent to me directly:

    i believe that the definition of “racism” as something only a dominant
    group can have serves no purpose other than to cloud the issue. I do
    believe that white privilege is a very real thing, as is
    institutionalized racism.

    Here’s a real historic situation:

    Until the early 1900s, much of what is Greece today was under Turkish
    power, and Greeks (and all Christians) were second-class citizens.
    When the Greeks took the lands that comprise NE Greece today, Turks
    became second-class citizens and were subject to similar
    discrimination.

    Throughout the period, there were people on both sides of this
    shifting border who believed in the superiority of their own group and
    were bigoted toward those of the other.

    When the border moved and those who were formerly the rulers became
    subjects, did their bigotry suddenly change? Did anything in their own
    character change?

    I would argue that it did not. They gained or lost privilege based on
    the political reality. They found themselves on one side or the other
    of institutionalized prejudice and either benefited (whether they
    acknowledged it or not) or lost accordingly.

    Yet we don’t need to somehow redefine bigotry (I’m avoiding the word
    “race” here even though some of those people do see things in terms of
    race, demonstrating that it is indeed a social construct) to say that
    it can only be practiced by the dominant group. We have perfectly good
    terms to describe that: privilege of the majority and
    institutionalized bigotry.

    One person here gave the example of being discriminated against as a
    white man in a company where all his superiors were black. If it’s an
    empowered majority group within any context discriminating against a
    less-powerful minority, what purpose does it serve to call one’s
    bigotry one thing and another’s bigotry something else, other than to
    cloud the issue?

    Human beings’ most base, primitive and animalistic characteristic is
    the way they divide themselves into an “us” and a “them,” and band
    together against those who have less power in whatever context.
    Straights can be homophobic, so can gays. Christians can be bigoted,
    so can Muslims, and wherever one is the majority, they can and often
    do use that power to disenfranchise the minority group. We don’t need
    a special term for that bigotry because we already have terms.

    So why do we need to redefine racism in such a demonizing and divisive
    way? And why is someone defined (by you) as “racist” when he questions
    it?

  • My response:

    Interesting analogy. I’m half Greek, my Greek grandmother immigrated when she was young. She told me that her family left a chicken cooking in the oven, because the Turks were invading and chopping people into pieces. As a young teenager, she literally ran for her life. My grandparents were not bigoted people or racist, but they hated Turks. Imagine my surprise when I researched the endless conflict and discovered that there were atrocities on both sides.

    Here’s the problem: I can probably pick out a Turk from a Greek more than half the time. Because I lived in Asia, and my children are Chinese, I can discern who is Chinese, Japanese or Thai (for example) 85% of the time. Most white Americans cannot discern anything – except Black and white.

    Racism is this country’s Original Sin. Enslaved people were the number one source of wealth for rich people right up until 1861. It defines everything we are. White people will do anything to avoid the obvious, because to address this directly is embarrassing and humiliating – and begs the question, why haven’t we made reparations? Our great country, founded on slavery? George Washington’s enslaved people weren’t happy and dancing and smiling? Because I’m white, other white people tell me how awful President Obama is, as if it’s some sort of common ground to build a friendship on. Almost like a fraternity handshake.

    Our society feels compelled to humiliate black people; the front runner of the Republican Party has never denied his birther slander against (what any honest evaluation of the facts would describe President Obama as) a great president, who led us out of two unjust wars, led the economy back to recovery out of the worst economic depression since 1934 and gave health insurance to poor people. “Make America Great Again?” What garbage – America is already great, with the longest lived constitution in human history. Trump is a despicable racist, inciting racism among the ignorant.

    Yes, I feel racism is evil, and I’m happy to describe it as such, so that people don’t take false solace. Rather than cloud the issue, my accurate, not redefining, definition helps people gain clarity.

  • I agree with everything you’ve said, but I feel like I have to make a few things clear, since this is an extremely contentious subject that no one seems to be able to agree on.

    Firstly, the definition of ‘racism’ is a prejudice directed against a race based on the idea that one’s own race is superior. What some people like you are trying to do is turn the word ‘racism’ into something that it’s not i.e. “oppression based on racial hierarchy” as you say.

    What you should realise is that the word ‘racism’ means exactly the same thing as ‘bigotry’ except that it is specific to ethnicity. Therefore, if a Person of Colour is bigoted towards a White person and that prejudice is based entirely on their race, then that is racism by definition.

    The point you’re trying to make is that a White person cannot be discriminated against because they hold a privileged position in society and I agree with you completely on this one. White people, whether they are aware of it or not, will experience white privilege and it is almost unheard of for them to be denied an opportunity of some sort based on their race. What I’m trying to make clear is that this is a separate issue from ‘racism’ and is discrimination based on racist beliefs. White people cannot be discriminated against based on their race in a country where white privilege exists.

    However, I also have to make it clear that White people do not always hold a position of power in society. In places where the predominant race is non-European, any foreigner living in that country is a minority and therefore White people can experience racial discrimination in the same way that people of colour do. When a White person encounters this discrimination, their experience is not devalued by the fact that they are White, since they are at the same level in that society’s racial hierarchy as a Person of Colour.

    Therefore reverse racism does exist when a Person of Colour had bigoted beliefs about Europeans based on their race, BUT White people cannot be discriminated against based on race when they hold a privileged position in society.

    I hope you understand what I’m trying to say, I do agree with you, but I think your definitions are a little off and it’s worrying that people believe you. You make it sound as though People of Colour can say whatever they want about Europeans and it’s fair because they have white privilege, but that simply isn’t the case.

    • Your last sentence is completely wrong. Nonwhite people can certainly be hateful, bigoted and discriminatory.

      However, white people have had overwhelming (to the point of being absolute) control over every aspect of power and wealth in both Europe and North America in known history. There is, therefore, no way a nonwhite person on those geographies can be racist.

      Think about it this way – if a Black person is overtly bigoted, they’re going to be unsuccessful – they won’t be able to find a good job, housing – won’t even be able to shop in a mall without being fired, evicted, or thrown out.

      However, until very recently in America, any white person could toss around the n-word At Black people in any of those situations and do just fine. Although that behavior is now socially unacceptable in most circumstances, look at who is the leading republican presidential candidate. A hate spewing racist.

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