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Face Reality About Top Management

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:
I have been a regular reader of DiversityInc for years. As a diversity and EEO professional since the late ’80s, I have incorporated in my message equality, inclusion and respect. I must therefore take exception to your comment in your “Ask the White Guy” column in the Jan./Feb. 2007 edition.

Your reply to the question posed regarding slavery that I take exception to is, “If you believe that all people are created equal, there has to be a reason for this–and there is: racism.”

After sharing this comment with my African-American colleagues, three of which have a combined century of experience at [the hospital where I work], they felt the same way as I do about it. If we cannot present the message of equality, inclusion and respect–without the added mantle being applied of racism can only be by whites, white privilege, denial, etc., being applied to the white males and females during training–then we will never achieve harmony. There are truly the majority in this country who do not get up every day with the thought of discriminating against someone or not feeling guilty because of having privilege. “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed–we hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.” With 89 percent women and minorities making up the employee population base of the hospital, we are living the dream.  

I would be willing to share my experiences with you and discuss some of your “Ask the White Guy” responses that I have read with regard to assertions of white privilege, denial, dominance, etc. As stated earlier, I am in the arena trying with all of my heart and soul to create a society that encompasses diversity with respect and equality. Your magazine has provided an outlet for many corporations to view diversity in a different light. I do not want that light diminished by those who may read your response that I am taking exception to, with dismay.  And, by the way, you can ask me as the other white guy; I am a white male–one of 11 percent who work at the hospital.

Answer:
I appreciate the warm sentiment expressed in your e-mail; however, I cannot think of a single example in history of achieving harmony without first forthrightly addressing reality from the perspective of all the participants.

Because the majority of white people are not overt bigots does not mitigate the reality that wealth and power is disproportionately distributed by factors including race, religion, age, orientation, disability and gender in our country.

I’ve kept the name of the hospital you work for from being public because I know it and feel it is a great institution. However, 89 percent of your work force may be women and/or “minorities,” but despite your hospital being the most progressive I know of, I sure don’t see that distribution in the top management listed on your web site.

This is absolutely normal. A lack of top to bottom representation makes your hospital no different than almost all U.S. corporations and our government; it speaks of the progress our society has yet to make. This progress, by the way, is not just for the justice of it all. Judging from your kindly worded e-mail, I’m sure you would agree that all people are created equal. If so, then talent is distributed equally, and when a system delivers an inequitable result, we must own the fact that we have not selected the most talented people for positions of leadership.

I don’t think that’s going to happen without clearly addressing reality. I’m not suggesting that we white people must engage in a period of self-flagellation or start the journey of diversity training by reading Tim Wise in training programs, but I think that soft-peddling the actual situation enables good-hearted white people to think that “all is well” and nothing more than good thoughts are necessary for progress.

Regarding Dr. King’s “dream” speech, you may want to click here to read my Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speech delivered in Portland, Ore.

I hope you’ll keep e-mailing me. I appreciate and respect your viewpoint.

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