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The Future of Diversity Debate: Education & Economic Status

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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:
Do you believe that a focus on socioeconomic status and level of education will get greater attention and debate from the diversity community in the future?

Answer:
I hope so.

Realistically, race/gender and socioeconomic status in the United States are directly linked because of hundreds of years of legal discrimination. Aside from the inability for Black people to amass wealth during legalized slavery and Jim Crow, legal barriers to voting, education and capital only fell in 1964, 1965 and 1977 (Civil Rights, Voting Rights and Community Reinvestment acts, respectively).

Simply by analyzing wealth, income and education of our constituent communities, we can see that Blacks, for example, have not achieved equity–specifically due to race. However, it is an increasingly complex picture because of the rising middle class of Blacks and their exceptional educational achievements.


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The situation for American Indian-, Latino- and women-headed households has also become more complex. For example, our DiversityInc Top 50 statistics show that Asian Americans are still underrepresented in middle and top management, yet it is difficult to paint a stereotypical economic portrait of Asian Americans because of the changing Asian socioeconomic demographics created by the repeal of the Chinese Exclusionary Act (1943) and the end of non-white immigration quotas in the mid-1960s.

This is why I think the focus in the future should be on socioeconomic and education status–with an adjudicating eye toward ensuring equity across race and gender.

If the outcome is equity, then the entire way we look at problems changes. Instead of incremental changes in education, for example, we would make sweeping changes.

By the “diversity community,” I’ll assume you’re referring to corporate America. I think that the practices that prove beneficial to society are also good for corporate America, because the underpinning issues are the same: human and civil rights.

How this plays out in the workplace is direct and clear. For example, your mentoring programs should be for all employees, not just Black and women employees (a common mistake). Your most talented employee might just be a white, heterosexual man, with no ADA-defined disabilities who grew up in a poor neighborhood and had parents who were not corporate. Without mentoring, that man may never reach his potential.

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5 Comments

  • What you’re quoting isn’t “scientific data”, it’s eugenic pseudoscience. For those of you who are not familiar with this line of racist thinking, do a web search for the “Pioneer Fund.”

    That different groups test differently is well known. The effects of colonial/economic oppression, slavery, poverty, malnutrition and organized societal damage (i.e. Jim Crow laws) to entire cultures are all factors to explain these differences.

    I can find no valid scientific study that shows a genetic difference between groups of people – quite the contrary: There is plenty of evidence to discount the notion of race entirely.

  • There is another statistic that linearly tracks socio-economic status. It is I.Q. It is no accident that more intelligent people are more economically successful. Through the years numerous studies have proven and confirmed that there is significant disparity in I.Q. between different racial groups. It is not surprising that sub-Saharan Africans and indigenous Australians (Aborigines) consistently show IQs far below the mean of most European and Asian countries. These are the poorest and least advanced people groups in the world. In a melting pot like America we have people who are closely genetically linked to those with the highest I.Q.’s (some Asians and some Jews) and some closely genetically linked to those with the lowest I.Q.’s (black Africans and Aborigines). Some of us are closely linked to both! It is not discrimination to say this, merely reporting of scientific data. To expect economic equity between these groups is unrealistic. There will, of course, be members of the various race groups that operate outside a few standard deviations of the group norm. They are exceptions, not the rule. This is perhaps a fact that makes us uncomfortable, but it is fact nonetheless….even attested to by various Nobel Laureates. I would like us to note that I.Q. is NOT the only significant difference between races on earth, but it is the one that is most likely to affect economic prosperity. We should celebrate these differences and not seek to deny or ignore them. That is true diversity.

  • Mr. Jones’ citation of “pseudoscience” is yet another ploy to marginalize the rest of society and further propagate the destruction of esteem in people not in the, so-called, majority culture. It is clear that the problems are complex, and each sub-problem is complex (i.e., IQ), but to assert fiction as though it is fact does a disservice to all-but most importantly to your own overall growth. It is my belief that education and economic status are the true roots of the problems that those of us who promote diversity have to begin to explain and rectify. When obstructionism to a quality education is eliminated and every person is afforded the opportunity to reach their god-given potential, the inevitable result will be economic inclusion and equity. This will take time, but the pursuit and attainment of a quality education has, and always will be, the true method to ensure the appreciation of diversity as I understand it.

  • Why we still need affirmative action: Exhibit A – Mr. George Jones’ response.

    There are folks in decision-making positions that think this way! We something to protect the affected populations from this wrong thinking.

  • Anonymous

    To Mr. George’s response, using the IQ test and other test to measure a persons overall ability is the problem. What I score on a test does not measure my potential, it measures what I have been exposed to. So if I have only been exposed to a lower standard of living then that’s what’s reflecting on the test not my potential. Take someone out of unfavorable conditions and give them an education. You will find the true man/woman/black/white/asian etc…

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