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‘You Don’t Look White,’ Reader Tells White Guy

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.

The same reader who asks the White Guy why the descendants of African tribal leaders shouldn’t pay reparations for slavery also questions his racial/ethnic identity. Here’s what the White Guy has to say.

Ask the White Guy Luke ViscontiQuestion:
If you think white people owe reparations to black people for being slaves, why not bill the descendants of the ancestral African tribal leaders, who having won their tribal wars then sold the losing tribes into slavery to the white slavers as well?

Answer:
I don’t think “white people” owe reparations, I think the United States of America does. Justice would be served if all people involved in the slave trade paid reparations; however, our country would benefit the most by an aggressive reparations program, because most descendants of American slaves still live in this country.

Reparations should be goaled to restore descendants of slaves to the median economic level of wealth in this country. It is important to define what reparations could be—it’s not simply handing a check to people. Remedial investments in education, housing and employment opportunity would benefit all Americans by lifting an oppressed group to enable them to achieve the human potential they were born with. I don’t think it’s that important to genetically justify reparations—all black people are subject to the racism in our culture. The percentage of people who would benefit from reparations but were not descendants of slaves is statistically insignificant.

It is the work of free people that creates wealth. Although our country has not been perfect, our human rights are what have made us a powerful nation. Reparations are a natural extension of that process.

Question:
You don’t look “white.” Are you of Italian descent? I thought Italians are Latins, not white. But there again, I might just be an ignorant white woman.

Answer:
Ironically, one of my earliest memories is being told I was “passing” at a friend’s fourth birthday party in East Orange, N.J. No doubt that my ancestors have some African relatives—but so do yours. As the human-genome project demonstrates, we’re all from Africa and there is no such thing as race. Have a nice day, fellow person of African descent!

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2 Comments

  • Federico Forlano

    I am of Italian heritage as well. Growing up I always got asked if I was Italian, Mexican, Jewish, Arab, Greek etc. It seems to matter to a lot of people for some reason.

  • Federico Forlano

    A follow up- Recently, I went to have a form filled out at a local government office. It only took a few minutes of time and the lady was very friendly. But after a few minutes of small talk I tried to be polite and let her know I needed to get going. She then said that she didn’t know how to ask me and said “What are you”? I asked what she meant and she said she had to check a box for “white”, “hispanic” or “native american”. I politely told her to choose one for me and left.

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