Ask the White Guy: Is It OK to Alter Your Standards to Conform to Another Culture

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.


Question:

[Here] is an honest question that hit me this week after a briefing from the Afghan Marine Brigade commander. My comment is regarding the eminent [sic] repeal of DADT. If it is repealed and gays are serving openly, what happens in the Middle East and Afghanistan I am certain Al Qaida and the Taliban will use this as recruiting propaganda in Iraq and Afghanistan. Sorry if it seemed offensive, I am an ENDP (Myers-Briggs) and it is in my nature to ask tough questions that bring out the strongest arguments from people. I think it is critical to examine the impact of these decisions. I think the timing for the repeal is very, very bad.

Answer:

This is a good question—and a common theme in diversity management. The answer goes back to defining values.

Our culture is increasingly demanding respect for people’s orientation. As Admiral Mullen said in the congressional hearing about ending “don’t ask, don’t tell” (DADT), “No matter how I look at the issue, I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens.” I think he did a magnificent job in simply expressing the crux of this matter. President Obama recently put a deadline on ending DADT. It’s just about over; our country’s values have been expressed. Many gay and lesbian troops have served in the two wars we’ve been fighting for the past eight years (as they have served since our Revolution). We are at the threshold of finally respecting our service people and veterans for the whole people they are.

In my opinion, it is damaging to change our values to conform to other people’s values.*

The minute we cede our values, we put ourselves on a slippery slope. What’s next Their culture doesn’t allow women to be in positions of authority (outside the house) OK, women won’t serve in this area. Hmm, what about Secretary Clinton (or Secretary Rice, before her) No problem, we’ll send a man. Don’t like Christians, Hindus, Buddhists or Jews Of course—we’ll send a Muslim.

Oh, oh—now WE look and act like the Taliban.

History demonstrates that you can win the war by projecting power kinetically, but you win the peace by projecting values. What is more of a recruiting aid to al-Qaeda Upholding our civil and human rights—or our side torturing people and bending the law with “flights of rendition” I think we help extremists best when we are hypocritical.

* This is not meant to give license to be rude. Do you prefer modest dress No problem, we’ll dress modestly. Don’t drink alcohol or eat pork No problem, we’ll serve you halal meals and we can skip the beer today to be hospitable. Is it Ramadan No problem, we won’t have a business lunch.

Sexuality shouldn’t typically come up in a business setting. For example, it’s not acceptable to make out with or fondle someone in a business meeting, or a squadron picnic, in the cockpit, on the firing line, or out on patrol. Now if you ask about someone’s family, you may hear something that is different than what you do (in my case, my wife and I adopted children that are not our race). That’s OK—as a reader recently wrote, “I’m not different than you, I’m different like you.”

One last thing: Our constitutional protections on religion mean that the end of DADT and a religion’s rights are separate. Our Constitution protects your church, synagogue or temple from ever having to marry two men or two women. Those are our American values.

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