Are White Men Racist When They Ignore Ethnicity?

There's no business case for diversity unless you make it, says DiversityInc's CEO Luke Visconti. How can a company manage diversity to produce positive results?

Luke Visconti's Ask the White Guy column is a top draw on 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.


I work for a major oil-manufacturing company. I am a Hispanic woman in my mid-40s. My company is very committed to diversity and inclusiveness and we have had a Diversity Council (of which I have been a member for about six years) and we also have various Diversity Networks. We are planning a Diversity Open House later this year to promote our Networks, etc. We are planning on sending out a voluntary survey to all of our 750 employees to gather interesting diverse facts to show that we are a very successful company and that is due to so many diverse backgrounds, etc. Members of our Diversity Council (most of the white ones) want to ask questions like, "What is your favorite ice cream? What is your favorite color?" What? They're even worried about asking what is your ethnicity? They don't want to ask what other languages do you speak; they will ask do you speak another language. I don't get it. Do you have a survey that you can recommend that has been used in other large organizations that has shown good results with true diverse questions?


Not only is your company's survey useless, it takes your company a giant step backwards by trivializing diversity management. As described, your survey will not materially connect diversity with business success. Therefore, it will be correctly viewed as non-professional claptrap by most people at your company.


You might think that it's self-apparent to believe that diversity is "good" for business. I don't think that's true, nor do I believe it's proper to have a "belief" guide business--a "belief" is an acceptance of an intangible. I leave "beliefs" for religion. Business runs on facts.

Here's the fundamental fact about diversity: Diversity by itself has nothing to do with business success. A company must manage the diversity it has to produce business results.

The reason you're getting silly questions from your majority-culture council members is because they are dismissive of the relative value of other races/cultures. This is normal behavior; we all define culture from our own perception. Uneducated perception often leads to incorrect conclusions. For example, people believed for many centuries that the earth is flat. We're no more intelligent as a species than we were 1000 years ago--but we're less ignorant. Think about it.

If the white people on your Diversity Council had diversity training, it wasn't meaningful. That's not uncommon: Most diversity training I've seen is garbage.

From the majority perception, your ethnicity and even your gender are just as meaningful as the flavor of your favorite ice cream. Questions that value other cultures/genders/orientations/age groups or disabilities equally with the majority culture* are usually an insult by the majority. That's why you often see rage from creepy Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity when people far more educated and accomplished, like Judge Sotomayor, make statements they don't have the capacity to understand.

The fact that your "Diversity Committee" is sitting around dreaming this stuff up also tells me your company's management is sitting on a potential publicity disaster. Keep in mind that it was an oil company executive who came up with the dopey "marbles" comment that destroyed more than $1 billion in Texaco market capitalization.

Not only is a potential liability out there, given your question, I doubt your company is reaping the rewards of proper diversity management.

Correctly implemented, diversity management increases the engagement of ALL employees by building the corporate culture that demands equity in outcome. This is because people who feel they're being treated fairly will be more engaged. Engaged people are more productive--and more innovative.

Engagement, productivity and innovation are measurable and quantifiable. This is how you prove the business case for diversity at your company.

You will note that there are no oil companies in our DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity. Much like the price of gasoline is apparently coordinated, there seems to be agreement among companies such as Shell, ExxonMobil and Chevron not to participate in the DiversityInc Top 50. So, to answer your question, no, I don't have a survey I care to share with your oil company.

*In this country, the majority culture is white, male, heterosexual and Christian with no ADA-defined disability.

Jury Awards $28M to Haitian-American Nurse Who Stood Up for Coworker

Brigham and Women's Hospital retaliated against a nurse for defending a coworker amid alleged verbal abuse.

Gessy Toussaint — who shares the name of the best-known leader of the Haitian Revolution, Toussaint L'Ouverture — also believes in fighting against the odds and winning.

A Suffolk Superior Court jury ruled on Wednesday that Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, Mass., retaliated against Toussaint, a Haitian-American nurse who stood up for a colleague, and has awarded her $28 million. Deliberation took more than three days.

Read More Show Less

Racist Train Rider Charged with Hate Crime for Rant at Black Woman: Video

"I'll smack the [expletive] out of you, you loud mouth monkey [expletive]," Edward Ruggiero said to Soraya Orelien.


Being a racist is ignorant and costly.

The Queens, N.Y., district attorney on Wednesday charged Edward Ruggiero, who was caught on video hurling racist insults at a Black woman on the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR), with a hate crime.

Read More Show Less

‘Get The F*** Out of’ My Country, Armed Man Says to Muslims

"Get the f*** out of here, you don't deserve American food."


More racists are feeling emboldened to rear their hateful heads in Trump's America.

Read More Show Less

Why They Take a Knee — Parking Violation Results in Savage, Racist Cop Behavior: Video

"My experience in January with the Milwaukee Police Department was wrong and shouldn't happen to anybody," said NBA player Sterling Brown.

Milwaukee's school-to-prison pipeline for Black students is notoriously awful. In Milwaukee County, more than half of Black men in their thirties have served time in prison. The racism and racial profiling that perpetually exists in the city is again in the national spotlight as police used excessive force on a Black NBA player.

Read More Show Less

Twenty-one white people (including seven male board members and CEO Steve Simon) of a total of 22 people in the World Tennis Association's (WTA) management made the call to boot Serena Williams from seeding for the French Open for having a baby.

Read More Show Less

Be careful if you park under a tree in the warm weather — you might get accused of having marijuana in your car.

Read More Show Less

Vickers "Vic" Cunningham, a former Dallas judge who's running in the Republican primary runoff election for Dallas county commissioner on Tuesday, decided to provide his children a monetary incentive to condone homophobia and racism. Cunningham set up a living trust with a clause rewarding his children if they marry a white, straight Christian.

Read More Show Less