Ask the White Guy: Are White Men the New Victims on College Campuses?

Have the tables turned on white men? What should they do about it?

Question:


A colleague recently asked for my thoughts on a George Will column that described several incidents on college campuses where bigotry was directed at white men.

Answer:

George Will lifted a bunch of incidents from one website (thefire.org) that has a specific point of view. In my opinion, they're using outlier events to concoct a trend. Nationwide, there are millions of college students—more than 800 universities granting doctoral-level degrees, thousands more four-year and two-year colleges—and here we have but a handful of questionable incidents, including some terrible mistakes and errors in judgment. Are there more than what's reported here? Sure—but given that the entire mission of thefire.org is to bring these incidents to light, it's still pretty sparse when viewed in context.

How many mistakes were made in the other direction (from white men to everyone else) during the time we've been alive? How many mistakes are currently being made? I can't imagine that the overrepresented white men in academe are the most put-upon group of people—yet, here's George Will (and Greg Lukianoff) trying to make a trend out of a bunch of unconnected dots.

He—and we—need to start looking forward. Rutgers' graduating class at its last commencement was less than 50 percent white—and less than 50 percent men. Our future as Americans demands that we older white men understand our obligation to make sure our communications are crafted in a way that is received and absorbed, so we may successfully hand off our knowledge of being a good citizen.

This country has made its mistakes, but we have also liberated hundreds of millions of people in the last 100 years. As a combat veteran, you know this more than most. Was it worth it? Look at South Korea now. I'd say it was.

Korea's success is a mirror of ours (as well as Germany's and Japan's). We have the world's largest GDP because people can come here and achieve more of their inherent potential than anywhere else on the planet. This is entirely due to our struggle to advance human and civil rights. Our constitution is the longest-lived constitution on the planet, amended over time to abolish slavery and include women in the governmental process. Through legislative acts, our government has also ensured voting rights and civil rights, and included people with disabilities. With the end of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, we're quickly moving to include our LGBT friends and neighbors in full citizenship as well. The demographics of our country have evolved; the white men of the Boomer and Traditional generations must ensure that our knowledge of the best of what it means to be an American is passed down.

We can't do that if we're needlessly obsessing over slights. Almost all of my nonwhite, non-male, non-heterosexual counterparts in business aren't obsessing over the slights dealt to them—they're looking forward.

So should we.

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.

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