Can a White Person Be a Diversity Leader?

One reader is at a loss for how to handle doubt that she, a white person, is sincere about being a diversity leader. Read this story for the White Guy's advice.

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:

I have been feeling a bit frustrated lately. Here's my situation and I'm looking for some hope and sage advice.

I am a white female and in a role where diversity is a part of my job. The reason it is a part of my job is because I've worked hard to make it so and because of a genuine passion and interest in all things diversity including changing culture. My frustration lies in the fact that lately my motives are being questioned and/or not being taken genuinely (i.e., some people of color are not seeing me as credible or someone who cares about making a difference, therefore, they don't really share their true thoughts/ideas/etc.)

This frustration is leading me to something I've never felt so strongly before. I wish in some regards I was black (or of color) so that I could gain more respect and credibility with my peers. The conflicting point of view I have is that I truly believe in diversity in the highest sense of the word, meaning that just because you are a person of color doesn't mean that you must have an interest in issues regarding people of color, and that just because you are white doesn't mean that you don't care about issues of equality, etc. In fact, the other argument I often hear is when a person of color is working on diversity issues, it's just because of their race.

So my question is this: How do we get to a level of inclusion if it has to be one or the other? Please help before I give up.

Answer:

I don't think you need to change your race to be accepted as credible on diversity issues.

My advice for white people who care is simple:

1. Actions speak louder than words. I am a trustee of Bennett College for Women (an HBCU) and a foundation board member of NJCU (an HSI). Through our foundation, our company donates money to both schools and Rutgers Newark (the most diverse campus in America). We also donate ad space to many good organizations.

2. Know what you're talking about. I am constantly reading books to advance my knowledge. In addition to increasing your cross-cultural knowledge, learn about the history of white people who have fought for civil rights and freedom so you have a basis for pride.

3. Regularly socialize with people who are not in your own group--in your house.

4. Do not deny another person's right to their own reality.

5. Never attempt to communicate in vernacular. If you're white, BE white.

6. Understand there are jackasses in all groups.

In the ten years we've been publishing DiversityInc, I've found far more acceptance than I know my counterparts (of color) find among white people. It's humbling. I would also say that my experiences as a trustee of Bennett College for Women have been the most collegial and rewarding of my professional life.

Two Different Cups of Joe: How The Coffee Bean and Starbucks Handled Racism

In an age of increasing racial confrontations, a business must have zero tolerance for discrimination.

In the Trump era, there has been a proliferation of Islamophobic and racist incidents across the country. When discrimination occurs at a place of business, it's apparent if the company's leadership and workforce support diversity and inclusion. A Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf café barista refused to serve a racist customer; meanwhile, a white manager at a Starbucks called the police on two Black men for no reason.

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Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Executives from Nielsen, New York Life, TIAA and Toyota Motor North America talk about communicating their commitment to D&I management and backing it up with actions that get results.

At the 2018 DiversityInc Top 50 event, more than 400 people were in attendance during the day to hear best practices on effectively managing diversity and inclusion.

Moderator: Luke Visconti, CEO, DiversityInc

Panelists:

  • Angela Talton, Chief Diversity Officer, Nielsen
  • Kathleen Navarro, VP & Chief Diversity Officer, New York Life
  • Steve Larson, Senior Director of Diversity & Inclusion, TIAA
  • Adrienne Trimble, General Manager, Diversity & Inclusion, Toyota Motor North America

We White People Need to Own This

Martin Luther King has been dead for 50 years and Donald Trump is our president. Who is responsible?

REUTERS

Luke Visconti is the founder and CEO of DiversityInc. Although the title of his column is meant to be humorous, the issues he addresses and the answers he gives to questions are serious — and based on his 18 years of experience publishing DiversityInc. Click here to send your own question to Luke.

We will be deluged by Martin Luther King articles and columns today. Some will be excellent, like the one Rev. Jesse Jackson wrote. But most will be saccharine sweet and not say what needs to be said.

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Lisa Garcia Quiroz, Time Warner's First Chief Diversity Officer, Creator of People en Español, Dies at 56

Quiroz was an advocate of diversity and inclusion, education and the arts.

A Latina trailblazer, Lisa Garcia Quiroz, senior vice president and chief diversity officer at Time Warner Inc., and president of the Time Warner Foundation, died Friday at age 56 after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. An advocate of diversity and inclusion, education and the arts, Quiroz created a dynamic legacy.

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The Chief of Staff Needs to Get Off His Privileged Racist Ass and Do Some Homework

And his draft-dodging boss needs to put his juvenile visions of military dictatorship out of his head.

REUTERS

Luke Visconti is the founder and CEO of DiversityInc. Although the title of his column is meant to be humorous, the issues he addresses and the answers he gives to questions are serious — and based on his 18 years of experience publishing DiversityInc. Click here to send your own question to Luke.

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