'Uninformed and Inarticulate'

A reader argues that there's a double standard for using racial slurs. The White Guy disagrees.

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 enjoy your column very much, but your answer was really off on this one.

The reason white people under 40 are accustomed to speaking to black people in slang is because GenXers and MillGens live a highly INTEGRATED life. The fact is, because of athletic scholarships and affirmative-action programs, there are a lot of uninformed, inarticulate black people on college campuses, and white people have a lot of exposure to the "Ebonic" dialect during the years at school and thereafter.

Black people say the things that Don Imus was fired for all the time and yet the black leadership refuses to call them out on it. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton serve as enablers.

The reason your reader is confused is because she doesn't comprehend that white people will not stand for a double standard, even if black people think they are entitled to one.

Answer:

I've met plenty of "uninformed and inarticulate" people; most of them were white. This is a function of proportion: Most people in this country are white, and I find that ignorance is a fairly equal problem across all groups.

Although I hear language from comedians and music talent that is simply disgraceful and could not be used in a professional environment by anyone, none of the black people I know condone a double standard (quite the opposite). If you follow the money on who is profiting from the garbage-language hip hop and comedy, it is white people that consume most of the product and white people who own and control most of the production and distribution channels. This too is a function of proportion--and of exploitation and privilege.

You're right, younger generations are more diverse; however, our public-school system has never been more segregated. Your opinions indicate a sheltered and closed life, which is a symptom of living in those conditions. People who limit themselves like you apparently tend to rely on stereotypes to help frame their world in terms that their small minds can comprehend.

I suggest you focus less on pundits and more on people actually in the situation--in the case of Imus, you can review comments from people like Coach C. Vivian Stringer, Bruce Gordon (CBS board member) and Gwen Ifill (PBS commentator who was called a "cleaning woman" by Imus). I think you'll find their comments to be much more relevant and informative. I also think the waffling exhibited by NBC and CBS executives speaks very eloquently for itself. They didn't make a choice until sponsors made their next step obvious: A show without sponsors would be described by the IRS as a "hobby."

In my opinion, the major "mainstream" networks and publications demonstrate a very unsophisticated and limited worldview when they turn to the same people in every case involving African Americans. It serves their audience and advertisers as well as having Ralph Reed be the sole spokesperson for white men in every case that involves them.

In closing, I appreciate your e-mail. It would be very boring to receive nothing but e-mail that agrees with me. Here is some unsolicited advice: Please consider broadening your reality. A closed mind is the greatest limitation to fulfilling potential.

 

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