Does Reverse Discrimination Exist?

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:

A situation I have always wondered about is the preponderance of companies that have instituted work-force diversity programs and the conflict of “true work-force diversity” with white privilege. Let me explain. White privilege suggests that as a white executive, my children, nieces, nephews are able to benefit from the legacy of white dominance that has helped me (the white executive) benefit in corporate America.

Now introduce work-force diversity. This notion threatens that legacy. My children, nieces and nephews now have to compete with new “diverse” players that I never had to compete with. Note that I’m not white but am using the first person for effect. In any event, as the “White Guy,” tell me your thoughts about this conflict and how the White Guy feels about this.Thanks for your response.

Answer:

Many white people perceive a problem (reverse discrimination), but I don’t think it exists.

Considering our changing demographics and globalizing economy, not considering diversity means that a company is going to draw talent from a decreasing pool. This is a losing proposition. Sustainable organizations incorporate the best talent they can find and effectively engage the marketplace as it exists.

Companies on the DiversityInc Top 50 employ 5 percent of the American work force but 17 percent of college educated people of color. They don’t do this to be nice, they’re hiring the mix of people they feel will best help them deal with their business.

White people have more to fear from working for, supplying or investing in a company that ignores diversity than one that embraces it.

Most white people don’t “get it” because they frame the world through their own filters. That’s why you hear white people say things like “I’m colorblind” or “You’re normal” (as a “compliment” to a non-white/straight/non-disabled person).

All people have their own way of looking at things depending on who they are, but the benefit of being white (and straight and without disabilities) is that you never have to consider someone else’s filters.

Most white people go through a good deal of pain and frustration when they see spots they assumed were “theirs” go to people who don’t look like them. I’d say that many (most) white people think that most people of color in positions of authority are not qualified to hold them.

In my opinion, this is a byproduct of not wanting to face the truth about why things are the way they are. It rubs against white-guy culture, which takes pride in the opinion that everything is a meritocracy. Just listen to Rush Limbaugh for a few days.

I think I’ll pull myself up by my bootstraps and go get some aspirin.

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