ASK THE WHITE GUY BY LUKE VISCONTI
We Do Not Live
in a ‘Colorblind’
Q: Dr. Martin Luther King said, “... not by the color of
their skin, but by the content of their character.” But in
your Ask the White Guy column, you said, “... you’ll
see (DiversityInc) primarily focus on race and gender.”
A: I’m glad this question came up. I celebrated Dr.
Martin Luther King’s holiday in Portland, Ore. Bernie
Foster, publisher of The Skanner newspaper, invited
me to be the keynote speaker at his Dr. Martin
Luther King Day Celebration. There were more than
1,200 people in the audience, including one of
Oregon’s senators, a congressman, the governor and
Portland’s mayor. My speech focused on the work left
undone by the civil-rights era and the potential our
country has squandered by not making that investment. I leveraged the misuse of Dr. King’s “I Have a
Dream” speech to make my points.
Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech is often taken
out of context to promote a “colorblind” world. If you
read the entire speech, he begins by telling us that the
Constitution and Declaration of Independence promised that “black men as well as white men would be
guaranteed the ‘unalienable Rights’ of ‘Life, Liberty
and the pursuit of Happiness.’”
He explained that this obligation had not been fulfilled and “instead of honoring this sacred obligation,
America has given the Negro people a bad check, a
check which has come back marked ‘insufficient funds.’”
Dr. King makes it clear that he is telling us that we
In what has become the most popular area of DiversityInc.com,
Luke Visconti offers readers the opportunity to confidentially ask
questions regarding diversity. You can find all questions and
answers at www.DiversityInc.com/ATWG. Luke is one of two
business partners who own and run DiversityInc. He directs all
editorial and circulation functions.
don’t get to the “colorblind” vision of “my four little
children will one day live in a nation where they will
not be judged by the color of their skin but by the
content of their character” until we have made good
on our obligation.
The check has not yet cleared the bank. We do not
have a “colorblind” society. If we did, we would have
equitable representation in all aspects of our society.
Fifty percent women senators, for example, or 10 percent gay and out Fortune 500 CEOs, etc. Certainly,
black households would not have one-tenth the
wealth of white households.
Q: Oprah & Cosby: donor fatigue. Me: taxpayer fatigue.
White Guy, do you think women and minorities will be
appreciably different by 2028, so that they won’t
“need” free stuff for their sex and/or skin color?
A: If you believe all people are created equal, then the
timeline to end affirmative action is easy to determine: We can end affirmative action when household
income is statistically within one standard deviation
for all races.
This is a simple and fair measure of the equity in
our society. It will take some work to make this happen; however, it is the only way for our country to
truly show that we have the strength of our own convictions. If you do the math, you can tell that whatever investment we need to make will be miniscule
compared with the benefit our entire economy will
reap. For example, if black households had the same
median wealth of white households, it would be
equivalent to injecting the entire GDP of Japan into
our economy—every year.
Please understand that this isn’t wealth redistribution. This is simply removing the impediments to talent development. There are several precedents for
societal change on this scale. For example, the G.I.
Bill gave education to veterans returning from World
War II and Korea. This democratized higher education. Our country went from an industrial/agrarian
society to a knowledge-worker society in one generation. The resulting creation of wealth due to the more
effective use of human capital in this country was
unprecedented in human history. DI