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A Comprehensive List of Work Roles White People Should Never Be Selected For...

Of course, I'm kidding with that title.  I'm not the authority on the PC-ness of white people in roles that are typically exclusively held by non-whites.  

But I gotta tell you, I have some opinions.  First, I think there's a lot of roles that white people don't belong in.  Here's a taste of Closedduetocolonialsimsome of those roles:

--Any leadership position at a HBCU...

--Leadership positions with Diversity titles in Corporate America...

--Matt Damon playing the lead in a movie set in Song dynasty China (I get it - he's a mercenary from Europe, but still.. Can we find a Chinese star for a movie about the Song years?) 

White people in certain roles is a non-starter. Many of you would/will argue the other way.  But common sense tells me there's more than enough talent in the world without a member of honkytown landing in these roles, even if you're arguing the tried and true "the best person should be selected" mantra.  

Turns out you might have bigger fish to fry related to what roles IT IS APPROPRIATE for white people to be in. 

From the school of "you can't make this up", the Washington Post reports there's a movement afoot in Portland, Oregon to stop white people from stealing culinary ideas from other cultures, which is called appropriation by those seeking to stop white folks from starting any type of restaurant that's not a Irish potato bar. Here you go:

Portland, Ore., has become the epicenter in a growing movement to call out white people who profit off the culinary ideas and dishes swiped from other cultures.

In the days since two white women were shamed into shutting down their pop-up burrito cart after telling a reporter that they had “picked the brains of every tortilla lady” in Puerto Nuevo, Mexico, Portland has become all but fed up with cultural appropriation within its city limits. One writer has stated, flat out, that “Portland has an appropriation problem,” going on to explain (the boldface emphasis is the writer’s):

Because of Portland’s underlying racism, the people who rightly own these traditions and cultures that exist are already treated poorly. These appropriating businesses are erasing and exploiting their already marginalized identities for the purpose of profit and praise.

Someone in the City of Roses has even created a Google doc, listing the white-owned restaurants that have appropriated cuisines outside their own culture. For each entry, the document suggests alternative restaurants owned by people of color. One “Appropriative Business” is Voodoo Doughnut, the small doughnut chain accused of profiting off a religion thought to combine African, Catholic and Native American traditions.

That's a lot, right?  As noted in the lead, I'm a believer in the fact that white people shouldn't be in certain types of diversity roles - there's enough talent in the world where the aforementioned roles shouldn't be filled by someone named Ricky Bobby.  But in the slippery slope of workplaces and what's appropriate, I'm drawing the line and saying that if a white person wants to risk some capital and sell mediocre fajitas and Corona Lights, they shouldn't draw the ire of the PC police.

HR Director of a HBCU?  No.  Owner of LaCocina?  Sure.

If someone wants to risk their capital, so be it.  The dirty little secret is that the owners of these businesses, white or otherwise, will likely employ an employer base that's majority non-white. 

Of course, the great thing about this argument is that the market will decide how far the appropriation movement can go, and if you click through to the WaPo article, you'll see that people are overwhelming bashing the appropriation crowd in the comments, even going so far as promising to patronize the white-owned establishments listed in the Google doc link above to show their support and ensure the owners aren't bullied.

Fire away in the comments.  Where can whites play in a non-white world from an employment perspective?

Comments

Micole Kaye

Yes! Thank you! So true. Someone had to say it...

Tammi

I agree with you to some extent, however you're only referencing racial diversity when you mention no white people in "diversity" roles. There's more than just race in diversity, for example sexuality. But by and large, we do need to see more PoC included in these roles.

As to the second part, here's the thing. Don't appropriate other people's culture. If you want to own a doughnut shop, great. Don't call it Voodoo Donut - call it something else that's not someone else's religion. Or if you want to open a tortilla truck, don't call it a Spanish name like La Cocina if you're not Spanish, (just call it Tortilla Kitchen for goodness sakes). Or call it El Gringo's; it's a self-deprecating nod to your take on someone else's culture without trying to take over their culture. Make sense? There's always a way to be less of a jerk.

KD

Micole - thx

Tammi - OK, good thoughts. I can't get my head around your mid-ground to the appropriation question in ownership, though. If someone has capital, an appreciation for the culture enough to form a business around it, etc, I can't see that as offensive. But I understand and respect your take on finding the middle ground.

Tortilla Kitchen though? ZZzzzzz. I kid. Sort of...

KD

Anne

I didn't read the full Washington Post article, but there is some context from our history in Portland that makes this conversation relevant. I appreciate anyone stepping into the challenges of starting and running a small business, but we in Portland have an ugly history of making it tough for people of color to thrive here and there's a push to make an effort to support people of color who are running restaurants or other businesses- to embrace the diversity instead of continuing in our predominantly white ways. Here's an interesting piece of history that may add some context to the conversation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fo2RVOunsZ8&t=10s.
Thanks for sharing this post! I wasn't aware of this article.

sara anderson

I think given the very recent events regarding racial and religious hatred in Portland, the timing of your post is terribly poor. That said, it's sad that you buy-in to this idea that the color of someone's skin dictates their ability to run a diversity division. White, brown, or black, skin color doesn't equate to life experience, empathy, compassion, or intelligence. I think those are much more powerful & useful qualifiers. Maybe the sentiment should be - if your whole diversity division is comprised of one race/ethnicity, look at your hiring process. You need diversity in your recruiting efforts. - Your logic makes as much sense as saying don't hire a black person to run a museum because they wouldn't be educated enough. You're making assumptions about someone's ability to do a job based on color and that's ridiculous.

KD

Hi Sara -

You're part of the audience I expected to get all over me for saying what's true - maybe a white candidate doesn't belong in a diversity role. I get what you're saying and could argue the point you're making. I just think that if we're really getting behind diversity, maybe the person leading that function shouldn't be white. Seems reasonable to me.

Of course, that was just a mere set up to the concept of appropriation. I'm assuming based on your comments that you're fine with white people starting eateries that serve something other than things that originate from the continent or that are burgers and fries. If not, I need to hear that contrast. :)

Regarding the timing of the post - appropriation as a topic in Portland eateries is interesting to me. I'm up to speed on the news and I guess you're saying I'm insensitive to the train incident, etc. What's the statute of limitations? What about hate crimes in other towns? Cmon, we don't talk about anything? Or do we just talk about the things that don't run the risk of offending anyone?

KD

Sara

You know I've read your blog for years and have shared many a post with coworkers, but today I think you've bitten the trendy bullet. It's cool to dog white people. Take your article and replace every "white" with "black" and your Ricky Bobby reference with Madea- make you a little nauseous? It should - now before you go thinking I am an uptight white chick, you're only half right. Humor is good. We don't have enough of it in our world today. But I think your logic is misguided and uninformed. Betsy DeVos running a diversity division? Horrid idea - but I know a lot of white people who are part of the liberal groups I volunteer with who would be tremendous in that kind of role. You know who started the NAACP don't you? Wiith respect to who starts what kind of restaurant I think if someone has the talent, vision and determination to do it, they should. If the food isn't authentic enough people won't eat there. Who gives a crap who makes the food? Everyone on a moral and racial high horse when it comes to "cultural appropriation" but they don't worry about who makes their clothes or iPhone right? This is the hypocritical crap that gives liberals a bad name.

Sara

Oh and I forgot to respond regarding your thoughts about Portland. What happened there this weekend was stunning and horrific. It was an act of terrorism. I think putting this is your file for a month would have been a better idea than literally throwing it out to the interwebs just days later. And I guess since you find the idea of white folks making tacos so offensive you wouldn't eat at any of the burger joints owned by immigrants right? Or are we back to the hypocrisy?

Karen H.

I would tend to agree with Sara that it has become trendy to dog white people. Are there opportunities in my life that could be tied to "white privilege"? Maybe. But my Jewish great-great grandpa came over from Eastern Europe in the 1880s with nothing and worked hard to build a business (selling supplies to loggers from a backpack and eventually his business became a dry goods store).

With regard to appropriation... I am really over the hysteria around cultural appropriation. Is it wrong to appreciate other cultures by learning how to make their food, for example? Is it appropriation when white guys rap? I just watched the movie Hidden Figures. Is it wrong of me to have really enjoyed and literally cheered for Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughn, and Mary Jackson for all of their triumphs throughout the movie? I am honestly upset that I hadn't learned about them in school. (And I went to diverse, inner-city middle and high school, so I feel like the students in my schools would have really appreciated learning about black women who were a big part of making the space program successful. And as a note, two of the most notable people from my hometown are Malcolm X and Magic Johnson.)

The US is supposed to be a "mixing bowl", not a "salad bowl." We get better by learning about each other and appreciating the backgrounds different people bring to this country. We tell our kids that they can be whatever they want to be, so why couldn't my kids be head of diversity somewhere?

Bryan

Sara that posted at 7:38 yesterday - You've misread the article and KD's opinion on restaurants/food. His article was about certain diversity positions, not food establishments.. read: "HR Director of a HBCU? No. Owner of LaCocina? Sure."

Zack

Karen,

While I appreciate the point you are trying to make with "mixing bowl" and "salad bowl", I feel like I stand on the opposite side of that argument.

In a "mixing bowl", we all become a homogeneous group: everyone becoming the same. That is far from what our end game should be. We lose our individuality, our origins. By contrast, I like the idea of a "salad bowl". In that scenario, to me, will all get to retain our individuality. The difference is we are aware that everyone is different and the goal is to use each other's strengths to accentuate one another.

What we don't need to be is a "salad bar", a world where everyone is isolated until it is necessary to come together. I may be taking these metaphors a bit too far; but you get where I'm going.

As far as the article is concerned, I don't see why white people can't hold diversity related positions. By barring them for those roles, you are generalizing that they will never be as sympathetic or respectful of other races. It should be taken as a sign of respect that they want to champion causes for diversity and inclusion. Just as an appropriated restaurant, to me, is a sign of respect and admiration of another culture. Just because "mama" didn't make it, doesn't mean it's not authentic.

Thank you to all who trudged through to the end.

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