That’s what Coca-Cola wants me to do.
A diversity training program at Coca-Cola gives pointers on how to be less white. I’m going to take it to heart and try to be more Asian, in ways that I’ll describe momentarily.
First, as background, the program said that the way to be less white is to:
- be less oppressive
- be less arrogant
- be less certain
- be less defensive
- be more humble
- break with apathy
- break with white solidarity
Breaking with solidarity will be easy for me. That’s because I’m an olive-skinned Italian and was only one of two Italians in my high school graduating class. Just about all the other students were Anglo-Saxon and from the wealthy side of the tracks.
The New York Times, the paragon of racial enlightenment and inclusivity, used to refer to Italians as swarts, because of their swarthy complexion. And Look Magazine, the CNN of its day in terms of the audience said that baseball great Joe DiMaggio was not a typical Italian because he didn’t put bear grease in his hair and reek of garlic.
Italians are just one of the hundred or so unique ethnocultural groups in the U.S. lumped together in the contrived “white” category, which encompasses different skin shades, nationalities, values, customs, socioeconomic classes, histories, and nose sizes. (The last is mentioned because my nose is my most prominent feature.)
But if Coke wants to stereotype me and other so-called whites as being genetically programmed to behave in certain ways, I’m not going to be defensive about it. In fact, I’m going to try to be non-white by being like Asians.
To start, I have to decide which of the unique nationalities and ethnocultural groups in the Asian category I should model. To consider just several of them, should I model the Han Chinese, the Japanese, the Koreans, the Malaysians, the Vietnamese, the Cambodians, the Filipinos, or the East Indians?
Selfishly, I’ll choose East Indians, because they have the highest income of all racial/ethnic groups in the U.S.—and because I love Indian food. They also have a high incidence of nuclear families, are industrious, and excel academically, especially in science, math, and computer technology. Oh, and like the Patel clan that has a lock on independent hotels and motels in the U.S., they are good at funding each other’s entrepreneurial endeavors.
Now I have to decide which caste to model. Since most Indian-Americans are from the upper-caste of India, I’ll go with that.
On second thought, maybe not.
You see, I knew an East Indian executive from the upper-caste who was aloof, arrogant, and condescending to his staff. He was a brilliant engineer and president of a division of a company where I was also an executive. The CEO asked me to counsel the executive on his management style, so I invited the executive for dinner at the restaurant of his choice, so as to be able to ease into the touchy subject in a relaxed setting. He chose an Indian restaurant, where he proceeded to treat the restaurant staff as serfs, snapping his fingers and never saying please or thank you.
If I were to follow the logic of Coke’s diversity training program, which stereotypes all whites as being the same, I’d stereotype all East Indians as being the same as the foregoing executive.
But wouldn’t that be racist?