Betting White Men Can Learn

Jerry Large, Seattle Times, February 2, 2009

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Some people don’t know what to make of [Chuck] Shelton himself. When I met him the other day, he was wearing a dark suit, his hair was short and well-groomed, very corporate. And he was talking about race.

[His book “Leadership 101 for White Men”] is subtitled, “How to Work Successfully with Black Colleagues and Customers.”

He writes that white men hold 80 percent of the senior leadership positions in America, yet those white executives are just a fraction of the total work force.

Given what the rest of the work force looks like (and all those potential customers), it makes sense that white men ought to know how to play well with others.

Shelton focuses on the relationship with black people because that’s what he knows best and because it is a particularly long and challenging relationship.

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He knows white men. And he told me he has spent much of his life learning about and from black people.

His mother was a Head Start volunteer in the early 1960s. {snip}

In 1967, when he was 13, he attended a racial-reconciliation workshop in Seattle and learned three important things from a black speaker, the Rev. Woodie White:

“Black people resent being viewed as a ‘problem’ when white people are often the main problem black folks have.”

Black people tire of the expectation they should teach white people about race:

“White people must learn how to accept responsibility for being white.”

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The book, which came out in January, talks about the advantages that go with being white and male, the tension between being honest and being respectful, the illusion of colorblindness.

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