Why I Do Not Use The Phrase ‘Race’ To Describe A Human

Rev. Dennis LeRoy Duncan, MS

Rev. Dennis LeRoy Duncan, MS

We, as a country and people group, are on the brink of overcoming a long-held, and unacceptable, mindset. Specifically, the incorrect use of the phrase ‘race’ in respect to human traits.

I respectfully submit that our success, or failure, to overcoming our people-focused shortfalls will be directly linked to changing our language, thoughts, as well as long-held prejudices.

I respectfully challenge you to consider the thoughts I presented during a discussion in one of my masters level classes on diversity on 01 August 2006.

Here is an edited excerpt from the discussion;


I respectfully submit my decision to not use the term race to categorize fellow humans. The term race frequently brings an immediate negative stereotypical mindset to the discussion. Particularly, the term insinuates that people of different gender, social, ethnic, cultural, or religious heritages are automatically inferior or superior because of their inherent yet benign heritages. This decision is my way of making sure that I focus on the people aspect while trying to make sure that I do not fall victim to an artificial and unacceptable mindset.

I maintain the following personal and professional opinion:

We, a single race of bipedal silicon bags of mostly water humanoids, have experienced both biological-genetic and psycho-social cultural drifts but we are still the same. These drifts bring behavior decisions that Kottak (2003, p. 13) called ‘Universals’; decisions based on human experience influences. (Duncan, 2006)

To paraphrase a thought process proposed by Lester (2002); “By design or accident (evolution) (italics added) we share the same DNA allele structure.” (cited by Duncan, 2006)


I admit that we need to understand how some people might consider elements of ethnic diversity to be negative. I respectfully assert that any effort that helps us understand the interactions of peoples of different gender, ethnic, religious, social, and cultural heritages is not really a negative thing. Some may perceive the process as negative. I ask; is it really? I respectfully submit our corporate participation in this specific learning adventure as evidence that we need to better understand all cultural perspectives.

Positive Elements

1. Busted Concepts of Stereotype. I submit that the opening paragraphs of Carr (2003), Chapter 7 regarding African Americans, Chapter 8 regarding American Indians, Chapter 9 regarding Asian Americans, Chapter 10 regarding Arab Americans, and Chapter 11 regarding Latino Americans as evidence of a significant positive that results from efforts toward diversity in all places of work. In each of the presentations Carr provided evidence of the challenges of the stereotypical thoughts vs. the facts of reality.

The sooner that we, as a people, learn to ignore the stereotypes and get to know the person that is the face, the better we will be in supporting each other. Basically, the more we know about each other’s heritage the more we will learn about our own heritage.

2. Workplace Efficiency Improvements. Carr (2003), Kottack (2003), and Somers (2001) provided several areas in the reading assignments that lead to the proverbial business fiscal bottom line and competitive advantage. Consumers come in all shapes and sizes, cross both genders, and come from many ethnic, cultural, and religious persuasions. It is logical that a business must be able to address these differences with intelligence to remain competitive. I reason that the most sensible method of providing intelligent service that crosses artificial barriers is to approach the barrier from first-hand knowledge.

I sense that businesses should strive for diversity because it is the proper course of action. A secondary benefit is the competitive advantage impact to the proverbial bottom line.

3. Two (or more) heads are better than one. For this discussion, two or more experiences are better than one. From a leadership perspective there are many models (rubrics) for decision making. The actual model does not so much matter as the process and people involved. I suggest that the key element in any decision making model is the gathering of the facts and options. Very few decisions of leadership are so simple as to not involve or affect several or many peoples. If decisions are to be valid then input and feed-forward from the peoples affected is an absolute must.

For example, Duncan Family Enterprises is a people-based NPO that provides support services to local community members who are impoverished. Until the people of Duncan Family Enterprises understand the people of need and their respective cultural and social heritages the service provided will be at best, half-vast. Without the vast data that could be gathered from a diverse workforce, there can be no vast intelligent service. To paraphrases my local mentor, Dr. Michael P. Bobic; don’t draw half-vast assumptions from half-vast data!

In summary the three positive points toward diversity in the workplace were: 1) Busted concepts of stereotype; 2) Workplace efficiency improvements; and 3) Two (or more) heads are better than one.

Negative Elements

1. Initial costs and inefficiencies. I propose the following conceptual question; “Question, in an effort to achieve better diversity, is it acceptable for a HR team to advertise in publications that are specific toward a given culture?”

For example, it is reasonable that an employer reach out to men and women of African American heritage, who are fully qualified with Master or Doctoral credentials, by using avenues that are more associated to the African-American community that other groups; advertising via BET or other mostly African-American focused media.

It is logical that a company that pursues this effort toward diversity will incur a higher than normal advertising cost as well as a slower people hired for a position fill rate. This could likely cause significant inefficiencies and effectiveness.

I note that some people may see this extra advertising cost or inefficiencies or ineffectiveness’s as a negative. The costs are just one aspect of doing the right things, and, a step toward enhancing competitive advantage.

2. People conflicts. I note that Carr (2003), Kottack (2003), and Somers (2001) provided insight into the social, cultural, ethnic, and religious persuasions of each of the ethnic groups discussed. The differences noted lend to people conflicts that will need to be dealt with by leaders at every level within an organization. Some of the conflicts will be due to unrecognized and inaccurate stereotype associations. Other conflicts will results because of language, religious, economic, and even gender issues.

I recently dealt with a people conflict that was really quite innocent yet could have been avoided with minimal fore-thought on my part. I planned a recent sports appreciation banquet that included specification of the meal. If I had been thinking about diversity, I would not have mandated pork as the entrée. This snafu was simple enough yet a conflict not the less.

3. No Stakeholder Buy-In. I note references toward the importance of “…appropriate statistical controls…”. (Somers, 2003, p. 589) Though Somers was writing about study controls. The “…implementing policy changes based on observed differences…” thought carries over into implementing a strategic plan toward diversity.

As leadership within an organization moves toward diversity it will become imperative that everyone within the organization be moving in the same direction with thought and purpose. Unless all stakeholders know what the strategic plan is, the importance, the impact, the steps-of-application, and the end-results, there will be no success. As stated; “‘…quick fix’ interventions designed to produce ‘positive employee attitudes’ are not likely to serve their stated purpose.” (Somers, 2003, p. 590)

In summary the three negative points toward diversity in the workplace were: 1) Initial costs and inefficiencies; 2) People conflicts; and 3) No Stakeholder Buy-In.

Thanks for listening.

Dennis LeRoy (Sherlock) Duncan


Carr-Ruffino. (2003). Diversity in the Workplace. Capella University.

Duncan, D.L. (2006). Capella University. HS8300. Unit 01, Discussion 01.

Kottak, C.P. and Kozaitis, K. A. (2003) Diversity in the Workplace. Capella University.

Lester, L.P., Englin, D.L., & Howe, G.F. (2002). Designs in the Living; The Natural Limits to Biological Change, and Human Cloning: Playing God or Scientific Breakthrough? SimBioSys Publishing. Retrieved on August 01, 2006 from:


Somers, M.J., & Bimbaum, D. (2001). Racial differences in work attitudes: What you see depends on what you study. Journal of Business and Psychology, 15(4): 579-591.

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