Ya! The Time Has Come for Latinos to Claim Our Place in American Society

by Andrés T. Tapia

(This article was originally published on LatinPost.com http://www.latinpost.com/articles/21389/20140915/ya-time-come-latinos-claim-place-american-society.htm)

U.S. Capitol Dome

U.S. Capitol Dome

It’s up to us to have our power match our numbers

Power-cito, my Spanglish word for power-with-a-lowercase-p, is the Achilles heel of the surging Latino narrative. Despite our supersized growth, we have too much evidence that our power in many areas of society does not match our numbers.

As we joyfully celebrate and share our Latino roots during this year’s Hispanic Heritage Month, let’s also challenge ourselves to step it up and make our presence known and felt. Because when it comes to executive and senior leadership positions, political representation, and a marketplace that knows and meets our needs, we are not yet fully accounted for.

In leadership, according to the Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility, among the 1,200 executive and director positions available in its 2009 Corporate Inclusion Index, Hispanics held only 61 of those positions. That’s 7.9 percent. In 2013, it went down to 7.3 percent. Additionally, only 18 percent of Latinos work in management, professional, or similarly related positions.

Politically, we Latinos do not vote in numbers that the size of our population would suggest. In Arizona, for example, Latinos make up about 31 percent of the state’s population. Two-thirds (67 percent) of this population is native born, with a median age of 25 and a 57 percent home-ownership rate. These are the indicators of a potentially influential, voting-eligible population. Yet, many Latinos believe recent Arizona immigration legislation is detrimental to their community.

In the marketplace, there are still too few choices for products and services that cater to the needs, wants, and aspirations of the broad diversity within the Latino community — from the Spanish-dominant first generation Latino immigrant to the fourth generation Spanglish professional to the affluent MBA on the executive track.

The headwinds are both external as well as within ourselves. We must be vigilant about any discrimination and rally our allies in squelching it. A 2013 Harris Interactive poll found that over 75 percent of Latinos feel people with their background are discriminated against in the form of not being hired or promoted for a job and being called names or insulted.

But we ourselves also get in our own way as we seek to rise to the top. For example, many of the highly energized Latino advocacy organizations have a reputation for not being collaborative, and instead being highly competitive with one another. National origins and territoriality get in the way. A zero-sum game mindset feeds this.

We therefore have a splintering of advocacy groups — many doing insightful, passionate, committed work, but not in a coordinated, scalable way. But this splintering is what contributes to Latinos not displaying strength commensurate with our numbers.

It’s Up To Us

But it’s time we stop looking to others to hand us the power. We need to, and can, rise up to meet it. For us as individuals, it depends on our own ability and willingness to speak up for ourselves and being able to take the more calculated risks required of leaders. And collectively it’s about finding ways to minimize the differences within our own Latino ranks and being able to leverage the many things we have in common to advocate more effectively for what we need and want.

Here’s what we can stand on. Fifty-five million Latinos, and growing, are out there shopping, traveling, banking, studying, and raising families. The Latino purchasing power of $1.4 trillion in 2014, the fastest growing in the United States, is greater than the economies of 11 nations, including Mexico, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden, and Indonesia.

And as companies struggle with growth, Latinos offer a marketer’s dream target audience — young, growing, and underserved. With one-third under the age of 18 and 25 percent in their 20s and 30s, the majority of Latinos are near the peak of their spending years.

As we become homeowners, we are driving growth in the household goods industry at a time when other groups are cutting back on these purchases. The familia focus leads to purchasing for the here and now. Latinos over-index compared to other groups in the purchase of toys, BBQ grills, furniture, and eating out. This is consumerism driven by a worldview of many Latinos that what matters most is hoy (today), for who knows what mañana (tomorrow) will bring.

Even with the high unemployment tied to the Great Recession, Latinos account for 13 percent of the workforce and have a participation rate of roughly 68 percent. This is a higher workforce participation rate than among whites, African-Americans or Asians. From a numbers perspective, companies unsuccessful at sourcing, attracting, and engaging this talent pool will see their talent pipeline shrivel up.

Hispanics are tasting the fruits of entrepreneurship as well. According to a 2013 Geoscape study, Hispanic-owned business have grown to over 3 million, a 40 percent increase between 2007 and 2013, outpacing the growth rate for any other demographic group. They generated over $468 billion in revenues.

In addition, Latinos made a key difference in how the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections went. And with now both major parties deeply disappointing Latinos in one way or another, we are in a position to be more demanding about what it will take to win our votes.

So here we are. According to Pew Hispanic Research, Latinos are twenty-one percent of the millennial population. This is the precursor to all Latinos expected to be one-third of the U.S. by 2050. Latino is not a niche market; it is the market. Twenty-five million eligible voters nationwide, and over 6 million in places like California is not a side constituency, it is the margin of victory. Sixty-nine percent of Latinos going to college, the largest percentage of any ethnic group including whites, is not just a student body ratio, it is the future workforce.

We have the numbers behind us, as well as our optimism, our energy, and our ambitions. But we have to stop waiting for others to make the way for us. Se hace el camino al andar, you make your path as you walk it. Let’s stop playing it safe and instead take the necessary steps to be seen as the future power brokers of how things are going to be.

We have a the rest of this month to reflect on this. From there, time to take action.

Ya! The Time Has Come for Latinos to Claim Our Place in American Society

by Andrés T. Tapia – LegalImmigrant

Power-cito, my Spanglish word for power-with-a-lowercase-p, is the Achilles heel of the surging Latino narrative. Despite our supersized growth, we have too much evidence that our power in many areas of society does not match our numbers.

As we joyfully celebrate and share our Latino roots during this year’s Hispanic Heritage Month, let’s also challenge ourselves to step it up and make our presence known and felt. Because when it comes to executive and senior leadership positions, political representation, and a marketplace that knows and meets our needs, we are not yet fully accounted for.

In leadership, according to the Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility, among the 1,200 executive and director positions available in its 2009 Corporate Inclusion Index, Hispanics held only 61 of those positions. That’s 7.9 percent. In 2013 it went down to 7.3 percent. Additionally, only 18 percent of Latinos work in management, professional, or similarly related positions.

Politically, we Latinos do not vote in numbers that the size of our population would suggest. In Arizona, for example, Latinos make up about 31 percent of the state’s population. Two-thirds (67 percent) of this population is native born, with a median age of 25 and a 57 percent home-ownership rate. These are the indicators of a potentially influential, voting-eligible population. Yet, many Latinos believe recent Arizona immigration legislation is detrimental to their community.

In the marketplace, there are still too few choices for products and services that cater to the needs, wants, and aspirations of the broad diversity within the Latino community — from the Spanish-dominant first generation Latino immigrant to the fourth generation Spanglish professional to the affluent MBA on the executive track.

The headwinds are both external as well as within ourselves. We must be vigilant about any discrimination and rally our allies in squelching it. A 2013 Harris Interactive poll found that over 75 percent of Latinos feel people with their background are discriminated against in the form of not being hired or promoted for a job and being called names or insulted.

But we ourselves also get in our own way as we seek to rise to the top. For example, many of the highly energized Latino advocacy organizations have a reputation for not being collaborative, and instead being highly competitive with one another. National origins and territoriality get in the way. A zero-sum game mindset feeds this.

We therefore have a splintering of advocacy groups — many doing insightful, passionate, committed work, but not in a coordinated, scalable way. But this splintering is what contributes to Latinos not displaying strength commensurate with our numbers.

It’s Up To Us

But it’s time we stop looking to others to hand us the power. We need to, and can, rise up to meet it. For us as individuals, it depends on our own ability and willingness to speak up for ourselves and being able to take the more calculated risks required of leaders. And collectively it’s about finding ways to minimize the differences within our own Latino ranks and being able to leverage the many things we have in common to advocate more effectively for what we need and want.

Here’s what we can stand on. Fifty-five million Latinos, and growing, are out there shopping, traveling, banking, studying, raising families. The Latino purchasing power of $1.4 trillion in 2014, the fastest growing in the United States, is greater than the economies of 11 nations, including Mexico, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden, and Indonesia.

And as companies struggle with growth, Latinos offer a marketer’s dream target audience — young, growing, and underserved. With one-third under the age of 18 and 25 percent in their 20s and 30s, the majority of Latinos are near the peak of their spending years.

As we become homeowners, we are driving growth in the household goods industry at a time when other groups are cutting back on these purchases. The familia focus leads to purchasing for the here and now. Latinos over-index compared to other groups in the purchase of toys, BBQ grills, furniture, and eating out. This is consumerism driven by a worldview of many Latinos that what matters most is hoy (today), for who knows what mañana (tomorrow) will bring.

Even with the high unemployment tied to the Great Recession, Latinos account for 13 percent of the workforce and have a participation rate of roughly 68 percent. This is a higher workforce participation rate than among whites, African-Americans or Asians. From a numbers perspective, companies unsuccessful at sourcing, attracting, and engaging this talent pool will see their talent pipeline shrivel up.

Hispanics are tasting the fruits of entrepreneurship as well. According to a 2013 Geoscape study, Hispanic-owned business have grown to over 3 million, a 40 percent increase between 2007 and 2013, outpacing the growth rate for any other demographic group. They generated over $468 billon in revenues.

In addition, Latinos made a key difference in how the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections went. And with now both major parties deeply disappointing Latinos in one way or another, we are in a position to be more demanding about what it will take to win our votes.

So here we are. According to Pew Hispanic Research, Latinos are twenty-one percent of the millennial population. This is the precursor to all Latinos expected to be one-third of the U.S. by 2050. Latino is not a niche market, it is the market. Twenty-five million eligible voters nationwide, and over 6 million in places like California is not a side constituency, it is the margin of victory. Sixty-nine percent of Latinos going to college, the largest percentage of any ethnic group including whites, is not just a student body ratio, it is the future workforce.

We have the numbers behind us, as well as our optimism, our energy, and our ambitions. But we have to stop waiting for others to make the way for us. Se hace el camino al andar, you make your path as you walk it. Let’s stop playing it safe and instead take the necessary steps to be seen as the future powerbrokers of how things are going to be.

We have a full month to reflect on this. From there, time to take action.

Race Still Matters

by Andrés T. Tapia –blkbusinessman_iStock.000011150050l

It’s a period that Charles Dickens could have written about if he were still alive today: “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. It was an age of wisdom; it was an age of foolishness.” Or, as Rev. Jesse Jackson describes in a recent Newsweek article, “As we celebrate events that recognize Dr. King’s impact and legacy, we’re filled with both hope and hopelessness.”

Best and worst, wisdom and foolishness, hope and hopelessness are the competing dynamics of our current political, economic, and social landscape. So when the conversation predictably turns to the supposed post-racial period we live in, as some say evidenced by the election of President Barack Obama or the unveiling of a memorial to Dr. King on the National Mall, or even the wealth of media moguls Tyler Perry and Oprah Winfrey, I simply want to shout, Race Still Matters!

Without a doubt, there has been remarkable racial progress from 30, 40, or 50 years ago. Many African Americans who were in their 60s, 70s and beyond spoke with great emotion and often with tear-filled eyes at being alive to see the nation elect our first African American president, Barack Obama. Yet Roslyn Brock, in her first speech before the NAACP as its chairman, aptly described the dichotomy facing our nation while debunking the myth of a post-racial society as she described a nation rocked both by racial progress and racial stagnation.

“Today’s civil and human rights challenges are far different from those faced by our predecessors. Yes, we can … drink at the public water fountain, but the drinking water in our homes may not be safe because of lead toxins. Yes, we can … move into sprawling multi-million dollar homes in the suburbs, but the terms of our mortgages differ from our neighbors. Yes, we can … send our children to public schools, but in some states the textbooks … are 20 years old and school boards have decided to rewrite history by removing all references to slavery and its devastating impact on our society.”

Race still matters when the current economic crisis hits the black middle class much harder than whites and other racial groups. Today’s economic mess has been described as a full-blown depression for the black middle class. In a New York Times article, author Ellis Cose said, “Instead of a middle class, we now have a median class–people who are at or above the median income level, but who, for the most part, are only a few missed paychecks away from disaster.”

And the statistics bear this out. On almost every economic indicator, African Americans fare worse than any other racial/ethnic group, with Latinos running a close second. For example, while the national unemployment rate hovers around 9.5%, since April, the black unemployment rate fluctuates between 15.4 and 16.2%, which is about twice the rate for whites. Black teen unemployment is around 35-40%, while the national teen unemployment rate is around 20%.

The crisis goes beyond employment. When we look at the saving rates of various groups, race still matters. Nearly 80% of middle class Americans did not have enough savings to meet three-quarters of their regular household expenses for three months (the minimal amount needed to get through unexpected situations like a layoff or sudden hospital stay). According to research by Demos and the Institute on Assets and Social Policy of Brandeis University, for blacks, the figure was 95% (almost all) and for Latinos, it was 87%. Race still matters.

When wealth is examined, the disparity between groups is even more startling. According to the Pew Research Center, the median wealth of white households is 20 times that of black household and 18 times greater than Latino households. Let’s look at those statistics in another way. The typical black family has $5,677 in wealth, compared to $6,325 for a typical Latino family and $113,149 for a white family. Nearly $6,000 compared to $113,000. The study goes on to show that nearly a third of black and Hispanic families had zero or negative net worth, while only 16% of white families had similar levels of “non-wealth.” The report says, “These lopsided wealth ratios are the largest since the government began publishing such data a quarter century ago and roughly twice the size of the ratios that had prevailed between these three groups for the two decades prior to the Great Recession that ended in 2009.” Race still matters.

Even with wealth, African Americans experienced discrimination and segregation in far greater numbers than other racial/ethnic groups. A joint undertaking by Brown University and the Russell Sage Foundation reported that ethnic/racial identity trumps income as to where people live. Black and Hispanic families with relatively high incomes tend to live in communities where their neighbors are of the same racial/ethnic background and with many more poor people. The study’s authors wrote, “Residential segregation is an insidious and persistent fact of American life. Discrimination on the basis of race, while on the decline according to some estimates, continues to pervade nearly every aspect of the housing market in the United States.” Race still matters.

Even in our schools, according to the Center for American Progress, spending on black and Latino students is about 90% of what is spent on white students. And when it comes to punishments, black youngsters are disciplined more severely and more often than whites or Hispanics. A study by the Council of State Governments of Justice Center found a significant disparity between out-of-school suspensions and other punishments handed out to African American students compared to students from other backgrounds. For instance, 83% of black males in Texas schools had an out-of-school suspension for an offense that the school could exercise discretion on whether to suspend or not. Roughly 74% of Hispanic males had one of these discretionary suspensions; but only 59% of white males had similar suspensions.

Even with a college degree, black grads are finding that what is a tough job market for most recent grads is an exceedingly harsh one for them. Politicians denigrate government and public sector employees and unionized workers, which were the stepping-stones to the middle class for millions of African American and other minority families, making these conduits for social mobility less available.

In practically all aspects of society–from education to expectations, from politics to prison–race still matters. It’s as if W.E.B. Dubois’ prescient statement in the early 1900s, “for the problem of the 20th Century is the problem of the color line,” continues to resonate well into the 21st Century.

Researchers and pundits can debate the causes and effects of this fact of American life, but until we can have frank and honest conversations about the issues that divide us, until we can talk about the paradox of inclusion as suggested in the Inclusion Paradox, we will continue to experience the many ways that race still matters. This discussion must be a national and corporate conversation that addresses race, class, wealth, and culture.

And no one is better equipped to facilitate this discussion than diversity practitioners. Are you leading the way or sitting on the sidelines?

Much depends on your answer. Because how you choose matters.

Cool Factor Helps Blacks Buckle Up

by Andrés T. Tapia –

blkmanNseatbeltWearing seat belts is cool … especially for young black men. That’s the message the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) wants to get across. In a campaign targeted to the African American community, the NHTSA is trying to increase seat this group’s seat belt use.

The campaign can’t come a moment too soon. For a number of reasons, African Americans are less likely to buckle up than others. Overall, 75% of blacks regularly wear their seats belts compared to the national average of 83%. As a result, they suffer more vehicle fatalities, which is the leading cause of death for black children ages 1 to 14 and the second cause of death for those aged 15 to 35.

An article in New American Media quotes David L. Strickland, administrator for NHTSA, “I think a lot of it is frankly cultural barriers. … We have much lower belt usage among young people–period, especially young men who think they are invincible. People don’t want to be seen as a nerd, which is cultural as well.”

The NHTSA is partnering up with several black organizations, including the National Council of Negro Women, the Congressional Black Caucus, and the National Medical Association to encourage blacks to “buckle up every trip, every time.”

The National Medical Association (NMA) considers the lower seat belt usage as a public health issue and plans to encourage other community organizations to join the effort. The NMA’s Dr. Doris Browne said, “We will definitely encourage community organizations to get on board, whether they are general organizations or faith-based and professional associations and this includes fraternities and sororities.”

For several years, The NHTSA has been reviewing variations in seat belt usage and vehicle fatalities among different races and ethnicities. Diversity practitioners recognize that it only makes sense for the agency to tailor its messages to take into account those differences.

By acknowledging and calling out these cultural differences, the NHTSA campaign will save lives. There’s no greater benefit to the Inclusion Paradox than that.

Comedy & Tragedy: Pop Culture’s Two-Faced Approach to Diversity and Inclusion

by Andrés T. Tapia —comedytragedy

The 2011 Oscars revealed two different tales of diversity’s progress and retro-ness in the entertainment industry.

Eight women — a record — received non-actress awards, which was a nice sequel to Kathryn Bigelow’s breaking of the Oscar glass ceiling last year when her muscular “The Hurt Locker beat out her ex-husband James Cameron’s fantasy “Avatar” for Best Picture and Best Director. This is progress.

But when it came to African Americans, Asians, and Latinos…. Whoop! Nowhere to be found on the nominee list.

This year’s drought is par for the course.

Thirty-eight years would pass after Sidney Poitier (“Lilies of the Field,” 1963) became the first black male to win Best Actor before another African American (Denzel Washington in “Training Day,” 2001) to follow in his footsteps. Since then it’s only been Jamie Foxx (“Ray,” 2004) and Forest Whitaker (“The Last King of Scotland,” 2006). As far as African-American women go, Halle Berry (“Monster Ball,” 2001) is the only one to win a Best Actress Oscar.

For a Latino Best Actor, we have to go back to 1950 for Jose Ferrer (“Cyrano de Bergerac,” 1950). That’s it. There are close ones: Anthony Quinn (“Viva Zapata!” 1952, “Lust for Life,” 1956) and Benicio del Toro (Traffic, 2000) as Best Supporting Actors. A Latina or an Asian female has never won Best Actress. The closest Latina? Rita Moreno’s Oscar for her supporting role in “West Side Story” in 1961! Asian winners? Only two males: Yul Brynner (“The King and I,” 1956) and Ben Kingsley (“Gandhi,” 1982).

Looking back through this dismal picture, it’s clear that actors of color achievements peaked in the late ’50s and early ’60s. Ay!

When it comes to pop culture, the entertainment industry is awash in contradictions around diversity. As the most powerful medium to help bring about mainstream societal culture change, it has a long and distinguished record of contributing to inflection points that paved the way to greater inclusion. “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” in the 1960s truly broke new ground as it suavely told the story of a young white woman bringing her black male friend, played by the elegant Sidney Poitier, to dinner at her racist white parents’ house. It not only broke the interracial relationship taboo, but even today remains a powerful metaphor for bringing an excluded party into the inner sanctum of those doing the excluding.

Who can forget what “Crash” did in moving the race conversation beyond black and white to all the other dimensions of diversity? Or Sean Penn’s dignifying and human portrayal of gay activist Harvey Milk (“Milk,” 2008)? Or “White Man’s Burden” (1995) where John Travolta lives in a United States where whites are the oppressed minority and Blacks the ones in charge?

Even schlocky movies like “G.I. Jane” (1997) help transform long standing beliefs, in this case Demi Moore machine gunning her way toward normalizing that women can be warriors too. TV land has also played a significant role in changing culture mores. “Dora the Explorer” has a Latina girl teaching Spanish to white, blue-eyed kids throughout America, while a couple of decades earlier lovable “Ellen” made people laugh their way right out of their prejudices against lesbians and gays.

But Hollywood also perpetuates exclusion. There is so little diversity to be found among directors, writers, and producers, it’s not shocking that the most popular of media does not reflect the world as it exists. Minorities continue to struggle with very few roles available that call for their background and, when they do, it’s usually to play a thug, a homeless person, someone out of the mainstream.

We are not even having a debate about whether a deserving actor of color was passed over. People of color are not even being cast in quality roles in either mainstream story lines or in a film about people of color that would set them up for Oscar contention. Jeff Friday founder of the American Black Film Festival, told CNN for a piece entitled, “Where’s the Diversity at the Oscars?” “We have to challenge the studio system. Why are studios not making films that represent the people of this country?”

And more disturbingly, right now with even the most cutting edge, positive, and high quality efforts to create there are troubling exclusionary blind spots. Last year, I wrote about the patronizing, and therefore exclusionary, white messiah messages of 2010 Oscar nominees “Avatar,” “The Blind Side,” “Precious,” and “District 9.” This time, I look at other inadvertent exclusionary ways that show up in the popular TV shows known for their positive diversity impact—“Glee,” “Modern Family,” and “The Cleveland Show”—which I share in my next installment.

In Job Hunt, College Degree Still Doesn’t Close Racial Gap

by Andrés T. Tapia —

With Barack Obama in the White House, it seems like race would no longer hinder African-Americans who are on the job market. But according to The New York Times, there is ample evidence that racial inequities remain when it comes to hiring.

Black joblessness has long far outstripped that of whites. But strikingly, the disparity for the first 10 months of 2009, as the recession dragged on, was even more pronounced for those with college degrees than those without. Education, it seems, does not level the playing field — in fact, it appears to have made it more uneven.

According to figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for black male college graduates 25 and older in 2009 was nearly twice that of white male college graduates — 8.4% compared with 4.4%.

Various academic studies have confirmed that black job seekers continue to have a harder time than whites. A study published several years ago in The American Economic Review titled “Are Emily and Greg More Employable than Lakisha and Jamal?” found that applicants with black-sounding names received 50% fewer callbacks than those with white-sounding names. A more recent study, published this year in The Journal of Labor Economics found white, Asian, and Hispanic managers tended to hire more whites and fewer blacks than black managers did.

Black job seekers interviewed by the Times conceded that race can be beneficial in some cases, particularly with companies that have diversity programs. But many said they sensed that such opportunities had been cut back over the years and even more during the downturn. Others speculated there was now more of a tendency to deem diversity efforts unnecessary after Barack Obama’s triumph.

Nine Linchpin Strategies for Advancing Diversity in 2010

by Andrés T. Tapia

Compass
First, a few words on strategy and then to my specific recommendations.

Powerful strategy should always sound simple when it’s articulated.

That’s because strategy is about identifying the one or two things that are going to be pursued and, by inference, the 100 other things that could but will not be. In war it could be  “overwhelming force” or “secret infiltration.” In politics it could be, “say no to everything no matter what” or “find a way to find common ground no matter what.” In soccer, “shut down Ronaldo” or “shut down everyone else but him.”

What is hard is being able to pinpoint that linchpin issue — the one thing around which everything else gravitates. It’s that one thing that, if either enabled or thwarted, will determine the enterprise’s best chance of comprehensive success. This is difficult to accomplish, not just because it requires knowledge of the big picture, but also because it requires discernment to identify interrelationships between myriad issues.  It’s also difficult because saying “yes” to a handful of key actions or philosophies sidelines all the other good ideas — each of which has proponents, cheerleaders, experts, tools, techniques, and processes. Vested interests make it difficult for the many players to embrace a strategic direction that may not include something they hold most dear.

Diversity & inclusion strategy is no different, even though it may seem hypocritical to declare what approaches to achieving inclusion are in and which ones are out.

But strategize — and therefore prioritize — we must, if we are to move the work forward.

So in this spirit, here’s my stab at what I believe are the linchpin strategies for 9 different current diversity issues. Keep in mind the qualifier “top priority.” This does not mean that there are not other things to do, but in strategy work the goal is to put our finger on the key issue around which the many others revolve. If we pursue it successfully, we will not just change whatever it was we were going after, but also lay the groundwork for resolving many other related issues.

  1. For the LGBT community, the top priority should be to seek full equality through the courts and legislation–not at the referendum ballot box. The ballot box strategy requires convincing majorities to change (or at the very least follow through on) their beliefs in the face of controversy. That is a tall order! And it is also a very polarizing one, as we saw with 2008’s Prop 8 in California. By contrast, focusing on the courts requires influencing a handful of decision makers on how to interpret the law of the land. And when it comes to civil rights — a belief deeply codified in the US legal system — the law provides a lever with multiple precedents that is ultimately difficult to refute. Not that there won’t be intense debate and struggle. But consider how women’s and Blacks’ rights were won; what would have happened if those issues had been put to a popular vote?
  2. For Latinos, particularly on the issue of immigration reform, the top priority should be to seek full equality through the ballot box–not through the courts. Here, in contrast to the LGBT community, Latinos have the numbers to effectively influence the popular vote. The problem is that many Latinos are not registered to vote or do not show up on election day. Strategically, then, getting Latinos to vote is a great place to focus energy. From a civil rights/legislative perspective it’s difficult to influence with power when making a legal argument on behalf of undocumented people. Better to make the representative democracy argument on behalf of millions of immigrants who have built their lives, homes, and families in the US and contributed significantly to society.
  3. For African-Americans, the top priority should be enforcing compliance with already existing laws. The laws are already there to fight discrimination. The problem has been lax enforcement. Clearly Blacks are still far from being represented adequately at all levels of leadership and management, but with an African American president in the most powerful leadership position in the world, it’s now more difficult to engage mainstream society on the subjective issue of Black talent being overlooked. Instead, we need to go down the compliance route that looks at the gap between available labor force and representation within the organization. This will pave the way for recognizing African American talent on its own merits.
  4. For Asian Americans, the top priority should be to press for equity in promotions to management. While Asian Americans have their own share of being on the receiving end of civil rights violations, those in the corporate world suffer especially from a stereotype that they are good for technical individual contributor roles rather than for leveraged, people management roles. Asian Americans need to bulk up on how to make a compelling case to their organizations that the management skills they already possess are being overlooked.
  5. For white women, the top priority should be to stop waiting for men in power to make changes. As a group, women already have the power to make necessary changes. In the 2008 primary elections, Hillary Clinton referred to 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling, reflecting the number of votes she had received. While the glass ceiling is still in place, these cracks have weakened it significantly. It’s now time for women in management and senior leadership to press against it assertively and bring down barriers that men have left in place.
  6. For Native Americans, the top priority should be to demand more avenues for linking up with existing economic and educational development opportunities–and to ask for more of them. Native Americans are one of the most marginalized groups in the US; the reservation system literally casts them outside of mainstream avenues of inclusion. While they have unique historical dynamics to work through with the federal government, Native Americans would be able to increase their clout if they could find common cause with other marginalized groups — particularly in the area of education, which has proven to be the greatest predictor of economic advancement.
  7. For Boomers, the top priority should be to learn from Generations X and Y. They know how to thrive in an upside-down world. Thus, instead of spending too much time figuring out how to shape them into a Boomer worldview (pay your dues, do things in order, don’t show your work until it’s completely polished), Boomers should tap their energy to help lead with alternative approaches to today’s most complex and vexing problems.
  8. For Generations X and Y, the top priority should be to learn from Boomers’ life experience. Boomers may be technologically challenged, but they have the battle scars of life — work and personal — for which there is no Twitter shortcut. Wisdom and insights come with those scars. Generations X and Y need that!
  9. For the disabled, the top priority should be enforcing compliance with the law and normalizing disability. The goal should be to get people to realize that we all are or will be part of this community. Right now disability is too feared by those without disabilities for society to be able to approach it as part of life, rather than as other.

Inherent in declaring strategy is the debate about whether the declared path is the best. Strategy without ongoing testing and challenge is useless. What would you debate here?

Schoolchildren More Segregated Today than at Time of MLK’s Death

A national tragedy: African-American and Latino schoolchildren are more segregated today than they were at the time of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s  death in 1968 says the UCLA’s Civil Rights Project in their January 2010 report.

As a shifting demographics continue to transform many sectors of U.S. society, the country is falling far behind in building faculties that reflect the diversity of its students–44% of whom are now nonwhite–and failing to prepare teachers who can communicate effectively with the 20% of homes where another language is spoken. Millions of nonwhite students are locked into “dropout factory” high schools, where huge percentages do not graduate and have little prospect of contributing to the economy. Often failing US schools are shared by two or more highly disadvantaged minority groups; most schools are not working on creating positive relationships between them and their teachers, who are often white and untrained in techniques that might lower tension and increase school success, the report says.

In states such as California and Texas where nonwhite students are already the majority, these failures are straining local economies and social systems. On an even larger scale, this reversion to segregation threatens the U.S.’s economic and social position in the world. In a global economy where success is dependent on knowledge, average U.S. educational levels decline as the proportion of children attending inferior segregated schools continues to rise.

The findings are the results of a decades-long systematic neglect of civil rights policy and related educational and community reforms. Its findings echo a damning statement made in 1983 in a report commissioned by the Reagan Administration that looked at the state of education back then. In the “A Nation at Risk” report there was this phrase: “If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war.”

And for students of color the results are worse than mediocre.

They are devastating.

Health Diversity — Constructively Calling out Differences: Is It a Bad Thing that Latinos and African Americans Are Less Likely to Seek Help for Alzheimer’s?

by Andrés T. Tapia; research by Susan Welch

The vital and laudable pursuit of identifying and closing heathcare disparities can trip up on well meaning but ethnocentric analysis.

Consider the start and end points of recent research on racial/ethnic disparities around Alzheimer’s. 

First, is there are gap? Yes, there is.  CNN recently reported on the Alzheimer’s Association’s finding that Hispanics and African Americans are more likely to contract Alzheimer’s than whites–and to show symptoms at a younger age. Hispanics tend to show signs of Alzheimer’s seven years earlier than white people do. African Americans between the ages of 55 and 64 are more than three times as likely as whites to suffer from Alzheimer’s.

Second,  given this greater incidence of Alzheimer’s among Hispanics and Blacks are they more likely to seek medical help? No, they are not. In fact, according to Medical News Today Hispanics and African Americans are less likely to seek medical help for Alzheimer’s than their white counterparts–even when access to health care is comparable.

So far the facts tell a straightforward story. Now the research moves into interpretation and here’s where the inadvertent ethnocentrism begins to slip in.

So why do African Americans and Hispanics have a higher prevalence of Alzheimer’s? Cultural differences, say a couple of reports conducted or reported on by outlets influenced by a majority European American culture worldview.

Now watch what happens.  While the important and necessary analysis is accurate about why the gap, note the assumptions made about whether the why is a good or a bad thing.

In Hispanic and African-American communities, the reports point out, elders are so respected that those around them may gloss over rather than point out telltale mood swings and/or cognitive deficiencies that begin to surface. What is actually a symptom of Alzheimer’s may be written off as a “normal” sign of aging. A Harris Interactive® study found that 37% of African Americans and 33% of Hispanics hold the view that Alzheimer’s symptoms are a normal part of aging. And since aging is normal, why would there be “treatment” for it? Here we have a cultural assumption that admittedly is likely detrimental as an illness goes untreated and family members don’t receive proper counsel for managing Alzheimer’s fallout on them.

But check out this next cultural assumption. The New York Times reports that another cultural dynamic making it harder for Hispanics and African Americans to get help for Alzheimer’s is the tendency to dismiss nursing home options as incompatible with family values. Hispanics with Alzheimer’s, for example, tend to live with and be cared for by extended family groups. While this may be good for patients,  “it creates significant stress and hardship for families.”

And the outcome of not being shunted off to a nursing home? In making the case that the burden on Latino and African American families is even worse than just having them at home, the Science Daily claims that they have to care for them for even longer because Hispanics and African Americans with Alzheimer’s tend to outlive their white counterparts, even when controlling for other socioeconomic factors. On average, Latinos with Alzheimer’s tend to live 40% longer, and African Americans 15% longer, than whites with Alzheimer’s.

So why the implied message that Latinos and African Americans would be better off not caring for their loved one with Alzheimer’s at home where they are likely to live 40% and 15% longer respectively?

Whoa.

A Disheartening Reality: “Whitening” the Resume

A few years ago a study by professors at the University of Chicago and MIT found that resumes with “white-sounding” names got 50 percent more responses than ones with “black-sounding” names. Last week  a story in the New York Times, “Whitening the Resume,” illustrated how some African American job seekers are coping with this injustice: they are removing or deemphasizing identifiers that could identify them as black in the resume screening process. Here are a few examples from the story:

Tahani Tompkins was struggling to get callbacks for job interviews in the Chicago area this year when a friend made a suggestion: Change your name. Instead of Tahani, a distinctively African-American-sounding name, she began going by T. S. Tompkins in applications.

Yvonne Orr, also searching for work in Chicago, removed her bachelor’s degree from Hampton University, a historically black college, leaving just her master’s degree from Spertus Institute, a Jewish school. She also deleted a position she once held at an African-American nonprofit organization and rearranged her references so the first people listed were not black.

This is an example of where calling out differences destructively leads to injustice and to self protective behavior that robs individuals from fully embracing their cultural identity.  The statistics don’t lie here. Behind all the politically correct statements that people make, it is clear that exclusionary behavior still plays out in tangible ways every day. A 50% higher screening out of resumes with “black sounding names” is not a coincidence. While I do not yet know of comparable studies with “Latino sounding” names chances are high the results would be the same.

Outright discrimination is obviously a serious issue that must be vigorously addressed. In addition I believe that there are many who truly are not explicitly discriminatory but who don’t realize their style preferences and their worldviews could inadvertently be screening out good talent.

As I discuss in “The Inclusion Paradox: The Obama Era and the Transformation of Global Diversity,” Diversity training needs to go beyond “tolerance and sensitivity” and actually equip recruiters, hiring managers, and human resources professionals to be culturally competent enough to notice when the screening out is taking place.

It may start with people being able to recognize when that subconscious feeling that may lead to putting the resume least like them in the No pile. But the skill needs to go deeper than when it’s time to assess the minorities who do come in for the interviews. How able are hiring managers to appropriately interpret eye contact, a candidate using “we” instead of “I” language, or whether certain syntax is indicative of poor performance or simply is a languaging preference of different ethnic groups in the US?

Between discrimination and lack of cultural competence we have ended up in the travesty of those who are different working hard at hiding their differences  — to their and everyone else’s detriment.

What do think? How much should those who are different assimilate in the workplace in order to be accepted and advance?

inclusionparadox.com