The Hispanic community is in danger of losing its identity unless we give America reason to believe that we can trust ourselves and contribute to the revival of the US economy. Today, most Americans (including many Hispanics themselves) believe that Hispanics are a burden to the economy. They simply view the Hispanic community as an uneducated, leadership-less and fragmented community that brings the economy down. In fact, most of them believe that it just takes too much work to understand or create a relationship with the Hispanic community.
Indeed Hispanics are a complex, unpredictable community. And yes, we don't have a collective voice, agenda or face in the media that represents our point of views comprehensively. And yes, education has been a challenge that sets us back. And let's not forget that illegal immigration issues continue to taint the image and reputation of the Hispanic community at large.
But not all Hispanics participate in these stereotypes. Some of the most powerful, wealthiest and educated people in the United States are Hispanic. The fundamental issue that weakens the Hispanic community is that we are not sufficiently knowledgeable about our own cultural roots and the role they play in shaping our impact and influence as leaders. In fact, according to a survey conducted by the Center for Hispanic Leadership (CHL), 80% of senior executives of Hispanic origin attribute their success to their unique cultural values and how it has shaped their thinking and overall leadership style. The problem is the less than 4% of Hispanic professionals hold senior executive roles in the America's corporations and even fewer in high-ranking political positions.
Based on a sampling of 5000 Hispanic professionals in Fortune 500 companies, another study by CHL found that Hispanics have trouble trusting themselves, let alone others. This behavior extends throughout the Hispanic community. Hispanics in America would rather play it safe and assimilate to be accepted and follow the rules of workplace and societal engagement in order to advance.
This research is extremely unsettling when you consider that what drives innovation and new opportunities is the power of diverse thinking. The good news is that leading corporations in America have taken notice of this problem and now realize that if they do not create an environment that encourages cross-cultural pollination, their company's creativity, R&D and new multicultural expansion efforts will weaken and increasingly make them irrelevant in the fiercely competitive global marketplace. This effort must now be expanded into school districts throughout America if we are to ignite the performance of Hispanic youth in the classroom.
This assimilation challenge that Hispanics are faced with can be attributed to many factors; but here are a few of the key issues:
1. Hispanics are not given reason to believe that there is an alternative approach they can trust that will make a difference to their lives, their family and their careers
2. The negative and misrepresented image of the Hispanic brand does not encourage many Hispanics to associate themselves with the community.
3. Most successful Hispanics in America would rather disconnect with the community because they believe there is too much risk associated with any formal level of engagement.
4. Hispanics lack a well-thought out agenda that allows our community to earn an influential voice and identity that matters.
5. Hispanics don't lift and encourage each other. There is too much dissension, envy and lack of trust within the community that makes it difficult for us to advance.
6. The pool of role models to inspire and provide guidance to Hispanic youth is nearly empty.
To put this into perspective, I recently met with a Congressman who had served our country for more than 30 years. He shared a very telling story about how Hispanics are viewed in Washington when I asked him, "why don't Hispanics have a positive reputation and why are we misrepresented in America?" He said, "Glenn - let me share with you the (3) reasons why the most influential political leaders will always attend the Korean-American and the Indian (from Asia) -American galas and dinner functions:
1. They have order
2. They have education
3. They have money (they will invest to accelerate their influence in America)
The Congressman continued by saying, "the Hispanic community on the other hand has:
1. Little to no order
2. Little education
3. Few have real money and those that do, for the most part, will remain anonymous"
The point the Congressman was trying to make is if the Korean and Indian communities can have influence and advance in this country, Hispanics have the opportunity to redefine the future of America if we unite our voice, solidify our authentic identity and learn from these and other multicultural groups that have made tremendous inroads and advancements with less than half of the population.
2012 is in fact the Hispanic moment. 2012 is an election year, and Hispanics will play a crucial role in electoral politics at all levels, because of their sheer numbers and the changing demographic mix of key voting districts. 2012 is also the year that the economy will begin to gather momentum once more. Those companies that are able to harness diversity - and especially Hispanic diversity - in real and authentic ways will come out of the recession stronger and faster than the others. And 2012 is the year that Hispanics will finally realize the power of embracing their heritage and stepping up to the role of the most important minority in America.
Important Note: Become part of the 2012 Hispanic Voice Town Hall Tour: a non-partisan initiative aimed to help Hispanics in America understand the responsibility of our voice and resurgence of our authentic identity to cultivate economic prosperity in America. The Tour launched on January 11th with a full room of participants and members from the national media. We all witnessed an eager group of young Hispanics who are ready to "change the story" and play a more integral role in how Hispanics influence policy makers, corporate leaders and the rest of America about their future. For more information on how you can host a Town Hall Tour event in your city please contact us at: ideas@2012HispanicVoice.com.
Watch Univision Coverage of the event here: