Twenty-two years ago, when Ernie Reyes and I first launched NAHREP, I was told all the reasons why it wouldn’t work. “Latinos aren’t monolithic” … “Cubans are totally different from Mexicans” … “Jealousy, gossip, and infighting will bring you down” … “Not every Latino has the same political views” … However, fast forward to today, and NAHREP is arguably the largest and most successful Latino business organization in the country. Now people are asking “how did you do it?” First, Ernie and I made representation a priority. We needed leaders from every part of the country and of every national origin part of the organization’s leadership structure. Secondly, we adopted a principle. “There is no drama in NAHREP” … We will not tolerate pettiness or unnecessary drama at any level of the organization – even if it costs us some talented people. Finally, and most importantly, we made economic prosperity the North Star of the organization’s ethos. Not immigration or overcoming discrimination…financial prosperity. I have said many times in my stump speeches, Latino immigrants don’t come to this country because they don’t like the food, music, or people from their country of origin, they come for financial reasons, plain and simple. They come for the opportunity to do well. Nothing galvanizes the NAHREP faithful more than conversations about wealth and prosperity, and nothing resonates more within the broader Latino community than the opportunity to build a better life for themselves and their families. I’m not so sure why that concept is so hard for corporations and politicians to understand.
Let’s pause for a second and talk about immigration and discrimination. Do Latinos experience discrimination? Sure we do and the data supports it. But if you ask 100 Latinos where discrimination ranks in terms of their concerns, I guarantee it won’t rank very high. Why is that? Maybe it’s a pride thing or part of our work ethic, but most Latinos don’t like to talk about discrimination. In my view, part of the problem is how the issue is framed. Culturally, Latinos don’t like to play the role of the victim, however, none of us want the opportunities available to our children to be limited in any way. Investment capital for start-ups and jobs at major corporations go to people who went to the best schools and have the right connections. While discrimination today might be more difficult to see, discriminatory policies that were commonplace a few decades ago have a profound impact on who has the capital and connections and therefore the most opportunities today. When explained in economic terms, most Latinos get it and can get behind solutions that address it in those terms. The same with immigration. Most politicians believe that Latinos are a one-issue voting bloc, immigration. It’s an important issue, but doesn’t rank that high to most Latinos I speak with. Despite what the media might suggest, I don’t know anyone who believes the U.S. should have an open border policy. Immigration has become the most polarizing issue in politics, and most Latinos I know hate the idea of being in the middle of all of the divisiveness in the country. However, with our labor shortages today, immigration is more of an economic issue than a social one. Framing immigration in economic terms reduces the tension and can also rally Latinos towards supporting sustainable solutions.
Latinos have the highest workforce participation rate in the country according to the Department of Labor. They are starting new businesses and purchasing homes at a faster rate than any other segment of our population. In a sentence: Latinos are the drivers of economic growth in the United States both now and for the foreseeable future. Those are things that every Latino I know is both proud and excited about. Companies and politicians who speak to the positivity and aspirational nature of the Latino community in America and a little less about our problems will find a much more welcome reception. Ask any member of NAHREP.
Over the last few weeks, I have had the opportunity to speak at the T3 Conference in Florida…I surprised the audience when I explained how the issue of diversity has been framed incorrectly, and has for the most part alienated the business community.
Elon Musk dropped by the Real Time with Bill Maher show recently for an interview with the host. Maher, who considers himself a liberal is an obvious fan of the CEO of Tesla and Space X. The centerpiece of their conversation was their discussion regarding what Musk called the “woke mind virus” or what I prefer to call “cancel culture”.
People sometimes get me wrong. They think that because I talk a lot about giving back and living modestly, I must not care about money. On the contrary, I care a lot about money because I understand how our system works.