Click on the play button to listen to the audio version.
Let’s face it, we never believed the DEI movement was going to help Latinos.
I have written many times about how the powers that be privately hated the ethos of diversity, equity, and inclusion – especially the equity part. It was never going to work. Perhaps some of the fault lies on us, with too much focus on the negatives (prejudice and discrimination) and not enough focus on the positives (prosperity and economic growth), although I’m not so sure it would have mattered. At the end of the day, DEI was about power and no matter how well we sold the virtues of DEI, nobody, especially in this country, will ever willingly give up power.
In social media, DEI is now being blamed for everything from poor corporate earnings to the war in Israel. As a result, many corporations are now retreating from their DEI commitments faster than you can say George Floyd.
Ok, so now that we have that out of the way. Where do we go from here? Frankly, I don’t think anything changes. For those of us who care about the success and prosperity of the Latino community, progress is always going to come from within. As with anything, we need to focus on the things we can control. But before I get into what needs to change, let me set the table with some indisputable positives. Latinos are the youngest demographic in America, with the highest workforce participation rate. We are young and we are not afraid of hard work. Our dedication to God, family, and country is of the highest level. We contribute a lot to this country, but I’m not afraid to say, we are still vastly underachieving as a community. So, what needs to change for our immense capacity to reach its full potential?
We all know that Latinos are not a monolithic community. We come from more than 30 countries with a full spectrum of political and social perspectives. However, when it comes to our values and aspirations, our commonalities overshadow our differences and we need to get better aligned as a group. I’ve said many times that Latino immigrants don’t come to this country because they like the food, music, or culture; Latinos come to America for one reason and one reason only – economic opportunity. Despite what some idiots think, Latinos don’t want a handout or something for nothing. Latinos simply want a chance for a better life and are willing to work as hard as it takes to make it happen. We don’t have to agree on everything, but on issues that affect our abilities to prosper economically, we need to share the same talking points and we need to get better aligned.
Connections to Power
People with power talk about how we live in a meritocracy. In other words, they would like us to believe that all success in America is earned. It may be truer here than in many other countries, but almost everyone knows that in America, success is primarily a factor of two things, what you know and who you know.
In my last blog, I wrote about self-selecting industries. Some of the most lucrative and prestigious industries in our economy; finance, media, tech, professional sports, and entertainment, are self-selecting industries. In other words, they are very difficult to break into if you don’t know somebody on the inside. Most major corporations, also function this way. To climb the corporate ladder, you typically need a sponsor or an advocate who is in a position of power within the company to pull you up to the higher positions. Latinos have historically lacked the connections to break into the majority of the most prominent positions in our economy.
The only way to break this cycle is for Latinos who are fortunate enough to break through, to open doors for other Latinos. We need to hold each other accountable for this. When one Latino is appointed to a corporate board, they need to advocate for another Latino to get on a board. When one Latino makes it to the C-suite, they need to bring others with them. When a Latino start-up receives funding, they need to help others get funded. And when Latinos acquire power in Hollywood, they need to drop the ladder for others to climb. Let me be blunt; all too often, Latinos take the position, “If I made it without any help, so should you”. This attitude, possibly more than anything else, is the root cause of our underachievement as a community. If we can change that, the sky will open up very quickly.
Politics is a pain in the ass, especially these days. But make no mistake, public policy matters, and the most powerful among us know this all too well. There are two reasons Latinos underachieve in this area possibly more than any other. Too many of us don’t vote and most of us simply haven’t learned the importance of making political donations. We also get way too tribal when it comes to politics. The wealthiest people in America, transcend politics. They may have political preferences, but their preferences are mostly issue-driven. They don’t get too caught up in partisan politics but focus more on issues, which is why most of them donate to candidates from both political parties.
I don’t see many Latinos who truly understand the way our political system works. While the media tends to focus on the extremes on both sides, the country is generally run by people who are in the middle. Latinos need to become less tribal and more focused on the issues. We need to vote for candidates on both sides that support our agenda, and we need to contribute to candidates and causes that matter most to us. Latinos have been called the “sleeping giant” in politics for a long, long time. It’s time for us to wake up!
Education and Awareness
Education is power and while Latinos have made strides in educational attainment, there is still a lot of work to be done. Education comes in many forms both formal and informal. Financial education is probably the most critical. As I have indicated, hard work is a core value for Latinos, but I believe we need to migrate from a worker’s mentality to an investor’s mentality. We need to work less and own more. We also need to acquire a mature understanding of wealth and prosperity. Wealth is freedom…freedom to be the best versions of ourselves…freedom to live the life we were destined to live. It all begins with education.
The future is on us!