On culture and diversity in corporate America.

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September 16, 2019

Hispanic Heritage Month, the more generous evolution of the original Hispanic Heritage Week, was born of legislation sponsored by Rep. Edward R. Roybal (D-Los Angeles) and signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson in 1968. (It was expanded to a full 30 days by President Ronald Reagan in 1988.)

It begins every year on September 15 to acknowledge five Latin American countries that declared their independence in 1821: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua.

At the time Hispanic Heritage Week was born, Roybal was just six years into what would be 30 years of exemplary work representing his district in the U.S. Congress. But he walked into the House with real bona fides: He’d started out as director of health education for the Los Angeles County Tuberculosis and Health Association. 

And, in 1949, after a failed first attempt, he became the first Latino elected to the Los Angeles City Council.

He filled a seat which represented District 9—for those who know the area, it included Boyle Heights, Bunker Hill, Civic Center, Chinatown, Little Tokyo, and the Central Avenue corridor. For those who don’t, the population was then 45% White, 34% Latinx, 15% African American, and 6% “other,” a bewildering designation which, I guess, includes the people living in Chinatown and Little Tokyo.

But Roybal seemed to know who everybody was. 

Roybal had become the “recognized leader of East Side minority groups,” and was “often the spokesman for minority groups,” the Los Angeles Times noted in 1955 and 1956, respectively. Evidently, he knew a little something about helping people with very different life experiences to find common ground: He held on to his seat until he went to Congress in 1962.

In Congress, he earned a powerful spot on the Appropriations Committee, co-founded the House Select Committee on Aging, and established the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. There, he cared about and influenced issues related to the health and citizenship wellness for people well beyond his district, advocating for a wide variety of programs designed to help ignored, vulnerable, and immigrant populations find their full expression in life. In addition to inclusive education and health programs, was ahead of the curve on aging, mental health, and fought for the first federal funding for Alzheimer’s disease research. 

I would certainly watch a biopic of this extraordinary man who very few people seem to know; evidently, the Roybal family can trace their roots in New Mexico back some eight generations to before the Spanish settlement of Santa Fe. That’s a long time to watch America… evolve. 

Thinking about Roybal makes it even harder to mark the start of Hispanic Heritage Month this year, at a time when so few elected officials seem to be able to accelerate an American evolution in a way that shares, rather than stockpiles, power. 

And when so many of the asylum seekers currently sitting in cages or in desperate trouble at the U.S. border are descended from the people who won their independence nearly 200 years ago.

So maybe now, in the age of hate speech and family separation, we might consider spending the next 30 days sitting in the ugly awkward that this commemorative month is sure to reveal: The growing gulf between individual achievement and systemic failure.

Here’s just one example: While we remember the long history of Hispanic and Latinx service members, it’s also worth remembering that the government is cruelly deporting them as veterans on the other. 

Si la meta de una institución es la inclusión verdadera, no es solo adoptar un hashtag, o servir enchiladas, o tocar música ambientada a la temática de “La Bamba.” ¿Que acciones va a tomar la tuya?

Feliz #HispanicHeritageMonth.




On Point

Lawmaker proposes a significant rewrite to the federal law that outlines the restructuring of Puerto Rican debt The chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) announced that he intends to submit a draft proposal to the 2016 law, known as Promesa, which created an oversight board set to control Puerto Rico’s finances. It reads like a watchdog for the watchdog. Bloomberg reports that the changes include a "reconstruction coordinator" to supervise the island’s recovery from the damage brought by Hurricane Maria, and a public audit of the island’s debt. He’s also asking for the oversight board’s funding to come from federal funds, not the Commonwealth’s. "That’s substantive but it’s also symbolic," Grijalva said in an interview. "Because of the federal funding, it gives Congress and its investigative processes many more entry points for checks and balances," he said in a public meeting in San Juan yesterday.

Latinx candidates push to diversify Boston’s City Council The Boston City Council deserve some positive head-nodding: The once all-white, mostly male body now has six women of color serving along seven white men. But the Boston population is nearly one in five Latinx and wildly underrepresented in leadership. There hasn’t been a Latinx councilor in six years. Now, four Latinx candidates are vying for three soon-to-be-vacated seats in an election to be held next week, while also making a bigger case: Inclusion is the answer to a frustrated voter base. "That's actually something that I've put in front of folks... especially men of color, is to let them know that there are no men of color on the City Council," Herb Lozano told WBUR. "So I think I'm bringing that diversity as someone who identifies as a Latino [and] as an African-American.”

Target accused of forcing a Hispanic employee to 'whitewash' his name out of fear of alienating customers Jose Diaz, 18, claims he was forced to wear a nametag saying "Jonathan" during a brief period while he worked at a Target store in Freeport, N.Y., last fall. According to the lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court in Central Islip, he was allegedly told that the name Jose "does not 'fit' the predominantly white neighborhood demographics and a nametag with his name would incite fear and uneasiness in customers."

Turns out, Corn Pop was real Former Vice President Joe Biden has been out on the campaign trail telling an old story of his teenaged youth, about the time he realized that he had no understanding of the black community or any black friends. His solution was to get a summer job as a lifeguard at an integrated public pool in Delaware, where he ran afoul of, then befriended, a man known as Corn Pop, the leader of a black gang called The Romans. Corn Pop was a "bad dude and he ran a bunch of bad boys," Biden has been known to say. It’s a long and odd story and I have barely done it justice here. When the story resurfaced recently, Twitter, decided it wasn’t sure about it at all. Turns out, it’s all true and then some. Besides Corn Pop, there was also Mouse, the Puerto Rican, and Marty, people who apparently did give young Biden an education on life as an African American in the 1960s. Robert Samuels breaks it down below.
Washington Post


On Background

When personality and bias collide Quinisha Jackson-Wright does a great service by debunking the use of unscientific personality assessment tools, specifically the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, as a strategy for managers who want to understand the strengths and styles of the people who work for them. "Do they fulfill their intended purpose of helping managers get to know their team’s working styles, or simply reinforce stereotypes that encourage managers to seek out people like themselves?" she correctly asks. Particularly at risk to be pigeonholed and marginalized are women, introverts, introverts of color, and immigrants who may be bringing non-majority cultural norms to the workplace. So, a lot of people. While there are truly useful and unbiased personality assessment tools in the marketplace (I’ve taken quite a few), none of that matters if the results aren’t filtered through a welcoming environment run by well-trained leaders. "While the M.B.T.I., and the organizations that use the assessment, promote the idea that there’s no ‘wrong’ personality, real-life workplace conflicts do not always play out so objectively." Excellent fodder here.
New York Times

Advocating for your culture at work Jaclyn Roessel grew up on the Navajo Nation in northeastern Arizona, and has worked from an early age to build cultural bridges between the two nations she calls home. In her work as an entrepreneur and director of public programs for an American Indian art and cultural center, she says she learned the importance of including outside voices in important conversations. She offers five tips for anyone who wants to be a better partner for inclusion at work. Number three really hit home: Sometimes your ideas are going to slow things down. "When I worked at the museum, I consistently provided feedback to other departments about their language and visual choices for ads," she said. That sometimes necessitated different art or a new approach, a tough ask when time and resources are scarce. "But in the end, it gave us all the space to think through what we were communicating," she says.

When father will never know best In a poignant essay, writer Lilian Min explores the new divide felt by so many first generation Americans. How do you manage when the person who raised you, and raised you well, offends your notions of social equity, race, gender roles, and justice? Raised in a middle class family, within an "East Asian diaspora bubble in Central New Jersey," she feels herself growing away from her family and wonders how to navigate the often difficult patriarchy of a family that oppresses as much as it protects.
The Establishment


Tamara El-Waylly helps write and produce raceAhead.

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“They thought I would fall flat on my face... They felt right along that I was not their equal.”

Rep. Edward R. Roybal

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