The world is full of displaced people, or peoples who are minorities because their cultural, ethnic, religious, or racial identities stand in contrast with the mainstream ones in the nations in which they live.Oftentimes these peoples are described as living in diasporas.Since the creation of the State of Israel, for instance, the Jewish diaspora now has a homeland, which means that, within the worldview of the Jewish people, Jews who are not in Israel remain in the diaspora.The Chinese, who have a long tradition of being merchants around the world, and establishing trading colonies, have a name for the Chinese who live outside China: huáqiáo. Mainland Chinese express concerns, and have developed outreach programs, to help maintain the linguistic and cultural identity of the Chinese diaspora around the world. Among the French, Paris is so concerned with addressing the needs of French expatriates living overseas that French expats vote for a representative to the French parliament who speaks for their concerns and looks out for their interests.
In rough figures, one in ten Hispanics lives the Hispanic diaspora in the United States. These are persons who identify culturally, ethnically, linguistically, or socially as “Hispanic” or “Latino,” but happen to live in the United States. The most direct way of understanding the notion predicament of the Hispanic diaspora is this: if a Hispanic, Latino, or Latin person wakes up in a country where the constitution of that nation is not written in Spanish, or a related Iberian language, then he or she is living in a diaspora, which is a form of cultural estrangement.
To this, it is necessary to consider that how others see us is important, for it affects how we are treated and how we are judged.Israeli Jews, for instance, consider every other Jew in the world who is not in Israel to be homeless. So it matters not that Steven Spielberg looks over the Pacific from his estate in Malibu, or that Henry Kissinger admires his Nobel Peace Prize before laying down his weary head on his pillow in his home in New York, for although each man may consider himself to be perfectly happy, to Israelis, both Spielberg and Kissinger are homeless Jews, worthy of pity.What’s more, many Jewish religious leaders believe that Jews outside Israel have the obligation to make Aliyah (a visit to Israel) as their religious duty. Similarly, Hispanic societies believe it is the duty of U.S. Hispanics to be fluent in Spanish, and to reject certain cultural values of the greater Anglo-Saxon Protestant mainstream society of the United States, as a moral obligation.
For Latinos, their state of perceived estrangement from the community of Hispanic nations is exacerbated by the knowledge that significant portions of U.S. territory were once New Spain; there is a lingering sense of loss at what is interpreted as a humiliation: the border crossed a segment of the greater Hispanic nation, severing U.S. Hispanics from the Hispanic peoples to which they rightfully belong. The concern, particularly among Hispanic intellectuals outside the United States, centers on the alienation of Latinos. This describes the obstacles that U.S. Latinos encounter in their lives from their inability to speak Spanish, knowledge of Hispanic history, fluency in Hispanic culture, and the ability to function effortlessly in both societies.
As such, when Latinos dismiss the word “Hispanic,” it is a source of anguish for Hispanic society: it underscores how uninformed this community of the Hispanic family has become, and the disadvantage in which they find themselves.
What does this mean? For one thing, don’t be surprised if the “Latinos” in your organization have never heard of “Día de la Hispanidad”—which is a measure of both their ignorance of the global Hispanic community, and their relative alienation from the mainstream of Hispanic society. There are several repercussions to these kinds of social and cultural isolation and alienation, which are well-documented by the U.S. government: Latinos lag in virtually every measure, from educational attainment level to higher risk for diabetes, from lower household income to greater likelihood for being the victim of violent crime.
To these documented social facts that speak to the state of the lives of U.S. Hispanics, there is another component: how Hispanics are viewed by non-Hispanic Americans. How other groups in the societies in which we live view us is an important factor in our emotional well-being, and impacts the civility in which communities live. In Germany, for instance, second- and third-generation Germans of Turkish ancestry remain alienated from the mainstream of German life—and by choice. Turkish-Germans (who are Muslim) view their fellow German countrymen, who are of Teutonic (Caucasian) ancestry, and Christian, with contempt.To the Turkish-Germans, their fellow countrymen are people who pollute their bodies with alcohol and pork, and who lack enough sense to accept Muhammad as the true prophet. In a similar vein, non-Hispanic Americans view Hispanics and Latinos with suspicion: who are these short, brown-skin interlopers who have arrived in the country, refuse to learn English, assimilate into the mainstream of American life, and make demands on non-Hispanics to the point where it is impossible to dial any toll-free number and not be affronted by the “Oprima 2 para español” message that is as grating as nails screeching down a blackboard? And where are Homeland Security officers when you need them?
This is the unspoken hostility that U.S. Hispanics encounter by virtue of living in this nation’s Hispanic diaspora.This is the inevitable consequence that members of all diasporas encounter around the world, which requires “displaced” peoples to develop strategies to overcome obstacles inherent in being minorities at the margins of the societies in which they live. Sometimes the truth isn’t pretty, and the truth about diasporas seldom is anything but wrenching.
Louis E. V. Nevaer
Excerpted with permission from, Managing Hispanic and Latino Employees: A Guide to Hiring, Training, Motivating, Supervising, and Supporting the Fastest Growing Workforce Group, which can be ordered by clicking on the image to the left.
About this book:
Hispanics are the largest minority group and the fastest growing demographic in the United States. But their supervisors are often non-Hispanics who do not understand how they see the business world and so are not able to work with their Hispanic employees effectively. Drawing on his own ethnic background and years of experience as director of the organization, Hispanic Economics, Louis Nevaer identifies three overarching concepts that inform Hispanic culture and that often result in behaviors and beliefs very different than, and sometimes seemingly at odds with, those of non-Hispanics. Using a wealth of specific examples, Nevaer shows how an awareness of the importance of these concepts can help managers create a welcoming work environment, increase productivity and employee engagement, and develop a dynamic and committed Hispanic workforce. As Hispanics become an ever-larger segment of the workforce, organizations who fail to make them feel welcome and valued risk losing access to a significant source of talent and innovation.