I believe that all people deserve an open and honest response regarding their concerns and I would like to present mine to you through this response. Through SUPPLY HOUSE TIMES I have received four letters of concern to which I would like to respond.
The major concern you have voiced in your letters, is a concern regarding the stereotyping of the Latino people.
- For the record, I am Latino.
- For the record, I have frequent contact with people from all over Latin America.
- For the record, I spend at least 10 days a month in Puerto Rico, my native country.
- For the record, I have owned a business and a home in Costa Rica.
- For the record, I have been married for 13 years to a Costa Rican.
- For the record, I remember very well going to school in the United States and frequently being called a SPIC. For the record, I clearly remember being told on a golf outing by a corporate executive after losing a golf scramble together to, “go back to Puerto Rico and start 'stealing hubcaps' again.”
- For the record, my father came here from Puerto Rico at 16 years of age, with no English and an 8th grade level of education. For years, we went back and forth between the United States and Puerto Rico trying to make a living.
- For the record, my father retired in the United States when he was 45 years old thanks to this great country.
- For the record, not only do I understand what a “stereotype” is, I have lived one as well. Whether those of you who have written these letters have or not lived a stereotype only you know. I hope not.
- For the record, my company has never, and will never, accept any special contracts or considerations based on our “minority” status. If we receive contracts, it is because we are the best. We only ask to be considered on an equal standing.
- For the record, I deeply love the Latino people and culture and the things I write are designed to help our people, not hurt.
The questions I asked myself upon reading your letters were,
- Did I stereotype the people I love and, above all things, desire to help?
- Did I hurt our people?
Obviously, in your view, I did. Although this is not my intent, I apologize for this offense to the four of you who took the time to express your concerns.
This being said, I would like to respond to your points directly. I recognize this is an emotional issue, but I will do my best to respond with grace. Below are some direct quotes taken from your letters. I will present a quote and then respond to each particular quote directly.
QUOTE FROM LETTER:
“How can he suggest (and how can you publish) that all Hispanics might bribe police, drive under the influence of alcohol, are too “macho” to follow normal safety training, might be poor leaders, and should be rewarded with a fiesta that includes breaking some piñatas and drinking tequila?”
I re-read the article as published in SUPPLY HOUSE TIMES and do not see anywhere where I say, “all” Hispanics are anything. This would be a foolish and untrue statement. I clearly say they “might” be unfamiliar with certain social norms. “Might” is not an all-inclusive word, it means “maybe,” “possibly.” It does not mean “all.”
The things I mention are real. I personally know that these things happen. I am not making this up. The Latin American culture is a different culture and it is a fact that the incidence of DUIs and petty theft are far higher in Latin America than in the United States. Laws are also more easily worked around through bribes and friendships with police officers and judges. These are facts. Does this mean, then, that I believe that “all” Hispanics drive drunk or are thieves? Of course not. I do not believe even that most are, nor do I say this in my column. I simply believe that Latinos who come into the United States should be aware of the differences in laws and culture. I do this to help our people, not hurt them. To me, it is foolish to not educate our people, many of whom come into this country with low levels of formal education, about the dangers that exist. If I take some heat from you for my openness, I am fine with this because I know that those who live in our culture appreciate the help. Is it comfortable for this to be spoken about openly? Of course not. You see, I have been in the DUI courts in many major cities in the United States simply to observe. I have clearly seen that a large majority of the people in these U.S. courts are Latinos. I say these things because I love our people, not because I want to hurt them. To hide this is to hurt our people [by keeping them] in darkness, something I simply cannot do.
The “piñatas and drinking tequila” was very obviously an attempt at humor, in concert with the example of the giving of turkeys on Thanksgiving. The whole story, in my view, is simply funny. The point, which should not be lost, is that we should give things to people that actually matter to them. Do all people in Mexico drink tequila? No, most do. It is the number one alcoholic beverage in Mexico. By the way, the most popular tequila in Mexico is called “El Jimador” not “José Cuervo,” just in caseyoudrink tequila and want the best. Most Mexicans also have piñatas at parties for children. These are facts, not stereotypes.
QUOTE FROM LETTER:
"The author, Ricardo Gonzales, blatantly slanders the whole Hispanic community both here and abroad. This man describes Hispanics, using derogatory stereotypes, to elevate himself in the eyes of the readers. His purpose, it seems, is to profit by promoting himself as the man with all the answers and selling you aHow Tomanual, but on what basis does he claim to be an authority on this subject?"
“The whole Hispanic community?” First of all, there is noHispaniccommunity abroad.Hispanicis a word fabricated by the Nixon Administration back in the early 70s to potentially create a large voting block through a new political super group. Abroad are only Mexicans, Cubans, Costa Ricans, Puerto Ricans, Colombians, Argentinians and so forth. We are all from different cultures and none of us belongs to the Hispanic culture. It doesn't exist. As they say, "Only in America!"
Also, how am I trying to “elevate myself in the eyes of my readers”? How can it be “elevating” for me personally to share with people from the United States the painful truth, the truth about our needs as a culture? This does not elevate me, this pains me. By the way, the “How To Manual” this reader refers to is not in English, it is in Spanish and is specifically for the Latino person, thousands of whom have appreciated the open and honest teaching. It teaches the Latino person how to succeed in the United States, in their company and in personal safety on the job. These are important issues for the Latino person new to this country. Also, where, to quote my friend here, do I “claim to be an authority on this subject”? I do not see this in the article anywhere. If you want to take my advice, so be it; if not, fine. Those who follow my advice with the Latino community get very strong results, have higher production, less turnover, are more profitable and, as a caveat, have a happy workforce. The proof of expertise is in the result.
AN EXAMPLENow, allow me to apply the logic being used by all four of you to a different example.
Let's say a person from the United States wrote that there is a HUGE drug problem in the United States. Let's say he writes that this problem is due to societal issues that drive an enormous amount of pressure for drugs in the U.S. market. I believe you would agree that there is a HUGE drug problem in the United States.
Does the fact that this writer points out this problem mean that he is saying that all U.S. citizens use drugs? Does it mean that he thinks that all citizens of the United States think it is OK to take drugs? Does this account for, as the person who I quote above says, “a blatant slandering of the entire community of U.S. citizens?”
I doubt you would take this position. Why then, do you take a position on my writing that you would never take if a citizen of the U.S. wrote it about the citizenry of the United States?
QUOTE FROM LETTER:
"I find it insufferable that the author asserts that Hispanics think it is acceptable to drive drunk, and to bribe a policeman, are unable to lead, and are incapable of following safety directions due to theirmachonature."
Where do I say that I think Hispanics - and I assume now he is speaking of the almost 300 million people in 22 different countries - find it acceptable to “drive drunk” and to “bribe a policeman” as this person suggests. Many of our people, probably most, do not.
Where do I say, anywhere, in anything that I have written, that Latinos are “unable” to lead and “incapable” of following safety directions due to theirmachonature? Where? Please show me this. Obviously, I think nothing of the kind.
I do believe, however, based on years of experience and research in this culture, that our people have needs for special instruction in these areas. These needs are real and should not be ignored by any businessperson who is hiring the Latino workforce. To ignore these realities is foolish, and in some cases, a total disaster.
QUOTE FROM LETTER:
“Propagating stereotypes as factual does a disservice when it suggests that everyone from a certain ethnic group or country behaves in a certain way ... in retrospect was it really necessary and wise to lump all Latinos who come here for employment into a single image?”
I agree that to “propagate stereotypes as factual” does a disservice when it suggests thateveryonebehaves in a certain way as the reader suggests. A stereotype, by nature, suggests that a large group of people within a culture act in the same way. Again, where do I say thateveryonebehaves this way? Where do I lumpall Latinosinto this mix? I think I have already made my view clear as to what I am saying and believe.
QUOTE FROM LETTER:
“The two articles published recently do more to stereotype Hispanics than to explain or educate ... the fact that your author uses his Hispanic surname to bolster his credibility shows an obvious disconnect between his heritage and his understanding.”
Perhaps my response to your letters will serve to clarify my thoughts regarding stereotyping of cultures. To stereotype is one thing, to be honest and upfront about social needs and norms is another.
As for me bolstering my credibility with my Hispanic surname, well, what should I do, change my last name to Smith or Jones? That this reader suggests that I have a disconnect between my heritage and my understanding is, well, very personally offensive and this reader owesmean apology. Very few people who know me, both Latinos and Anglos, have this view.
Should I now begin to wonder for what all my time in research with Latinos all over the United States, Central America, South America and the Caribbean has served me? I guess I should wonder for what all my evenings spent in pool halls with the common workers - just shooting the breeze and finding out exactly what goes on in the community -serves?
I am disconnected? I think not. In fact, I am extremely well connected to our people.
I should ask this reader what his level of connection is to the Latino community. Have you lived in Latin America for any length of time? Is your spouse Latina? Have you ever done business in Latin America? Are your parents Latinos? Do you speak Spanish? Do you know which Latin American countries are playing in the World Cup soccer matches starting in June? Usually when I ask these questions, a bit of a hush comes over people.
Closing Thoughts:I invite you to a more rational and realistic response to the needs of the Latino people in the United States.
I sincerely appreciate all four of you taking your time to express your views. This is a valuable exercise. I hope we can be friends. I hope I can help you at some point with your Latino people. If not, this is fine. At the very least, let's respect one another and before we make personal accusations and assumptions, let's show the respect to at least ask someone to clarify their thoughts. I will be in the Innovative Thinking Conference for your industry at Lake Lanier Island, GA on June 12-13. If you would like, I would be more than happy to meet with you personally there. I think if you got to know me you would see things differently.
I will keep moving forward. By the way, I don't just talk about the problems; I work to solve them. For this reason we have produced Success in the United States, English and Leadership in the American Enterprise Courses specifically to help the Latino person. If you really want to help our people break out of the stereotypes, perhaps investing in one of these courses for your Latino people might be a good place to start.
You see, the stereotypes exist because the problems exist. We will only break the stereotypes when we eliminate these issues as being dominant problems in our culture. We will only eliminate the problems when we address them properly and train different skill sets.
If you have additional thoughts to add to this process of elevating the Latino person I am more than open to hearing your thoughts. I am a learner. In the future, I will buffer my thoughts with readers like yourselves in mind. This is also for the good of our people as this process helps me to be more careful and exact when I say something. Perhaps, I will take two articles to express what I am expressing now in one so as to ensure a more detailed explanation of my thoughts. The article we are speaking about is a very broad stroke regarding training and did not give room for detailed explanations.
If you would like to contact me personally, I am more than happy to speak with you regarding any outstanding concerns you might have. My direct cell phone number is 407-460-5166. If you prefer to email me, you can do so firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for taking the time to read this response.
You can read the letters Gonzalez refers to under the Feature: Angry Letters Regarding “Success With Hispanics” Series