National Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15-Oct.15) celebrates US Latinos and their contributions to and influence on the culture, history and achievements of this country. While we need to celebrate Latinos’ positive impact, this year also should recognize the work needed to elevate and support our community, including accurately representing Afro-Latinos.
Black Lives Matter inspired protests and global change. It did so via conversations around identity, privilege, individual and collective responsibility, accountability, and conscious/unconscious biases. Latinos were not exempt from these conversations, particularly because there are issues of anti-Blackness and racism within us.
We know the Latinx community is racially diverse, but we often fall into the trap of homogeneousness and generalization. 25 percent of Latinos identify as Afro-Latino, Afro-Caribbean or of African descent with roots in Latin America, according to the Pew Research Center.
There is racism within our community and a lack of proactivity to acknowledge and address it. However, what is most disappointing is the ignorant pursuit of socioeconomic whiteness. This occurs despite Latinx family traditions, globally acclaimed music, beloved food and much more are anchored in our African and indigenous roots.
2020 has been so impactful that it has forced us into a journey of self-recognition, reconciliation, and acceptance. We are being challenged to pause and think with purpose, to not only speak with intention, but to act and demand change with intention. We have a long way to go, but change happens one step at a time.
So, below are recommendations for PR pros to rise to the challenge and do the work:
- Include Afro-Latinos when highlighting and promoting the diversity and success of Latinx employees.
- Provide an internal communication platform for thoughtful, respectful, and honest discussions among employees to listen and share differing stories and realities.
- Engage with cultural and diversity & inclusion experts who can provide additional perspectives on Latinx intersectionality within the US.
- Establish/participate in diverse employee resource groups or a mentoring programs to build unity and a sense of belonging and inclusivity.
- Partner with Hispanic professional groups, such as the Hispanic Public Relations Association, NGOs or other organizations to use and lend your voice for the advancement of Latino priorities, drive grassroots impact, and grow the Latinx talent pipeline.
Carla Santiago is GM of Edelman Miami and a Hispanic Public Relations Association board member