It is not a secret to anyone that the unknown or different causes curiosity, especially when we meet a person from a different background, culture or ethnicity. For the same reason we need to be cautious on what to ask, because our questions could seem intrusive, disrespectful or offensive. In the case of Hispanics living in the U.S., this same principle applies.
Hispanics are immersed in every single aspect of the American Society and data shows that this participation will increase in the years to come. According to the Huffington Post (link to article), 16% of the U.S. labor force is Hispanic and by 2050 the Hispanic workforce will double to 30%. This is why these “Five things that you should never say to Hispanics” are important to consider.
1. What is your Status? Not under ANY circumstance you should ask this question. If a person comes from a different country that doesn’t necessarily mean that the person crossed the border illegally. Yes, I know… you might be thinking, “Lots of Hispanics cross the border illegally”. Surprisingly, this is not the case anymore. According to the National Review (link to article), most of the illegal immigration enters to the country with some sort of VISA, and overstays the VISA. This type of immigration comes from all over the world. The stigma and the prejudice that Hispanics bear unfortunately prevails through generations. These days, many U.S. citizens with a Hispanic Heritage suffer this type of characterization. After all let’s not forget that if we go back in history, a lot of individuals didn’t cross the border, the border crossed them.
2. You speak Spanish, so you must be Mexican. This also is a big “no no.” Let’s not forget that Latin America has a lot of Spanish speaking countries. Although the Latin American Countries have a lot of things in common besides the language, each country represents a totally different culture and identity. In just a few words it would be the same principle to affirm that all the English speaking individuals come from the same country.
3. Oh you are Mexican! You don’t look Mexican at all. I’ll go back to Mexico because that’s the country that historically has faced more prejudice and stereotyping in the U.S. and of course due to the fact that the Mexican nationals surpass in numbers other Hispanic groups. If we go back in history when Mexico was colonized by Spain, there were numerous native ethnic groups in the area. Now the majority of the Mexican nationals are the result of the miscegenation of Spaniards and the Native ethnic groups. Plus the miscegenation of other countries that had immigration booms to Mexican territory such as: France Germany, Lebanon, and Israel. So let’s face it, how should a Mexican or Hispanic look? Isn’t this stereotyping? Your comment could be perceived as bigoted and racist.
4. Happy Independence Day! Let’s Celebrate “Cinco de Drinko” Together! This could be really perturbing to Mexican citizens in the U.S. since Cinco de Mayo is NOT the Mexican Independence Day. The Mexican Independence Day is September 16th, which celebrates the Victory of the Mexican Army over the French Army in Puebla, Mexico. Although Cinco de Mayo is considered a Holiday in Mexico, it is not a major “Statutory Holiday.” In reality, Cinco de Mayo is more celebrated in U.S. than in Mexico, and many Mexican nationals perceive Cinco de Mayo as an excuse Americans use to have Margaritas and Mexican food, and misrepresent the “Real Mexican Culture”.
5. Ah, You speak Spanish, I’m looking for a good housekeeper or lawn maintenance person. Hmm not necessarily, there are Hispanics, within every single niche of the economy. This comment could be perceived as bigoted. The reality is that there are Hispanics in Silicon Valley, occupying seats at the Congress, Entrepreneurs, Scientists, Professors, Physicians, Lawyers etc. Yes yes…. I know what you are thinking, “there are a lot of Hispanics performing manual labor jobs.” There is no doubt about that and there is nothing wrong with it. But your comment could unintentionally typecast a lot of people in certain types of jobs or capabilities, and some may find it offensive.
Bottom line, get to know each Hispanic you meet as an individual diverse person and interact with them in a genuine and respectful manner.
Coming with the next two weeks: Seven Misconceptions or Stereotypes of Hispanic People