Five Things Never to Say to Hispanic People

Thank you to Elsa Maria Jimenez Salgado, Associate Consultant, for writing this blog.  Elsa has a law degree from Mexico and a Masters Certificate in Human Resource Management in the US.

Thank you to Elsa Maria Jimenez Salgado, Associate Consultant, for writing this blog. Elsa has a law degree from Mexico and a Masters Certificate in Human Resource Management in the US.

Note from Stan Kimer. With National Hispanic Heritage Month (link) being celebrated soon in the USA, September 15 – October 15, I wanted to provide some interesting resources. I thank part time consultant Elsa Maria Jimenez Salgado (link to her info) from my team for writing this blog!

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.

Hispanics themselves have very diverse appearances and backgrounds. (Photo from "Hispanics Across America)

Hispanics themselves have very diverse appearances and backgrounds. (Photo from “Hispanics Across America”)

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

Read also:

Five Things to Never Say to Gay People

Five Things Never to Say to Transgender People

Islamophobia – a current growing US diversity issue

NC Council of Churches Governing Board and Staff are proud to stand with the banner showing us as united against racism and Islamophobia

NC Council of Churches Governing Board and Staff are proud to stand with the banner showing us as united against racism and Islamophobia

As a diversity consultant, I strive to stay up to date on current trends and issues in the diversity and inclusion field. One of the tough issues growing within our country is Islamophobia. My definition of Islamophobia is, “an irrational fear or hatred of Muslim people based on unfamiliarity or stereotyping.” FYI, Webster’s Dictionary defines stereotyping as “forming a standardized mental picture that is held in common by members of a group and that represents an oversimplified opinion.” Unfortunately, many people are judging the world’s one billion Muslims based on the actions of a very small radical visible few.

I was actually starting to plan this blog over two weeks ago, before the horrific massacre at the Pulse Bar in Orlando, which makes this entry now even more timely.

Why is Islamophobia or any phobia or fear of a group of people problematic? When we cannot all respect each other and work together within our society, we cannot be as productive as a nation as we can, and at its worst, hate and violence occurs.

I am currently on the board of the North Carolina Council of Churches, which represents 17 denominations and several independent congregations. We work to build respect and understanding across denomination and religion lines to impact our state for the good of all our residents. At our quarterly board meeting on June 7, we had a guest presenter, Manzoor Cheema from MERI – the Movement to End Racism and Islamophobia.

Manzoor share several interesting (and some disturbing) information:

• Islam is not a new religion in the United States. Muslims have been present in our country since the 1830s, including Africans brought over in the slave trade (many forced to renounce their religion by their owners)
• Given that a large number of Muslim are “people of color,” racism and islamophobia are connected and intertwined.
• Myths about Islam, like that it is inherently violent, are widely propagated based on the actions of a very small minority.
• There has been a tripling of the attack rate on mosques and Muslims since Presidential candidate Donald Trump’s anti-Muslim statements
• There are a disproportionate ratio Muslims incarcerated and expelled from school. And this statement does is not meant to imply that Muslim commit more crimes, but instead to point our the inherent bias in our justice system.
• Most Muslims do not hate women, Jews, Christians and LGBT people. For example, the MERI organization has partnered with the Jewish Voice for Peace as well as Methodist and Quaker organizations. Manzoor also mentioned addressing discrimination against LGBT people several times during his presentation.

I close with a three recommendations:Mosque photoI close with a three recommendations:

1. Visit a local mosque or attend a Muslim sponsored event.
2. Do research on Islam including viewing resources on the MERI website.
3. Connect with an actual Muslim person and ask them to tell you about their beliefs instead of listening to what other parties are saying about them.

Later this summer I hope to blog about Islam in the workplace, and the LGBT issue within Islam, but for now please do read this excellent and provocative piece reacting to the Orlando massacre by Salma Mirza, a queer-identified Muslim organizer of MERI.