Manny Ruiz, CEO of Hispanicize Media Group, started a conversation at the organization’s annual conference last week which was met with the familiar skepticism and criticism.
In Opinion: Where is a Latino Jesse Jackson when you need him? he predicts that the incessant “cultural bullying” of the U.S. Hispanic/Latino community (especially in a presidential election year) will continue until a unifying leader emerges.
Most of the negative reaction I read on social media was similar to this one on Facebook: “Do Latinos need an adulterous opportunist?” – focused on the headline and not the body of the message.
What’s most alarming to me is an unwillingness by different groups focused on the equal representation of Latinos to adhere to one voice. To their credit, they all do a wonderful job of creating awareness and effecting positive change. And to be fair, many do collaborate on issues which intersect each of their group’s mission.
I remember during my tenure as president, the successful partnership of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ), the National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC) and others in the campaign to stop media from using the derogatory term illegal immigrant.
Collaboration always proves to be positive, productive and powerful. But that shouldn’t be limited to the lane each organization drives on.
This summer NAHJ and the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) are hosting a joint national conference which is expected to bring together approximately four-thousand journalists. My race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or culture does not prevent me from lending my voice in support of issues which often also impact Latinos or that I just empathize with.
Like the initiative I work on at ESPN, nosotros somos One Nación de muchas banderas.
I’m a Peruvian-American and like I wrote in an article for Hispanic Heritage Month: I’m proud to be part of a larger group of people with a common history, culture and language, but as we celebrate the great things which unite us let us also celebrate those which make us unique.
But a conversation with my friend Manny (a person I respect and admire) helped change the way I look at myself.
I am an American Latino.
In the article, I shared the criticism I received after Donald Trump’s attacks on Mexicans. I was invited to speak in a television program about how the presidential hopeful was not only alienating the Mexican community, but Latinos in general. Some critics, many Latino – told me that I was wrong. They were quick to correct me that Trump singled out Mexicans and not any other Latino group. That’s factually correct of course, but what they failed to see is that for many people in this country we are all the same. Mexicans, Peruvians, Puerto Ricans, fill-in-the-blank for any of the more than 20 Spanish speaking countries…to them, we are all “Mexicans”.
So, when Manny asks, “where’s the Latino Jesse Jackson?” out of admiration for the collective power to mobilize the African-American community, don’t focus on the headline. Instead take the time to understand his proposal.
If Hispanics/Latinos keep elbowing each other for the same few inches of space around us, then we’ll never succeed in getting the comfortable living space which our population, social, political and economic power commands.