[OP-ED]: Hispanics need you to go to bat for them
Last year, in the Harvard Business Review, Avivah Wittenberg-Cox wrote that in order to get more women and minorities into corporate America, diversity initiatives must harness the credibility, power and political capital of white men.
“Most of the work of diversity and inclusion approaches in companies to date has focused on empowering the ‘out’ groups or training the ‘in’ groups about their unconscious biases. This has succeeded only in annoying everyone,” wrote Wittenberg-Cox, the CEO of a consulting firm that focuses on gender matters. “When old majorities become new minorities, it’s time to update our approach. ... And yet rarely have I ever seen inclusion strategies that stress the need to include, listen to, and work with the dominant group -- the one that is seeing its pre-eminence questioned. That is where leadership is most needed: in helping today’s dominant group embrace tomorrow’s reality.”
Wittenberg-Cox’s words rang in my ears in the aftermath of the recent shooting of a Mexican immigrant in his Chicago home, allegedly by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents.
The 53-year-old man, Felix Torres, was wounded as agents attempted to serve an arrest warrant for his 23-year-old son. Torres and his wife have resided in Chicago for more than 25 years and are legal residents. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, there were six other people in the home at the time of the shooting, including three children who are U.S.-born citizens.
The son, Felix Torres Jr., who was also born in the U.S., was questioned about his citizenship before being released without charges, according to the family lawyer. (Agents reportedly say the father pointed a gun at them, but the family denies that he was armed.)
Chicago’s immigrant community was horrified that their worst fears had come true. Emboldened by the Trump administration’s vow to “take the shackles off” of ICE agents and reprioritize any unlawfully present immigrants for deportation, the focus is no longer on those with the most severe criminal convictions.
“First we’ve got an administration that is escalating the criminalization of our community, and now we’ve got ICE agents shooting into homes,” said Analía Rodríguez, executive director of the Latino Union of Chicago. “It’s driving a lot of fear in our community -- people are afraid to go shopping for their groceries, they’re afraid to be in their homes because it’s clear that [Department of Homeland Security and ICE agents] have guns and are ready to use them.”
Rodriguez told me that the Latino Union, which organizes low-income immigrant and U.S.-born workers, views this incident as illustrative of the consequences of a president who rode into office with blustery rhetoric about getting “bad hombres” out.
“People need to see that ICE is planning and executing violent raids in our homes and in our workplaces, with no recourse for the people it targets,” Rodriguez said. She said that change will not come until people who are not directly affected by the threat of deportations -- or have family or friends living under such a threat -- understand what’s going on in immigrant communities.
“These sorts of incidents need to open the eyes and ears of people who, in the past, may have read about such incidents in the newspapers or saw something on the news and said, ‘Oh this is really bad,’ but never really did anything about it.”
To put it another way, Hispanics -- both immigrant and U.S.-born alike -- need non-Hispanics to go to bat for them.
“The organizations are already out there, working on these issues,” said Rodriguez, “and we already have people who are willing to sign an online petition or write a check to help us do our work. Some may even come out to a rally. But what we really need are people who will help us get our voices heard.”
Imagine it: White people, and other non-immigrants, convincing their peers that not all Hispanics are immigrants, that not all immigrants are unlawfully present, and that not all unlawfully present immigrants are violent criminals deserving of aggressive, even deadly, removal.
“There’s an opportunity here for whites -- and other -- allies to learn about us, learn about our stories and our struggles and then take that back to their communities. There are so many spaces where Hispanics are not invited or not welcome and that’s where we need our story to be told,” Rodriguez said. “It’s much easier to join a rally than to go back home to have difficult conversations about race or deportation, but that’s the challenge we put out to our white allies.”