Why AL DÍA News does not have a 'Policy on Diversity'
The simple answer: “Because we don’t need one.” Notwithstanding, AL DÍA has been quietly and persistently advocating for it for the past 15 years in Philadelphia.
Although we don’t have a formal, completely spelled out policy on “diversity,” today the AL DÍA Team is probably the most genuinely diverse you can find on Market Street West, the financial district of downtown Philadelphia, where the corporate office of AL DÍA is located.
The paradox is that we are not fully aware of it all the time.
Perhaps because it is part of our unconscious nature or it’s organically ingrained in our culture, not only that famous “company culture”, but, much deeper within, the Latino culture, from which our company sprung from two decades ago as a family-owned company, built from scratch by immigrant entrepreneurs.
If you check us by color of skin, we represent all the beautiful colors of the creation; if you screen us by ethnic or national origin, the same; if you judge us by gender, even more so: Women at AL DÍA actually outnumber men and hold most of the management positions in our small but agile and bustling operation.
How did we end up there? Not because we deliberately chose to be: We were already there, way before we started AL DÍA News 23 years ago.
Diversity has always been in our Latino heritage, going back to the Iberian Peninsula, way before the U.S. started as nation here in Philadelphia.
Allow me to explain: Diversity has always been in our Latino heritage, going back to the Iberian Península, way before the U.S. started as nation here in Philadelphia in 1776.
Turn it back to 1492, before America was discovered, or 1,000 years farther in the past, to the Fall of the Roman Empire, in 400 AD. We can catch sight of —in the ancient "Hispania", the Western province of the Roman Empire that later became Spain— the early roots of the current 21st Century "Hispanic identity tree", which today is thick, robust and with a sap of natural diversity in the trunk and in its multiple branches.
The propensity to integrate a multiplicity of races, cultures, languages and religions runs throughout that long history, and it is today the greatest strength of a rugged but sturdy Latino heritage of our times.
So vigorous and full of possibilities that, at one end of the spectrum, we have a Roberto Clemente, and at the other end, a Cameron Diaz, with a wide and rich range of shades in between. To call us "Brown", as we are often in the U.S., is evidently inaccurate, and it is yet another over generalization that keep the vast confusion about U.S. Latinos alive.
Latinos are NOT a race. As writer Richard Rodriguez has said, for race we prefer the name "La Raza Cósmica" (The Cosmic Race), proposed by Mexican Philosopher José Vasconcelos in the 1920s, "a new people having not one race but many in their blood".
Truth to be told, we, American Latinos, the latest offshoot of that rich ethnic tree, carry the seed and the essence of diversity in our flesh. We already mirror from our mere external physical appearance the America that will exist over the next century.
On a deeper level, a more authentic sense of diversity is also in our cognitive cells, all seamed into what I call the “cultural genetics" of our unique Latino experience. Our cultural DNA, we call it in AL DÍA, still largely invisible to the rest of America.
When we emigrated to the U.S., we brought along that unique gift, so full of potential, particularly in this very moment of U.S. History.
In us, it constantly challenges the super efficient but also super simplified optics of the American society.
That complex gift came in our luggage of memories, or in the oral traditions we brought over from “the Deeper South” — past our southern border, from Central and South America, down to the Patagonia — where integration, not only of races but also of cultures, languages and traditions carried on over 500 years of an often painful and little-known history, from the 15th to the 19th Century.
The most disparate pieces of the creation continued coming together in that adventure, pushed sometimes by the sword and ambition of the soldier, some others by the faith and the cross of the priest, and formed a new thread of traditions wrapped around the name “the Latino culture" — now further transformed in our experience in the English-speaking Northern half of our vast continent. Further enriched, we are now the "U.S. Latino Culture."
Because of the vast wealth of our cultural and racial heritage, Latinos bring to our adoptive city, the great city of Philadelphia, the much needed gifts of authentic diversity — effortlessly, spontaneously, joyfully.
With that understanding, 15 years ago AL DÍA was already bringing up the issue of authentic diversity, for example, to the attention of the CEO of SEPTA, the now legendary John K. Leary, and proposing to him and his senior staff the obvious need to address the very apparent lack of it in their workforce. A basic step forward — to be better prepared for the future of a much more diversified city—, in what was year one of our AL DÍA Diversity Career Fair advocacy, in 2001.
15 years later, the future is here, staring us in the eye, blessed by the new presence of thousands from the millennial population and the many more thousands of immigrants, mostly of Latino origin, now calling Philadelphia home.
Blessed, I say, because without them —have all these new residents chosen to go to some other city, like NYC or LA—, Philadelphia would be today still the sorry city with dwindling population and shrinking economy we endured for half a century, between 1950 and 2000.
The need to bring authentic diversity now to our city’s workforce, not only to SEPTA but to all the other large corporations, government and the major Philadelphia institutions, has stop being, from our perspective, an ‘equal opportunity’ policy requirement —still unfulfilled when it comes to Latinos —, or a tired politically correct statement to make. After being repeated over and over for the past 3 decades, it has dangerously reached its point of "fatigue" and few really believe in it, as The Economist recently put it.
...Authentic diversity is above all an obvious economic imperative of our times — one that has the power to make or break Philadelphia’s chances to compete on the national or the global scene.
As business people, with a hand on the pulse of the market place and a view from the ground level, we see ourselves that authentic diversity is above all an obvious economic imperative of our times — one that has the power to make or break Philadelphia’s chances to compete on the national or the global scene.
As far as AL DÍA is concerned, we know Philadelphia and the United States needs to move beyond the easy stereotype and, with resolve, recruit many more Dexterous Minds (fewer Devious Maids), as a recent article in AL DÍA pointed out contrasting the common stereotype against the new reality we see and would like to communicate.
Furthermore, we need to expand, fearlessly and boldly, the definition of diversity beyond the outdated equation of Men Vs. Women, or White Vs. Black, and open the doors, "liberated from the black-and-white checkerboard" Richard Rodríguez talks about, to a more interesting game— one where the missing pieces will compete, leverage and complete the mosaic of a stronger and more productive America.
A genuinely diverse and inclusive Philadelphia will not only be the fair thing to do and achieve... It is a wonderful opportunity we can't afford to miss to make our hometown a much stronger urban center, that shining global city we dream about...
A genuinely diverse and inclusive Philadelphia, in particular, — which very specifically AL DÍA 15th Anniversary Career Fair hopes to serve on April 27th, 2016 in the Pennsylvania Convention Center— will not only be the fair thing to do and achieve, finally doing away at the beginning of the 21st Century with the last vestiges of discrimination against minority groups still excluded from our economic, professional and political life.
More importantly, it is a wonderful opportunity we can't afford to miss to make our hometown a much stronger urban center, that shining global city in the eastern seaboard we all dream about, unafraid to get on its feet to run and win the race of the 21st Century's fiercely competitive economy.
Philadelphia, March 6, 2016.