Why do our educational institutions need ethnic studies? There is a substantial information gap in the US when it comes to our nation's largest non-European ethnic and racial populations. The availability--and sharing--of bias-free, non-subjective information about Latinos, their histories, and their contributions to our nation will lead to a better understanding of their growing influence as consumers, students, taxpayers, voters, and members of the workforce. They are already the majority of many urban areas across the nation.
To effectively interact with Latinos--and other emerging ethnic/racial groups--general market media, its audiences, and the public in general--must become better informed of their histories and contributions to our nation. Spanish-language media has recognized the void in news about this largest and fastest growing ethnic segment of the population and is filling that need (from which other media can learn and profit). In a world of increasingly diverse information sources and content, bilingual and Spanish-language media are demonstrating that cultural relevance works, and is profitable.
A question for many non-Spanish speaking practitioners is simply, "Do you possess the necessary skills to deal with the evolution of the US population from the traditional white Eurocentric 'one size fits all' point of view?" If not, then the next question might be, "Are our educational systems, companies, agencies, or organizations prepared to invest in preparing experts who can provide the marketplace with culturally competent professionals?"
There are many thoughts on how to enhance cultural competency. The logical place to start is in our schools that are charged with expanding knowledge of cultures that affect our personal, as well as our organizations' mission, goals, and objectives. The most successful retail companies and non-profit organizations go beyond Spanish-surnames or employees' Spanish-language skills when selecting individuals to manage their "ethnic" outreach efforts. They increasingly rely on professionals who demonstrate high levels of empathy toward the targeted audiences and possess the cultural proficiency to manage communication campaigns and outreach initiatives as part of their organization's integrated operational efforts. Having culturally competent "aces" in all the right places ensures effectiveness and sustainability in an increasingly diverse marketplace.
Ethnic studies are important to the fast growing ethnic and racial segments of our nation's population, but I contend they are equally--if not more--important to the shrinking white Eurocentric professionals who must become culturally aware of how to interact with those who are influencing a growing number of professions (and their employers' revenue streams) for which today's high school and college students are preparing.
Adapt or perish remains nature's (and the workplace's) inexorable imperative.
Jim is a nationally renowned PR, marketing and community relations practitioner and author of "The ABCs and ?æ: A Primer on the Growing Influence of Hispanics, Latinos, and mestizos in the USA." Author's website