Colin Powell

Alma and Colin Powell’s lasting American promise to the nation’s youth 

Colin Powell was a trailblazer and role model for Americans. A veteran of the Vietnam War, Powell spent 35 years in the Army and rose to the rank of four-star general before serving as the country’s first Black national security adviser, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and secretary of state. 

Powell passed away on Monday after complications of Covid-19, his family said in a statement on Facebook. Powell had been vaccinated, however he was being treated for myeloma, a blood cancer that impairs the body’s ability to fight infection; this compromised his immune system and the effectiveness of the vaccine, The Associated Press reported. 

“We have lost a remarkable and loving husband, father, grandfather and a great American,” the family said. 

Honoring America’s Promise to the nation’s youth through life of service

Born in Harlem to Jamaican immigrant parents, Powell grew up in the South Bronx. His childhood was marked by financial struggle and hardship. In his 1995 autobiography, My American Journey, Powell wrote, “Mine is the story of a black kid of no early promise from an immigrant family of limited means who was raised in the South Bronx.” From these humble beginnings, he rose through the ranks, becoming a prominent public figure in America and breaking barriers. 

Speaking on how Powell’s early years influenced his actions in life, President Biden said, “He believed in the promise of America because he lived it. And he devoted much of his life to making that promise a reality for so many others.”

Alma Powell, author, advocate, speaker and Chair Emeritus, America’s Promise Alliance. (Photo Source)

After retiring from the military in 1993, Powell began dedicating more time to fulfilling that promise. In 1997, Powell became the Founding Chairman of “America’s Promise – The Alliance for Youth”, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of children in America. Together with his wife, Alma, they worked to advocate for and improve the lives of children and youth by ensuring that Five Promises are fulfilled in their lives. 

Alma Powell later wrote the children’s book, “America’s Promise” as a way to teach and exemplify America’s Five Promises to children.

In the playful picture book, Alma Powell introduces young readers to the basic principles of America’s Promise — caring adults, safe places, a healthy start, marketable skills, and opportunities to serve.

“Our mission is to mobilize people from every sector of American life to build the character and competence of our nation’s youth by fulfilling five promises for young people,” Alma wrote

The Five Promises ask Americans to step up and create a world where the nation’s children can thrive and achieve adult success: 

  1. Caring Adults in Every Child’s Life – Develop relationships with parents, tutors, mentors, coaches, and other adults with an interest in the child’s well-being.
  2. A Safe Place After School – Create locations with structured activities during non-school hours.
  3. A Healthy Start -Provide good nutrition, protective immunizations, and sound dental care and hygiene.
  4. Marketable Skills – Offer effective education and practical experiences for career development.
  5. Opportunities to Give Back – Encourage community service – so that the cycle continues.

Throughout his life, Colin Powell exemplified these values as a youth advocate, public servant, parent, and leader. His accomplishments and historic firsts as a person of color also made him an inspiration and role model to many young Black Americans. 

Colin Powell

Colin Powell was a trailblazer and role model for Americans, inspiring many through his work, Kamala Harris shares. 

“Every step of the way, when he filled those roles, he was by everything that he did and the way he did it, inspiring so many people,” said Vice President Kamala Harris, speaking on his influence. “Young servicemembers and others not only within the military, but in our nation and around the globe, took notice of what his accomplishments meant as a reflection of who we are as a nation.”

You might be interested: Teaching leadership: Helping children become leaders and develop strong communication skills

By the time Powell retired from the military, he was known as one of the most popular public figures in America, “owing to his straightforwardness, his leadership qualities and his ability to speak in blunt tones that Americans appreciated.” (The New York Times) 

“He was a great public servant, starting with his time as a soldier during Vietnam,” said George W. Bush in a statement Monday. “Many presidents relied on General Powell’s counsel and experience. He was such a favorite of presidents that he earned the Presidential Medal of Freedom — twice. He was highly respected at home and abroad. And most important, Colin was a family man and a friend.”

Colin Powell lived a life of service and achieved great accomplishments through his merits. He leaves behind a legacy as trailblazer and role model who broke racial barriers in our nation. As an inspiration to many, his work will continue on, with his lasting American promise to make the world a better place for our youth.

women in charge

Internships in Congress overwhelmingly go to white students

James R. Jones, professor at Rutgers University – Newark , examines data surrounding the racial disparities in paid congressional internships. The Research Brief is a short take about interesting academic work.

The big idea

When it comes to paid congressional internships, white students get more than their fair share, but Black and Latino students don’t get enough.

That is the key finding of a new report I co-authored with Tiffany Win and Carlos Mark Vera for Pay Our Interns, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that is pushing to increase the number of paid internships in various sectors.

These racial disparities come despite 2018 legislation that provides House and Senate offices with allowances exclusively for paid internships. I investigated whom congressional offices hired with these allowances during the first year that this funding was available in 2019.

I found that while white students make up only 56% of undergraduate college students nationwide, they accounted for 76% of paid interns in Congress. In contrast, Black and Latino students make up 14% and 19% of all undergraduates, respectively, but accounted for only 6.7% and 7.9% of paid congressional interns, respectively.

Why it matters

Racial representation among paid congressional internships is important because internships often lead to paid staff positions. In a 2020 study of congressional staff, over 50% indicated that they started their careers on Capitol Hill as interns. Accordingly, if people of color are underrepresented among paid congressional interns, they will similarly be underrepresented among legislative staff.

That matters because congressional staff are important behind-the-scenes actors in making American law. They provide critical advice, guidance and analysis to lawmakers. Congressional staffers are also involved in nearly all dimensions of legislative work, from coming up with ideas to providing services for constituents to the oversight of the federal government and day-to-day operations of the legislature.

internships,

Photo by August de Richelieu from Pexels

If the only staffers in the room advising members of Congress on policymaking decisions are white, then the policies this nation makes may not be as richly informed as they would otherwise be.

In addition, congressional employment provides a stepping stone to elected office. Today, the highest-ranking women in government, Vice President Kamala Harris and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, both began their political careers as congressional interns.

When people get firsthand experience with how American democracy works, it better enables them to see themselves as leaders and public servants.

What still isn’t known

While our report examines the racial makeup of paid congressional interns, Congress does not collect or publish data on unpaid interns. To this end, it’s not known how many unpaid interns there are or the racial makeup of this group. Some congressional offices may pay their interns with funding beyond the allowances they get for interns, but we don’t believe many do.

What’s next

There are still a lot of unknowns about who works in Congress. My future research will continue to examine racial representation among congressional staff and the mechanisms that lead to racial inequities on Capitol Hill. I also plan to continue to urge Congress to adopt more transparent hiring practices so that this problem can be better understood.

You might be interested: So-called ‘good’ suburban schools often require trade-offs for Latino students

How we do our work

We analyzed congressional payroll data, which provides the names of every paid intern. From the list of people who interned in Congress between April and September 2019, Pay Our Interns researchers conducted an online search for photographs, social backgrounds and past employment data of all interns. We obtained data from a variety of sources, including Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter. We collected racial demographic data for 96% of Senate interns and 95% of House interns.The Conversation

James R. Jones, Assistant Professor of African American and African Studies, Rutgers University – Newark

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

latinos nominated to the cabinet

A closer look at the Latinos nominated to Biden’s Cabinet

Many changes are underway as we settle into the new presidency. Among issues of immigration reform and COVID-19 relief, another key topic is that of President Biden’s cabinet nominations. Representation and diversity have been central to President Biden’s choices for top White House positions. During the 2020 election, he promised to nominate “the most diverse Cabinet in history,” stressing that he wanted leaders that look like America. Among the Cabinet nominations are many historic firsts including multiple Latinos nominated to the Cabinet. 

Julie Chávez Rodriguez has been appointed as Biden’s director of the Office of Intergovernmental Relations (Photo credit: White house photo office, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

“A Cabinet that looks like America”

The Cabinet’s role is to advise the President on any subject he or she may require relating to the duties of each member’s respective office and comprises some of the most senior positions in the executive branch. Historically until now, these positions have remained mostly male and white. However, if all of Biden’s nominees are confirmed, his Cabinet will contain more women and people of color than any other Cabinet in U.S. history.

“It’s a cabinet that looks like America, taps into the best of America, and opens doors and includes the full range of talents we have in this nation,” Biden said. 

Data shows that among the Cabinet appointees confirmed in the first 100 days of the last three presidential administrations, almost 72 percent were white, and 73 percent were male. Additionally, women have never made up more than 41 percent of a presidential Cabinet, and Black Americans have never accounted for even a third of the Cabinet.

Among Biden’s first 100-plus staffers, around 60 percent were women, more than 50 percent were people of color and 20 percent were first-generation Americans. 

Latinos Nominated to the Cabinet 

Latinos nominated to the Cabinet

Xavier Becerra, nominee for secretary of Health and Human Services. (Photo credit: Office of the attorney general of California, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Xavier Becerra, nominee for secretary of Health and Human Services

Biden has nominated California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to run the Department of Health and Human Services, a critical Cabinet position as the nation grapples with the coronavirus pandemic and navigates a nationwide COVID-19 vaccine rollout. If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Becerra would be the first Latino to serve as HHS secretary. Prior to becoming California attorney general, Becerra served 12 terms in the U.S. House, rising to a top leadership post and helping to steer the Affordable Care Act through Congress.

Miguel Cardona, nominee for secretary of Education

Connecticut Public Schools commissioner and former elementary school teacher Miguel Cardona is President Joe Biden’s Cabinet nomination for secretary of the Department of Education. With his nomination, President Biden delivers on his promise to nominate a teacher for the top education job. Now Connecticut’s top education official, Cardona began as a teacher at his former elementary school. He became the state’s youngest principal in 2003, and eventually the district’s assistant superintendent. 

If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Cardona would be tasked with helping the administration get students and teachers back in the classroom after the COVID-19 pandemic forced at-home instruction in districts across the country.

Latinos nominated to the Cabinet

Alejandro Mayorkas, nominee for secretary of Homeland Security (Photo credit: official Department of Homeland Security (government) portrait, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Alejandro Mayorkas, nominee for secretary of Homeland Security

Alejandro Mayorkas previously served as deputy secretary of Homeland Security and as U.S. Customs and Immigration Service director during the Obama administration. In 1998, Mayorkas became the youngest U.S. attorney in the country. He served as the U.S. attorney for the Central District of California until April 2001. He’s currently an attorney at the global law firm WilmerHale. If confirmed, he will be the first Latino and immigrant to hold the job. 

Isabel Guzman, nominee for administrator of the Small Business Administration 

Latinos nominated to the Cabinet

Isabel Guzman, nominee for administrator of the Small Business Administration (Photo credit: State of California, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Latina business leader, Isabel Guzman is the first Latina named to a cabinet-level position. Biden nominated her to head the Small Business Administration as Latino businesses struggle to survive with fewer resources and less funding.

Guzman is currently the director of the Office of Small Business Advocate in the California Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development. Prior to her work in California, she worked in the SBA during the Obama administration as deputy chief of staff and senior adviser. Guzman has also started small businesses as an entrepreneur. 

“And as head of the SBA, Isabel will be leading that critical mission to not only rescue small businesses in crisis, but to provide the capital to entrepreneurs across the country so they can innovate, create jobs, and help lead us into recovery,” Biden said when introducing Guzman as his choice.

Latinos nominated in other areas of government

In addition to the Latinos nominated to the Cabinet, President Biden has also continued his mission for diversity in his selections for other positions. Other Latinos who have been appointed to high-level positions include: Julie Chávez Rodriguez who has been appointed as Biden’s director of the Office of Intergovernmental Relations, and Adrian Saenz has been appointed deputy director of the Office of Public Engagement. 

“It’s not going to be easy. I don’t go into any of this with rose-colored glasses,” said Chávez Rodríguez, the granddaughter of the civil rights leader César Chavez.

Chávez Rodríguez will work with governors and local officials who are worried about security, pandemic surges, the challenges of mass vaccinations and states’ economic hardships. Despite the “overwhelming” challenges ahead, she said there’s “a real hunger” among governors of both parties and mayors to help solve problems.

“While, yes, we have multiple crises we are facing, I think there’s a real moment for a collaborative government that I am really excited and energized by.”

Confirmations for Biden’s cabinet nominations are expected to continue over the coming weeks. As of now two of Biden’s 23 nominees have been confirmed.

Ted Cruz

Ted Cruz behavior damages the Latino brand and leadership

Ted Cruz, Senator for Texas, continues to damage the Latino brand.  In light of the assault by extreme individuals to the Senate yesterday during the affirmation of the Electoral College vote,  I remembered an article I wrote in October 2013 –a version of which follows– that is appropriate still today. Although LatinasinBusiness.us is not a political publication, we still believe it is in our best interest as a community to discuss matters of branding and leadership.

Ted Cruz

Ted Cruz meets with President Trump and First Lady in El Paso, TX Aug. 7, 2019. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A personal brand is an asset that needs to be cherished and promoted. We, as professionals, business owners, leaders and influencers in our communities know this concept very well. There are certain values that, as Latinos, we all treasure and recognize as important such as personalism, respect, loyalty and a sense of community.

Despite our differences, based on country of origin, degrees of acculturation or even political views, when one member of the pack is attacked, then we react as a whole. We have earned our reputation of a hard-working community with no little pain and we would not accept otherwise.

So when the disturbing behavior of a U.S. Senator of Latino origin, beyond his political position and party, generates the type of damage that Senator Ted Cruz causes to the Hispanic people of this country, it is worth to analyze his position under the lens of a cultural approach.

A comment made to me in a conversation about the government shutdown put me over the edge, not politically but culturally. “One of your people,” said the person in question. It really hit home.

Is Ted Cruz one of “my people?”

Cultural characteristics of a Latino leader

As a community, Latinos have made incredible advances in economic and political power.  We represent the largest minority in the country at almost 55 million Hispanics and expected to reach 106 million by 2050 with a buying power projected to 1.5 trillion for 2015. The Latino vote also defined the last presidential elections of Republican President Bush and Democrat President Obama.  Moreover, those who dare to oppose the Latino community interests and concerns are politically doomed, and great efforts are being made by certain candidates to schmooze the Latino voter.

Ted Cruz position on immigration.

Ted Cruz position on immigration.

The need to increase leadership among members of the Latino community is, however, a matter of constant action and concern for Latino leaders from all walks of life and across the country. One particular concern is related to the lack of political representation of Latinos in federal, state and local governments.

So when “one of our own” reaches a position of power, it is desirable that he or she portrays the values that are close to our community’s heart.

What are those values that make us who we are as a people? What are those characteristics that unite us and project us to the leadership positions we deserve while making important contributions to the American society?

Latinos treasure and build interpersonal relationships around personalismo, respect, loyalty and leadership, with a high level of collectivism based on a deep care and concern for family and community.

True Latino leaders practice personalismo as a value that enhances the importance of the other person over the task at hand. Putting personal ambition over the interest of the community is an undesirable trait seen as self-centered and individualistic. The individual that practices such behavior is rejected as an outcast – un avivado or ventajero, someone who takes advantage of the rest to his own benefit.

Latinos also interact with others with this collectivist worldview that puts the interest of others over the interest of self, especially maintaining closeness and dependency with family members, which influences the way Latinos make decisions and perceive and respond to external stimulus.

Differences might be discussed among the members of a family but the young and inexperienced are never to stand up to their elders out of respect and loyalty. The same sense of fidelity towards family and friends is translated into the work environment, with respect for their work hierarchy chain or positions of authority.

Ted Cruz position on the American Healthcare Act (ACA).

Ted Cruz position on the American Healthcare Act (ACA).

Individuals who break from the pack are seen as deranged or defiant – locos, irrespetuosos or insolentes, someone who believes, in his or her immaturity, they know better than the collective wisdom of the pack.

Finally, true Latino leaders would look after their community, never building obstacles to impede the achievement of the common good. Based on Christian principles of charity and compassion, they would never refrain from offering aid and assistance to those that suffer or have unfulfilled needs, as we “see Jesus Christ in each other.”

For those who derail from the Christian principles of the faith to avoid finding solutions for ongoing social problems are deemed to face the wrath of God.

“Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.” Then they will answer and say, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?” He will answer them, “Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.” And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life. (Matt. 25:41-45)

A version of this article was written for VOXXI on October 2013.

Don’t let President Trump keep you from participating in the 2020 Census

The 2020 census is a time for every person residing in the U.S. to be counted and represented. And counting everyone means everyone, regardless of immigration status. Yet President Trump continues to make moves that are hindering the ability for all residents to participate in this constitutionally mandated census. 

How the Trump Administration is trying to deter Latinos from participating

In an article with The New York Times, Janet Murguía–president and CEO of UnidosUS, the country’s largest Latino civil rights organization–urges Latinos to participate in the census. 

“Latinos should not let the president intimidate them into not being counted,” she says.

In the past few months, the Trump administration has made various efforts to affect the census with the intention of excluding minorities who tend to lean Democratic so that federal funds and congressional representation could be redirected to Republican-friendly states. Last month, President Trump ordered the Commerce Department to do what it could to exclude undocumented immigrants and this past Monday it was announced that the 2020 census would end a month early. However, these efforts are in vain. 

“The president doesn’t have the power to overwrite the 14th Amendment, which calls for counting everyone, regardless of their immigration status,” Murguía writes. 

Legally, every resident must be counted. There are few exceptions to this, such as tourists or foregin businesspeople who are not long-term inhabitants of the U.S., but Murguía notes that this does not apply to immigrants who “whether undocumented or otherwise, have put down roots, who own businesses, have become members of their communities and raised families.” 

These efforts by the Trump Administration are simply scare tactics and stunts made to deter minorities from participating in the census, but it is crucial that they do. 

“When the census takes that once every ten years snapshot of our community, Latinas have to make sure that we are part of the photograph that is being taken in that moment,” says Amy Hinojosa, President and CEO of MANA, in the video below.   

Why census data is crucial in building thriving communities

Not participating in the 2020 census will cause real harm and lasting effects to states with large immigrant populations. 

“The fear brought about by the Trump administration’s latest action could result in immigrant-friendly states losing out on federal funds and congressional representation,” writes Murguía. “If immigrants, undocumented or not, or anyone married to an undocumented immigrant, fail to fill out a census form out of fear, they will not be counted and that could mean that children and adults who are U.S. citizens in that household would likely also not be accounted for. And like votes, every person counts.” 

Be A Census Taker (Photo courtesy of 2020census.gov)

Additionally, ending the census a month early will exclude minorities who are more likely to be counted by in-person census workers. Every single person counted helps to bring more funds and representation for their communities. Being counted means having a voice and say in how and where funds are distributed. 

“If just one person is deterred from filling out the census, that’s money that doesn’t go to community schools, hospitals, children’s health programs and the like,” Murguía writes. 

For minority communities, lack of funding can have damaging effects, leading to program cuts that many rely on. Census data is crucial to these communities because it is used to decided where funds will be allocated. These funds are used for programs like Head Start for students, for parks and recreation, and access to health care. 

“We need to make sure there is enough information so that we can build communities where Latino families can thrive,” says Amy Hinojosa. 

You might be interested: Fighting 2020 Census rumors: Test your knowledge quiz

Don’t fall for it: Make your voice heard!

The first step to building those thriving communities is to fill out the 2020 census and be counted. The scare tactics pushed by the Trump Administration hold no legal weight. 

“Just…don’t fall for it,” Murguía urges. “Mr. Trump’s supporters should realize that this will be just another empty promise to be tossed in the pile with others like the one about Mexico paying for the wall, that achieving 6 percent economic growth would be easy, the 2017 tax cuts would pay for themselves, or that the coronavirus would disappear by the summer.” 

Filling out the census form is quick and easy and your data will be protected. There are laws against sharing your data for anything other than its intended purpose, so do not be afraid to have your voice heard.

If you require help or would prefer to fill out the census in Spanish those options are also available to you here.

“Don’t let the president stop you from being counted and contributing to your communities,” Murguía concludes. “He doesn’t want Latinos and immigrants to skip the census because they don’t count, but because they do.” 

Your voice matters. Representation and funds for Latino communities is crucial to building thriving environments. So do your part today by filling out the 2020 census and ensure that your voice is heard.

Northeast Governors

Northeast Governors coordinate COVID-19 efforts in regional health/economy

Northeast Governors of New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, Delaware Governor John Carney and Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo today announced Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker is joining the multi-state council to restore the economy and get people back to work. This announcement builds on the states’ ongoing regional approach to combatting the COVID-19 pandemic.
Northeast Governors have gathered a coordinating group – comprised of one health expert, one economic development expert and the respective Chief of Staff from each state — will work together to develop a fully integrated regional framework to gradually lift the states’ stay at home orders while minimizing the risk of increased spread of the virus.
The council will create this framework using every tool available to accomplish the goal of easing social isolation without triggering renewed spread – including testing, contact tracing, treatment and social distancing – and will rely on the best available scientific, statistical, social and economic information to manage and evaluate those tools.
NJ Diver's licenses, Northeast Governors

Official Picture of Governor of New Jersey Phil Murphy

Governor Phil Murphy said, “No one has given more thought or is more eager to restart our economy than I am, but if we don’t get the sequencing right, we put more lives at risk. The only path to a sustainable economic recovery is through a strong healthcare recovery. Then, and only then, do we position ourselves to fully ignite our economy and get the residents of our state back to work while minimizing the danger of this disease. A coordinated, regional approach, informed by a multi-state council of experts, will help us avoid a major setback with potentially disastrous consequences. I look forward to the day when the facts on the ground allow us to ease our restrictions and move our regional economy forward.”You

“We have been collaborating closely with our neighboring states to combat this pandemic through a uniform approach to social distancing and density reduction and it has been working well. Now it is time to start opening the valve slowly and carefully while watching the infection rate meter so we don’t trigger a second wave of new infections,” Governor Cuomo said. “This is not a light switch that we can just flick on and everything goes back to normal – we have to come up with a smart, consistent strategy to restart the systems we shut down and get people back to work, and to the extent possible we want to do that through a regional approach because we are a regional economy. New York is partnering with these five states to create a multi-state council that will come up with a framework based on science and data to gradually ease the stay at home restrictions and get our economy back up and running.”

Governor Ned Lamont, CT (Photo redit: Wikipedia)

Governor Ned Lamont said, “One thing that’s undeniable is that this virus does not stop at the border of any county, state, or country, but the impact is the same when it comes to our respective economies and healthcare systems. Working as a regional coalition to make the right decisions will lead to the best public health results for all of our residents. We must solve these problems together.”

Governor Tom Wolf said, “Our highest priority remains protecting the health and safety of Pennsylvanians. While my administration continues to take critical steps to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, I also recognize that we must look ahead and take a measured, careful approach to prepare for the future while ensuring that we don’t undo all of our efforts. Pennsylvania will work collaboratively with our partners both in state and in surrounding states to develop a comprehensive strategy that first focuses on health but also addresses the need to gradually restore our economy.” 
Governor John Carney said, “We still have a situation in Delaware that is getting worse. Infections of COVID-19 and hospitalizations are rising. Delawareans should stay home. Don’t go out in public unnecessarily. Don’t visit Delaware unless you need to see a doctor, or care for a family member. You’ll only increase everyone’s risk. At the same time, we need to look forward. We need a consistent approach for moving our states out of this crisis, when that day comes. I’m grateful for the partnership of my fellow Governors in the region. They are all working around-the-clock to prevent surges in COVID-19 cases, protect hospital capacity for the most critically-ill patients, and save lives. We’ll get through this by working together.”
Northeast Governors

Governor Gina Raimondo  (Photo Credit: Official Picture State of Rhode Island)

Governor Gina Raimondo said, “States are taking the lead as we fight to slow the spread of coronavirus and save lives. I’m proud of the steps we’ve taken, and I’m constantly thinking about what it will take to safely reopen our economy. But we know that this virus does not recognize borders, and it’s clear we need a strong, coordinated regional approach to avoid a second wave of this disease. I’m grateful to my fellow governors for their leadership during this crisis and I’m confident that this new partnership will support our efforts to get Rhode Islanders — and all Americans — back to work safely.”

Governor Charlie Baker said, “The Baker-Polito Administration looks forward to participating in discussions with neighboring states and experts regarding the ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Massachusetts also remains focused on efforts to expand testing, ensure hospital capacity and provide the necessary PPE to those on the front lines to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our communities.”
 
Rachel Dolezal, NCCP leader, before and after

The Dolezal case: Can a White person be a diversity leader?

Rachel Dolezal, NCCP leader, before and after

Rachel Dolezal, NCCP leader, before and after

A few days ago, the American public was shocked with the news that Rachel Dolezal, a 37-year-old woman heading a local NAACP chapter in Washington, had been misleadingly portraying herself as a black woman, her mother revealed.

I remembered then a short paragraph of my book, “¡Hola, amigos! A Plan for Latino Outreach” in which I discussed the question title of this article: Can a White person be a diversity leader?

“Regardless of race or ethnicity,” I said in 2010, “people from different backgrounds have a genuine interest in promoting diversity. However, White people might experience exclusion by some people of color, who may distrust the motives of a White person who promotes diversity or feel the person does not have the credibility to be a diversity leader—I have personally experienced this issue because I’m a White Latina from Argentina” (Baumann, page 36).

For clarification purposes, my background of origin goes back to Switzerland and Poland on my father’s side and Italy –all “spaghetti” – on my mother’s side: Comotto, Comini, Bellatti, Bellini.

“Country of origin or nationality might be another obstacle to diversity leadership,” I continued to say. “Some people of color might consider themselves natural diversity leaders because they have resided for a long time in a community or because they feel they have seniority in diversity issues.”

Belonging to a particular race or origin does not instantaneously turns you out to be a qualified diversity leader, nor does your country of origin. I have heard some diversity leaders of main academic institutions who identify themselves as “brown” refusing to admit that I was Caucasian. “You are ‘brown’, I was told.”

Does it really matter?

I had also the same situation at a conference, where the speaker was pointing out diversity issues related to “brown” people. I had to bring up again my “whiteness,” which made me somehow uncomfortable and put the speaker in an embarrassing situation.

I am unaware of the motives for Dolezal to publicly lie- if that is the case- about her race. Was she trying to gain an advantage in her career or was she confronted with the same situation, her “whiteness” being a major obstacle in her advocacy efforts?

For sure, such convoluted situation can bring frustration and discouragement to anyone who truly believes in advocating for diversity. When this type of situation happens in the workplace, it is necessary to review the elements that make us all diverse, which are not limited to race, color, or national origin. Gender, age, abilities, religion, sexual preferences, and other variables make us all diverse in many ways.

Most importantly, becoming an advocate for diversity does not disqualify any race or ethnicity. Moreover, being White is just another shade in the diversity rainbow.

However, the dominance and privilege of certain race over others is the matter of discussion, and diversity competency in the workplace should be a number one priority in ensuring a fair game.

“Acquiring diversity competency in the workplace not only has to do with recognizing issues of disparities, but also with issues of equality,” I said.  “You need to find out how you can bring everybody to an equal playing field so all have the same opportunities. Discover the issues in your workplace, and bring them to an open discussion in the training context.”

A productive way to promote diversity leadership and support your staff in becoming diversity leaders is to encourage them to participate in the community they serve, no matter the race, ethnicity or any other diversity qualifier they might carry. Companies must mirror the communities they reach out to, and that mirror needs to be reflected at all levels of the company.

Anybody can advocate for a more open, equitable society if they sincerely believe and live that truth every day.

What is your opinion on this matter? Is Dolezal right or wrong?