I have been following the news regarding the census numbers for a few months now and with each article I read I sensed an increasing level of excitement emanating from our Hispanic community. The last few weeks have been especially exciting as weekly communications from the US Census Bureau kept informing us that the total number of Hispanics residing in most of the states for which data was being released was higher than previously estimated. This led to the climax: the recent information shared by the US Census Bureau informing us all that the number of US Hispanics residing in this country surpassed the 50 million mark. I cannot think of a better way to describe what the process of receiving data from the US Census Bureau little by little felt like to me than to compare it to a lottery drawing. When people buy lottery tickets they do it with the hopes of winning even though they know that the probabilities of that happening are small. In essence, they don’t quit their jobs just because they bought a lottery ticket! As each of the individual numbers are drawn, you can see the faces of those who selected the right numbers gradually changing from a slight smile to a look of surprise, to a sense of expectation, and when the last number is drawn and the winners realize that all the numbers drawn match their selections…well I have never won the lottery but I can imagine the emotional explosion, the yelling, the jumping and the dancing that ensues.
I’ve read and heard several Hispanic and multicultural experts’ comments about the Census results and they all agree on at least one thing: the fact that we should celebrate. Why? I don’t know that there is a 100% rational reason to do so but one reason may be that 50 is a nice round number or because if it was to refer to someone’s age it would have been celebrated big time. But most likely because our numeral system is a positional base 10 system under which 5 marks the midpoint…or maybe there are other mathematical, sociological, psychological, philosophical or crazy reasons why we should.
I don’t mind the celebration; in fact I encourage it. It’s good to celebrate landmark events that take place during our lifetimes. However I would like to remind my fellow Hispanics that the results are not just a reason to celebrate. The census results should also be a wake-up call for us to get ready to receive the torch that is coming our way. In essence this situation is a little like the Brazilian Carnival. Brazilians celebrate Carnival for days knowing that come Ash Wednesday they will enter a season of stern religious discipline. Maybe the example is a little too dramatic but I think it makes the point. Celebrating the census results is a great thing to do as long as we stop celebrating at some point soon and begin preparing for the real work that lies ahead of us. I hope most Hispanics, if not all, are as excited as I am about witnessing the torch being turned over to the Hispanic community and the awesome opportunity and responsibility we are inheriting to help lead the US in its journey to the future. Max Benavidez, Managing Director, Public Communications Strategies, and news analyst, points out in an article he wrote for the Huffington Post on 3/4/11 called “The #Hashtag Generation: Young Latinos and America’s Future” that young Hispanics “…by demographic default, going to be the backbone of the U.S. workforce for the next thirty to fifty years.” And William H. Frey, a demographer at Brookings Institution who has analyzed most of the 2010 data, stated that Hispanics and other minorities “…will form the bulk of our labor-force growth in the next decade as they continue to disperse into larger parts of the country" as reported by MSNBC on 3/24/11. According to writer Damarys Ocana even the White House is linking the future of the US to that of our community. Ocana quoted Juan Sepulveda, director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans in Latina.com who said “The future of this country is inextricably linked to the future of the Latino community. The census figures just cement what the President has been saying, that we can’t win the future without out-educating and out-innovating the rest of the world, and that we can’t do that without Latino kids taking part.” (See my blog dated Jan 27 called Hispanics as our nation’s builders)
These are very exciting times for us Hispanics in the US. But this is not just empty excitement. There are responsibilities attached to it. Responsibilities we shouldn’t and quite frankly can’t shy away from. We are creative problem solvers. It is in dealing with any issues, existing or new, arising from our increased responsibilities that we will make our mark in the US. We will show the world how creative we truly are as a community and as a nation. But this takes planning.
One of the most important contributing elements in any generation’s success has been the quality of its education. We are creative problem solvers but we need to know what to solve for. We need to acquire intellectual tools, tools that can become in the hands of creative problem solvers like us “tools of mass construction”. We need to peek into the future to ensure that we choose the right careers. Not just those that are right for us based on what we like doing but also careers that are going to be viable not just today but in another 30 to 50 years. It is not sufficient to ensure our community has jobs today but it is equally if not more critical that Hispanics have jobs in the future when they are in their 50’s and 60’s. I was reading "Physics of the Impossible", a book by Michio Kaku, a renowned physicist, writer and futurist and in it he stated that even when our society becomes highly dependent on robots and when they take over a sizeable number of tasks from humans there would still be certain things robots wouldn’t be able to do: they would not be able to perform jobs that required common sense, which is something that jobs that require creativity, originality, analysis, and leadership have in common. However college educated workers such as low level accountants, brokers, and tellers may lose their jobs in the future since their work is semi repetitive and involves keeping track of numbers which is something robots do well. Today a large number of Hispanics work in fields that are of the semi repetitive kind. We need to do much better in the future. We need to choose those fields where we, Hispanics, can make an important and positive contribution to society and that can be viable for decades into the future.
Things are changing fast in the US and will soon reach a critical point for Hispanics. But this is not all that is changing. The world at large is changing: the world order, global finances, sourcing of manufacturing and services, alliances, etc. But that’s alright! Rosanna Fiske (MediaShift) in her Op Ed dated 3/8/11 titled “Why Are Hispanics Missing in Leadership at Media Companies?” wrote “Hispanics aren't fond of sticking to the "way things have always been." We're living proof that change is the only constant.” Why would creative problem solvers want to stick to the way things have always been? Create problem solvers thrive working on solving issues that affects them and most likely others so a changing world is a perfect place for US Hispanics.
Max Benavidez and Fernando Torres-Gil have coined the term “Latino Imperative” to refer to the need we have not only as a community but more importantly as a country to educate our young Hispanics. In an article dated 10/07/09 for Latinos & Economic Security called “The Latino Imperative Is the Answer to Future U.S.” they wrote: “That’s why education is the key to ensuring the future economic prosperity of our nation. We call this the Latino Imperative because it’s essential to our continued status as a First World economy…Given America’s vast global responsibilities, the unrelenting requisites of national security, the strong presence of Latinos in our military and the proliferating growth of the new high tech economy, we have no choice but to ensure that Latinos are educated…If we commit to improving the education of young Latinos, we will, in fact, be making an enormous commitment to improving the future for all Americans. Simply put, Latino resiliency plus education equals U.S. prosperity for the 21st century.” To this I say “Amen!”