Opinion

State of the Latinos address | Tito Hinojos

With much respect to President Obama for his State of the Union address, Superintendent Tom Murphy for his “state of the Federal Way Public Schools address,” and Mayor Linda Kochmar’s “state of the city” address, I now give you Tito’s “State of the Latinos” address.

In spite of the changing demographics of Federal Way and its diverse communities, disparities still exist today, resulting in minimal (if any) advancement for Hispanics.

Hispanics are less likely than whites to have high school or advanced degrees. Industry disparities leave Latinos concentrated in fields such as manufacturing, agriculture, restaurant and hotel services — industries hit hard by the recession, where lower-wage and lower-skilled workers are the first to lose their jobs.

The Latino community has personalities and assets. Communities and neighborhoods are often much more than meet the untrained eye. A community may become overwhelmed and frustrated, unless leaders realize that what worked in the past may no longer be effective. We need a change of paradigm and strategy.

The way to reach and capture the Latino community is not necessarily through a particular political party, a city election or a specific group of people. Community leaders must first be able to interpret the cultures and understand transitional ethnic communities.

The first rule in understanding and successfully engaging Hispanics is the premise of “honor and shame.” Establishing contacts or relationships among Hispanics needs to have in the formula “the honor component.” Hispanics are relational people; they have to feel contact with new ideas and concepts. The relationship deepens when a leader offers a resource to the Hispanic community, not an expert who comes to teach them how to do something. The approach should be one of a learning attitude.

Often the local private and non-profit organizations will serve as maintenance hubs, but at the expense of its second generation.

Can Federal Way strike a balance with the needs of the first generation, many of whom find the community a more welcoming place if their language, culture and traditions are recognized as valid?

To effectively capture and win the Latino community, accept that one philosophical perspective cannot meet the needs of all. People grow, change and choose, thus constantly changing the complexities of the city and its demographics.

There must be a change in the perception that Latinos are an external pocket of the city. Latinos don’t want to be seen as a poor illegal ethnic group that needs a free ticket. Rather, Latinos want to be viewed as active members of the growth and history of this city.

Hispanics will join local community programs and support their work if they are welcomed, if their practical needs are met, and if they are viewed as equal partners. Hispanics will respond when the program or ministry is of a resource and not an expert on how to change things.

Hispanics look at diversity as a reality and not a societal paradigm.

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