Latinxs at work: stereotyping results from a lack of sympathy

Story and photo by SAYAKA KOCHI

The population of Latinx is increasing in the Western United States. The Census Bureau’s data says one in four Americans are supposed to be Latinx by 2045. Many people originating from Latin America have crossed the borders to seek high paying jobs for their own dreams to come true or for their families’ sake. On the way to get a better life, many Latinx immigrants encounter stereotypes in their workplaces.

Monica Carpentieri was born and raised in Brazil. After getting married there, she moved with her husband to the United States to pursue her master’s degree. Later on, she started working as a licensed acupuncturist. Monica and her husband have become residents in Scottsdale, Arizona.

“Stereotyping was never overt,” Monica said in an email interview. “I personally had instances though that due to having a Latin accent, people immediately did not give me the credit of being highly educated. Unlike a friend of mine who had a British accent and no formal education.”

Monica’s husband, David, also faced the issue that the employers were ignorant. While he was in the medical residency training in the U.S., one hospital refused him to be a trainee for the following reason: they did not accept medical graduates from Europe. David is from Brazil, located in South America. The hiring manager at the hospital did not know where the country is.

“I was a bit shocked,” David said in an email interview. This case might be rare. But certainly, employers’ ignorance becomes an obstacle to get a job for Latinxs.

Stereotypes that are far from the truth are caused by ignoring true facts and cultural intolerance. The absence of true facts is highly contributed to by media productions. According to research done by an Eastern Washington University student, English-language television programs have often portrayed Hispanics and Latinxs as criminals or gangsters in the past few decades.

In fact, the data provided by the FBI in 2016 proves that more than 80 percent in total arrests were non-Hispanics. True facts are not on TV in many cases.

The same thing can be said about education. The Pew Research Center published a significant report in 2016. The report showed that even though the college enrollment rate of Hispanic U.S. citizens was still low compared to other ethnic groups, the rate of increase was outstandingly high.

Believe it or not, Whites and Hispanics have only 7 percent difference in the college enrollment rate. Recalling Monica’s experience, she has been stereotyped that she was not educated well because of her accent. Like Monica, Hispanics are sometimes unreasonably labeled to be uneducated no matter what kind of higher education degrees they have.

According to a 2017 poll by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, about one in three Latinx poll participants have ever felt discriminated against when applying for jobs because of their ethnicity. The same amount of Latinx participants have experienced that they couldn’t get promoted or a pay raise. What is the main cause of employment discrimination? One of the answers is a false portrayal that Latinx workers are lazy, violent, and uneducated.

Alex Guzman, president and CEO of the Utah Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, said, “Traditionally speaking, the Hispanic community members are very hard workers. They have one, two, or even actually three jobs. Mama works. Papa works. Grandma or grandpa works.”

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The Utah Hispanic Chamber of Commerce is located at 1635 S. Redwood Road in Salt Lake City.

Guzman was born in Guatemala. He was a professional in the strategic marketing field there and also helped foreign companies reach out to the Hispanic community. While continuing his marketing career, he started a political career. However, his children were almost kidnapped twice. To escape from the threats throwing shadows over his family, he got out of his home country and moved to America in 2008. He became an advocate to support Latinx and Hispanic immigrants to become business owners, providing sources and connections.

“They become or became business owners without intent to be business owners. They are intent on surviving. For the business owners, they have to learn how to own a business. They need to know how to pay taxes,” Guzman said.

Utah is one of the states in which the Hispanic population is rapidly growing. According to the data by the Utah Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the population in Utah now exceeds  450,000. The data also show that Hispanic Utah residents are yearly contributing $9.5 billion to the local economy. Utah’s economy is highly supported by Hispanic hard workers.

Hispanic immigrants are citizens who have civil rights, including equal employment opportunity. Guzman considered equality as “one size does not fit all.” People have different backgrounds, ages, languages, and beliefs. Everyone cannot be treated in the same way.

“There are more than 13,700 Hispanic business owners registered at Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. But actually, the number is more than that. Only 13,700 business owners had the courage to self-identify themselves as Hispanics or minority when they registered their own businesses,” Guzman said.

People tend to estimate who the person is by only looking at the group where he/she belongs in spite of their backgrounds. Stereotyping results from ignorance of who the person is. Hispanic workers and business owners can feel more comfortable with their ethnic identity in a society where they can live fully as citizens.