U.S. Hispanics: An Unstoppable Evolution

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In 2011 the Culturati U.S. Hispanic Segmentation Model proved that the U.S. Hispanic acculturation is non-linear and the start/end points are not definitive.

This new white paper seeks to present the why’s behind the shifts that have shaped this market in the past four years and that will continue to form this burgeoning market in the years to come.  It is imperative for marketers to be one step ahead of this evolution to ensure that their U.S. Hispanic strategy is reflective of today’s Hispanic consumer.

Culturati’s attitudes and values-based segmentation model provides an understanding of U.S. Hispanics and the various shades of acculturation in terms of beliefs, value systems and cultural mindsets.  After analyzing the key dimensions and accounting for media language preferences, four distinct and actionable Hispanic segments were identified.

As U.S. Hispanics acculturate they begin to adopt certain values and lifestyle elements of the dominant American culture (forward acculturation) but they may also move in the opposite direction deciding to revive their own roots through the phenomena of retro-acculturation.  Culturati recently set out to understand the dynamics of this evolution to reveal how each Hispanic segment is changing and the factors responsible for triggering retro and forward acculturation.

A two-year longitudinal survey was conducted between 2013 to 2015, where a total of 400 Hispanic consumers were identified by segment in the pre and post waves to identify which of them had changed segment and whether they moved forward or backward within the acculturation continuum.  They were also asked whether specific events had occurred in their lives, based on a list of events that may impact acculturation.

Additionally, a series of online in-depth qualitative interviews were conducted among those who changed segment in order to further explore how their cultural attitudes had shifted and what they felt contributed to that change.  To understand the long term implications of these attitudinal shifts, projections through 2030 were calculated by modeling data from U.S. Census projections to incorporate the impact of Hispanic demographic changes by gender, age, nativity, years in the U.S. (for foreign born), parental nativity (for U.S. born), income and presence of children.

What did we learn?

Hispanic identity in the U.S. is multidimensional and multifaceted.   We confirmed that U.S. Hispanic identity follows a path that is not linear or definitive, but rather a continuous course of transformation where profound shifts in cultural identity occur as Hispanics forward or retro acculturate.

Through forward and retro acculturation, the continued growth of the U.S. Hispanic population and an increase in the proportion of U.S. born vs. foreign born Hispanics, Culturati projects the influential bicultural Savvy Blender segment becoming increasingly larger compared to the other segments.

On the other hand, the Latinista (Culturally Hispanic) segment remains important but is gradually shrinking while the Heritage Keeper (Bicultural) and Ameri-Fan (Culturally American) segments remain stable.

By 2023 Savvy Blenders (Biculturals) are projected to surpass Culturally Hispanics (Latinistas) as the dominant Hispanic segment, accounting for 37% of Hispanics by 2030 (Figure 2).  This marks the importance, more than ever, to understand Hispanic acculturation, its evolution and the implications for the future as Hispanics continue to grow but also redefine their Hispanic identity.

Sources: U.S. Census Bureau, Population Division, 2014 National Population Projections; Culturati 2015 Longitudinal Segment Change Survey
Sources: U.S. Census Bureau, Population Division, 2014 National Population Projections; Culturati 2015 Longitudinal Segment Change Survey

 

The Hispanic Segment Journey

The Hispanic Identity journey consists of three distinct cultural states: Deliberate Hispanic Dominant Culture, Natural State of Biculturalism and Deliberate American Dominant Culture (Figure 3).  These cultural states are driven by conscious and subconscious forces that shape an individual’s attitudes and beliefs and occur at each person’s own pace – the journey is not necessarily sequential nor do Hispanics eventually travel through all three different states.

Interestingly, nearly 3 in 10 of Culturally Hispanic Latinistas are moving directly into the Bicultural Savvy Blender space while Savvy Blenders who retro-acculturate are most likely to move into the Bicultural Heritage Keeper space.  Shifts in Heritage Keepers are split fairly evenly between retro and forward acculturation.  In many cases this is due to the conscious recognition, acceptance and gradual redefinition of their identity.

Furthermore, the journey of U.S. Hispanic identity is unique to each individual as their journey is often interrupted and modified by internal as well as external factors.  Significant life decisions, unexpected events or changes in lifestyle and life-stage can send an individual to another state, causing them to forward or retro acculturate.

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Hispanics in the various states are in very different mindsets about their lives and themselves, and experience different tensions, all of which can influence their openness to certain ideas.  As they travel through different states, they sometimes feel differently about their core values and have varying degrees of conscious awareness of them.

  • Conscious evolution: Core values are considered explicitly Hispanic and conscious choices are made to preserve them.
  • Subconscious evolution: Core values are tested, strengthened and refined as American values are incorporated more subconsciously.

Life events linked to personal growth and self-improvement (financial and educational) are key drivers of forward acculturation.  On the other hand, retro-acculturation is triggered by life events that may be outside of an individual’s direct control but are the catalyst for a renewed desire to reconnect with Hispanic culture.   It is important to note that the ease and pace of transitions is greatly impacted by differences in income and education – forward acculturation is highly accelerated among higher levels of income and education.

These life changing events lead to a process of self-discovery and re-evaluation of identity and life priorities.  As they move through the retro or forward acculturation journey, a shift in mindset occurs that allows them to feel more comfortable in their own skin.  They become more accepting of themselves and embracive of their identity.

In addition, reconnecting with others and new relationships further impact the retro and forward acculturation transformation.  For retro-acculturators, closer relationships with other Hispanics contribute to a stronger sense of self and seamless identification with Hispanic roots which they previously lacked.  For forward acculturators, exposure to Non-Hispanic environments is an important factor in allowing them to further integrate themselves into American society. This often leads to a greater appreciation for diversity and the American lifestyle.

The Retro Acculturation Transformation

Retro acculturators are characterized by a heightened awareness of their Hispanic and American sides, an acknowledgment of the fear of losing their Hispanic identity and renewed appreciation for their Hispanic heritage. This is followed by conscious and deliberate choices to reconnect with their Hispanic self.

The strongest unique triggers for retro-acculturation are moving to a new home (38% vs. 26% for Forward), becoming a parent (21% vs. 12% for Forward) and getting married/moving in with significant other (18%. vs. 9% for Forward). These triggers result in:

  • An increased desire to reconnect with Hispanic culture and ensure that cultural identity was retained
  • An awakened emotional need to connect with other Hispanics and learn more about their Hispanic heritage, leading them to identify with Hispanic culture stronger than before.
  • A deeper appreciation for Hispanic culture and traditions (e.g., celebrations, faith, respect, etc.)

The Forward Acculturation Transformation

Forward acculturators have experienced a subconscious evolution in cultural identity and adoption of American lifestyle elements and values, yet they continue to retain core values. Forward acculturation is most associated with a significant change in financial situation, with 28% experiencing a positive change in financial situation over the last two years (vs. 19% for Retro). To a lesser degree, increased interaction with other ethnicities (29%), starting to work (16%) and higher education (17%).  These triggers result in:

  • A growing appreciation and respect for the opportunities the U.S. had to offer (e.g., education, financial growth, etc.) and realization that the opportunities were endless but each individual was responsible for taking action to improve their life in this country.
  • A shift from a reactive to proactive mindset and greater focus on the future (i.e., “the future is in my hands”).

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Holidays are a prime example of occasions when Hispanic and American traditions converge for both retro and forward acculturators.

  • Retro acculturators seek opportunities to practice Hispanic traditions that they had left behind in an effort to further connect with their Hispanic side and learn more about their culture. Participating in traditional Hispanic holidays is viewed as an important symbol of Hispanic identity, connection to family and an authentic celebration of the Hispanic lifestyle.
  • Forward acculturators are adopting certain elements of American culture (e.g., celebrations) and do so with ease by tailoring them to their own customs. This is viewed positively as a symbol of inclusiveness, integration and appreciation for cultural diversity but also as a symbol of remaining authentic and true to their roots.

Perceptual Shifts

Forward acculturators express low tension regarding the blending of cultures and value the ability to be bicultural.  Retro acculturators also value biculturalism but feel a stronger pull to their Hispanic identity than in previous years.

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Forward Acculturators acknowledge that their perception of cultural identity has changed. They now believed that being both “Hispanic and American equally” was possible because they had the ability to pick and choose what to retain from Hispanic culture and what to adopt from American culture. This shift led to:

  • A deep appreciation for the opportunity to be part of both cultures and ultimately benefit from the best of each.
  • An ability to customize their own blend of biculturalism to fit their lifestyle – key to shaping their identity as they forward acculturated.
  • In particular, those that had children had learned from their children’s bicultural experience and had witnessed the value that being part of both cultures could bring.

Retro Acculturators have a stronger connection to their Hispanic roots than in previous years but their connection to American culture remains unchanged.

  • It seems that Retro Acculturators now feel more comfortable accepting their Hispanic side more than or equally as their American side. The process of finding/reconnecting with their Hispanic side has brought them closer to their roots while at the same time not losing their connection to their American side.
  • Already coming from a bicultural mindset, they appreciate being able to blend both Hispanic and American cultures in their daily lives and continued to see the advantages. However, having gone through the retro acculturation transformation their renewed appreciation for their Hispanic identity is powerful and leads them to feel like they are “more Hispanic” or “less American” than they were in the past.

Impact on Shopping and Advertising

Retailer preferences have expanded across both segments; Forward Acculturators are incorporating Non-Hispanic stores while Retro Acculturators are incorporating Hispanic stores.

  • Forward acculturators are less likely than before to need help when shopping and therefore have branched out of their comfort zone to seek value and variety at Non-Hispanic stores.
  • Retro acculturators are more inclined to “live like a Hispanic” and cook with ingredients found in Hispanic stores.

Interestingly, both Retro and Forward acculturators identify with Hispanic advertising.  From a relevancy and emotional connection perspective, Hispanic advertising is viewed as engaging and has the ability to connect with them on a cultural level.

  • Forward acculturators become more neutral towards Spanish advertising being more informative and relevant to them.
  • Retro acculturators move from a neutral stance on Spanish ads to seeing more value in them. The neutral attitude has the most stability overall.

 

Conclusion

  • We have learned that, in the short-run, forward and retro acculturation tends to balance out the movement between segments. Overall, the segments are fairly stable with slight movement from Latinistas to Heritage Keepers and Savvy Blenders and slight net retro acculturation from Ameri-fans to Savvy Blenders. However, in the long-run, demographic trends will impact the segment distribution.
  • It is important to keep in mind the growth of 2nd and 3rd generations of Hispanics that are choosing to redefine their identity and the phenomena of retro and forward acculturation that is ultimately contributing to the continued of the bicultural space.
  • There is also a population and demographic shift that is impacting the segments, in particular the Heritage Keeper segment which is projected to remain stable. However, forward acculturation from Latinistas and retro acculturation from Savvy Blenders is expected to keep the percentage of Heritage Keepers stable.
  • A larger segment of Savvy Blenders that include those that have retro and forward acculturated suggests an evolved bicultural segment that will continue to assert their presence and influence in American society as their collective identity takes further shape. It is important to note that most Savvy Blenders are not forward acculturating to become Ameri-Fans but instead are making a conscious choice to retro-acculturate.
  • The implications for marketers are vast given that the projected growth of the Savvy Blender segment and stability of the Heritage Keeper segment underscores the importance of cultural relevancy. As predicted, a well-integrated strategy that includes Culturally Hispanic and Bicultural is necessary. Despite new generations being predominantly U.S. born and immigration declining, the power of cultural relevancy may increase given that Savvy Blenders are characterized by a bicultural identity that is natural, fluid and strongly celebrated.

Your Editor Celebrates: You’ll find very few, if any, research studies as deep or detailed as this one by Culturati, but this one can be improved with your observations, comments and suggestions.  The authors have promised to immediately respond to your comments.

Retro Acculturation through the Hispanic Influence in U.S. Culture

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As the Hispanic population in the United States has grown, with a marked increase in native births and a plateau in immigration, the notion of conforming to the prevailing culture has given way to a richer, more resonant and less coercive concept: acculturation.

Acculturation is the process through which individuals or groups adopt cultural features from a different group and weave them into their own cultural fabric — without losing an inherent sense of identity. A vivid example of this is the celebration of distinctly American holidays, such as Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July, by families of a different national origin. These families, many of whom share the same values that the holidays have come to represent, have adopted these American customs and have made them their own by adding native foods, music and social rituals to their celebrations.

Additionally, while minority groups can incorporate the traits and customs of a dominant culture, it also is clear that a reverse flow exists. Hispanic culture is having a profound effect on American food, music, sports, beauty products, fashion, politics and much more. This influence is due not only to the sheer size of the Hispanic population of 52 million now in the U.S. — roughly one in six Americans, with projections to nearly one in three by 2050. In many cases, it’s due to the recognition, acceptance and consequent gradual, organic adoption of aspects of the Hispanic culture by non-Hispanics.

The exchange, interpretation and borrowing of cultural characteristics is a great American tradition, but at this intersection a paradox arises: The thrill of the new combines with the tension elicited by the unknown. For every man who swoons at the beauty of Sofia Vergara, there is another who raises his eyebrows at her accent; for every supporter of the Dream Act, there is a detractor who looks with skepticism upon a new and independent voting bloc. Similarly, there are marketers who work to understand and identify crossover opportunities between the general market and specific groups, while others miss opportunities with strict, conventional interpretations of demographic information and analysis.

This study explores this paradox. As Hispanic culture continues to permeate the mainstream, we seek to learn where the effect is concentrated and which groups are most receptive to its influence. We want to know which aspects of American culture are affected and to what degree, and we explore how the majority perceives a minority group that has risen so quickly in influence — after all, Hispanics are this country’s largest and fastest-growing minority group. Moreover, we wanted to understand how Hispanic identity might evolve: Do Hispanics see themselves as agents of change? What are their views on balancing their distinctive heritage with the pull of the mainstream?

Do they feel secure in a society that, despite its advances, still might not fully recognize them as fellow Americans?

The purpose of this study is to help marketers more effectively navigate our dynamic and evolving society.

Talk of the Hispanic market going mainstream is nothing new. Now there is more talk (and more evidence) about the mainstream going Hispanic. When it comes to measuring the degree of Latino influence on American culture, the jury is in: It is present, it is profound, it is pervasive and it is permanent. More important: It is a shared perspective. Three out of four Americans agree that Hispanics have had a significant influence on American culture. And although Hispanic and non-Hispanic populations may disagree about the level of Latino influence in a particular segment of the culture, it is striking how close they are in perspective when it comes to the overall influence across markets.

One key factor in our study is geography. Its influence is consequential across numerous metrics. In some instances, respondents’ market locations within the U.S. revealed a regional prevalence of certain sentiments. In other cases, a specific belief may be widespread, embraced by study participants throughout the country.

Predictably, the touch point ranked by Hispanics and non-Hispanics as delivering the greatest influence on American culture is food. Almost 90% of non-Hispanics saw it as having the most prominent impact, placing it nearly 25 percentage points ahead of the next greatest influencer, music (63%). Hispanics gave food a slightly more modest share at 82%, and music was only seven points behind at 75%.

While music ranked second in overall impact on American culture as perceived by all Americans, there are important geographic differences. Hispanics in New York, Miami and McAllen, Texas, note a substantial effect of Hispanic culture in music at 86%, 86% and 90%, respectively. These cities also comprise the top three markets for non-Hispanics on the music question, albeit to a lesser degree at 75%, 73%, and 71%, respectively. In Nashville, the center of country music, just 42% of non-Hispanics (the lowest mark of any city) and 67% of Hispanics feel a Latino beat — a stunning 25-percentage point gap between the two, and both lower than their respective national averages.

The Latino influence in sports is felt most acutely among non-Hispanics in New York (72%) and least in Detroit (48%). Baseball, however, demonstrates how deeply integrated Hispanics are in American sports culture. The National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY has installed a permanent ¡Viva Baseball! exhibit celebrating Latino contributions to America’s favorite pastime, and the number of Latino players in the league has surged in the last two decades, jumping from 13% in 1990 to 28% on opening day in 2010.1

The Hispanic community gives itself high marks for influencing beauty standards (64%), style and appearance (62%), and clothing (61%). Only about a third (32%) of non-Hispanics believe that Latinas have had a great to moderate impact on standards of beauty, a proportion that remains largely constant across demographics and is essentially the equivalent weight they give to the Hispanic influence on clothing (34%). On matters of style and appearance, non-Hispanics seem more aware of Latino influence (48%) than they are on beauty (32%).

Both non-Hispanic and Hispanic audiences size up the impact of Latino culture in television programming and channel real estate in equal force, as 54% of each segment see moderate to great influence, highlighting a strong presence in the channel lineup combined with the proliferation of Latino actors in general market television and cable programming. Univision now ranks as the nation’s fifth most popular network and two of the highest paid actors on television from May 2011 to May 2012 were women of Hispanic descent: Sofia Vergara of “Modern Family” and Eva Longoria of “Desperate Housewives.”2 Even with the ascension of these actresses into mainstream television, however, negative stereotypes of Hispanics are viewed as a fixture in media, with 73% of Hispanics and 68% of non-Hispanics noting their presence.

Latinos in the United States are frequently grouped into a monolithic group of Americans. In reality, Hispanic subgroups reflect profound DIVERSITY in ethnicity, culture, and origin. Given the distinct differences among the various people we call Hispanic in this country, it is essential to recognize that there is diverseness within this segment. But when it comes to understanding the diversity of Hispanic culture in the U.S., our survey demonstrated that only one-third of Hispanic and non-Hispanic respondents alike believe it is extremely or very well represented. So there is progress yet to be made on this front, and sadly, more work to be done in a less nuanced dimension: 55% of Hispanics (but only 15% of non-Hispanics) said Latinos encounter frequent discrimination, while 67% of Hispanics strongly or somewhat agree that as a group they are discriminated against more than other ethnic minorities.

The Hispanic consumer is both social and vocal, and proactively engages in a dialogue with friends and family about a range of products from high-ticket technology to fashion and style. The “next new thing” resonates with three out of four of these consumers, and more than half consider themselves a go-to source for information and guidance for new products.

These proportions are comparable to those of non-Hispanic consumers, half of whom consider themselves advisors and more than 81% of whom “love trying new things.”

The materialization of a substantial, widespread and thriving minority culture, intersecting and complementing the more pervasive culture, brings with it a new set of challenges, opportunities…and expectations. It is an exciting and rich horizon, and one that we aim, both as experts and participants, to show you.

The War on ‘Microaggressons:’ Has It Created a ‘Victimhood Culture’ on Campuses?

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Larry Mantle, a radio host in California was moderating a discussion last month at UC-Irvine on the fraught subject of “microaggressions,” words, though uttered innocently by white people, are said to deeply offend those who are less privileged when he made a big mistake: As he called on the first questioner, he asked “Where are you from?”

That’s a standard question for talk show hosts. But the audience froze in silence, briefly and uncomfortably, before breaking into a nervous laughter.

Katrina, the questioner, explained: “People are laughing because of the question,” she said.

But she forgave Mantle. “I don’t need to take offense at that,” she said, “because I’m part of the privileged majority who don’t constantly have to put up with questions of where I am from.”

The reason “where are you from?” was considered offensive by some was explained on the very list of “microaggression” guidelines , a “tool” for recognizing microaggressions provided by the University of California to be used in seminars to educate faculty members, that was the subject of Mantle’s radio discussion.

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Asking someone of color or any minority “Where are you from or where were you born?,” the guidelines suggested, could send the message that “you are not a true American. You are a perpetual foreigner in your own country.” The same for comments like “you speak English very well” and “What are you? You’re so interesting looking!” Saying to an African American, “When I look at you, I don’t see color” is a kind of “color blindness” that denies “the individual as a racial/cultural being.”

Once kids were taught about “sticks and stones,” which break their bones, but that “words will never hurt me.” Now, on some campuses, they and faculty as well are being taught the opposite, innocently uttered words can and do hurt, and speech codes and guidelines about what to say and what not to say, are all the rage.

The latest controversy is also at the UC system, where the Board of Regents is considering whether saying that Israel has no right to exist, or that Israel is mostly to blame for the troubles in the region, is a form of anti-Semitism, worthy of being placed on a list of offensive language..

The debate over hurtful words, microaggressions, what can be said and what shouldn’t be said has been roiling campuses across California as well as places like Oberlin, Wesleyan, Ithaca, Columbia and elsewhere for several years now, complete with “microaggression” blogs, reserved strictly for those who are not “privileged,” meaning white people, in which the offended call out the offenders, for any number of perceived microaggressions, defined in the proposed UC tool as “everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership.”

To critics, all this is petty and worse, stifling, and when supported by state university administrations, very much an imposition on free speech. “This concept is now being used to suppress not just, say, personal insults or discrimination in hiring or grading, but also ideas that the UC wants to exclude from university classrooms,” wrote Eugene Volokh, a UCLA law professor who leads the Volokh Conspiracy blog hosted by The Washington Post.

Fighting microagressions “has become a cottage industry in academe,” wrote Malcolm A. Kline on a conservative Web site called “Accuracy in Academia” earlier this week, pointing to, among other places, “The Microaggressions Project” where grievance is piled upon grievance.

“Each event, observation and experience posted,” the site explains, “is not necessarily particularly striking in and of themselves. Often, they are never meant to hurt – acts done with little conscious awareness of their meanings and effects. Instead, their slow accumulation during a childhood and over a lifetime is in part what defines a marginalized experience, making explanation and communication with someone who does not share this identity particularly difficult. Social others are microaggressed hourly, daily, weekly, monthly.”

At “I, Too Am Harvard,” which does not explicitly bill itself as a microaggression project, African Americans make similar points and provide similar examples.

Derald Wing Sue, a professor of Psychology and Education at Columbia University’s Teacher’s College, the best known scholar of microaggressions and the developer of the microaggression tool used at UC and elsewhere, remains a strong defender.

He said in an interview with the Washington Post that he has no desire to “silence” anyone, and does not see it as an issue of suppressing free speech by whites but encouraging speech by minorities to voice their grievances.  “It’s interesting that many white people on campus see this as an issue of being silenced,” he said. “When people raise this, I often say this: That people of color have always been under the gun of forced compliance. They’ve not been about to talk about” their concerns. The microaggressions movement “frees people to say what’s actually happening.”

Likewise, the backlash to the anti-microaggression movement has become a cottage industry as well.

Much of it focuses on examples from the guidelines, like “Where are you from?,” “I believe the most qualified person should get the job” and “America is the land of opportunity,” which critics consider mystifying or even absurd. The latter phrase, about the “land of opportunity,” was said to be harmful in the California “tools” document because it advances the “myth of the meritocracy”  deemed to send a message that “race or gender does not play a role in life successes.”

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A conservative Web site published by college students, called the College Fix, is among those leading the charge against what one of its recent articles called “microaggression madness.”

A Daily Beast article on some of the micro aggression examples was headlined “The University of California’s Insane Speech Police.”  “How are students and faculty supposed to have an intellectual discussion about the merits of affirmative action if anyone making the opposite case is automatically branded a racist?” asked the writer, Robby Soave. “It’s not that every assertion in the seminar materials is wrong. Certainly, some of these statements, when uttered with sufficient malice, could cause offense. But when university administrators make preventing offense the paramount goal—and automatically apply the terms ‘racist’ and ‘sexist’ to perfectly mild forms of speech—free speech enthusiasts have every reason to worry.”

The most discussed and provocative dissection of microaggressions recently is a much broader critique published in the journal Comparative Sociology by Bradley Campbell of California State University and Jason Manning of West Virginia University. In “Microaggression and Moral Cultures” they see the anti-microaggression movement as a “a new species of social control,” which when “present in high degrees,” produces a “culture of victimhood.”

It’s very different than, they argue, than earlier movements like civil rights, because of its focus on otherwise unintentional slights, words alone, rather than concrete injustices, like being denied the right to vote or sit at a lunch counter. And its motive, they said, is not so much to educate offenders but elevate the offended.

“….When the victims publicize micoaggressions,” wrote  Campbell and Manning “they call attention to what they see as the deviant behavior of the offenders. In doing so,” they “also call attention to their own victimization.”

And that, they concluded, is one of the reasons they do it. Because it lowers “the offender’s moral status” and “raises the moral status of the victims.”

“Comparative Sociology” not being widely read outside sociology circles, the paper went relatively unnoticed for about a year. Then it was discovered by Jonathan Haidt’s the Righteous Mind  blog and, in September, by the Atlantic in a piece by Conor Fredersdorf called “The Rise of Victimhood Culture.”

“I don’t consider myself an opponent of this stuff,” Campbell said in an interview with The Washington Post. “But it’s not a secret that I have moral concerns about the way it can limit academic freedom. I worry,” he said, “when people get in trouble because they’ve said something people consider offensive.” And “I worry when administrators feel like they have to do something about it.”

The Campbell-Manning paper has also been critiqued in articles and blogs across the country since the Atlantic publicized it, including in the Atlantic itself, where Simba Runyowa wrote a piece entitled “Microaggressions Matter.”

“When I was studying at Oberlin College,” she wrote, “a fellow student once compared me to her dog. Because my name is Simba, a name Americans associate with animals, she unhelpfully shared that her dog’s name was also Simba. She froze with embarrassment, realizing that her remark could be perceived as debasing and culturally insensitive.

“It’s a good example of what social-justice activists term microaggressions—behaviors or statements that do not necessarily reflect malicious intent but which nevertheless can inflict insult or injury. I wasn’t particularly offended by the dog comparison. I found it amusing at best and tone deaf at worst.

“But other slights cut deeper,” she wrote. “As an immigrant, my peers relentlessly inquired, “How come your English is so good?’—as if eloquence were beyond the intellectual reach of people who look like me. An African American friend once asked an academic advisor for information about majoring in biology and, without being asked about her academic record (which was excellent), was casually directed to “look up less-challenging courses in African American Studies instead.”

“There is nothing glamorous about being subjected to racism, and certainly no social rewards to be reaped from being the victim of oppression in a society that heaps disadvantage on historically marginalized groups.”

Sue, at Columbia, recalls hurts similar to Runyowa’s, as he rose in his academic career. He grew up in Portland, Ore. Yet, he said, throughout his career “they’ll tell you,  professor Sue, you speak very good English” and then “wonder why would that offend you? The message to me is I am a perpetual alien. Not a citizen in my own country.”

“Why are people of color raising these issues,” he said in an interview with the Post. “Not because they see themselves as victims,” as Manning and Campbell suggest. “Microagressions have empowered them by giving them a language of expression. It allows them to say this is happening, and given the fact that it’s happening, and doing all this harm, do they not have a right to say ‘this has to stop?’”

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Fred Barbash, the editor of Morning Mix, is a former National Editor and London Bureau Chief for the Washington Post.

Alberto Navas, Daily Commuter of Language and Culture

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20150309 Navas PG10For Alberto Navas, the daily commute between language and culture is literal. He lives in Tijuana, and every day he heads north via the busiest border crossing in the world to his job in San Diego, where he helps lead the content team at Captura Group.

It’s a fitting transition for someone who markets to Hispanics, a demographic that makes linguistic and cultural “commutes” a thousand times a day. Marketing to Hispanics is all about connecting with those experiences.

We sat down with our compañero to talk to him about how his personal and professional background helps shape the type of authentic content we create on behalf of our clients.

You’ve lived in and traveled through many countries. How do you answer the question, “Where are you from?”

It’s a combination of place of birth and countries where I’ve lived. To be technical, I was born in Nicaragua, but I’ve lived and travelled all over: Peru, Jamaica, Canada, Dominican Republic, Argentina, and the U.S. (California, Atlanta, Miami, Washington, DC), to name a few places. Now I live in Mexico and commute daily to our office in San Diego – I import and export myself every day!

What about your professional background, is it as diverse as your travels?

¡Sí! I started out in supply chain and software, during the technology boom of the 1990s. From the start of my working life language and culture have been key assets, as I managed international shipments to Mexico. After approximately seven years, and purely by chance, I walked into the U.S. Hispanic market as a freelance translator and interpreter in Washington, DC. After a few years freelancing and a stop at business school in Vancouver, I came to Captura Group, where I just celebrated my eighth anniversary as a member of the best Hispanic content team! Anecdote: in the span of a year I lived in all three NAFTA countries.

How do you use your personal and professional experiences at Captura Group?

My personal and professional experiences have been a great education for working with U.S. Hispanics. My background in software helps me understand the digital environment in which we work. The time I’ve spent living and traveling throughout the U.S. and Latin America are the foundation of the work I do every day for our clients. When developing content I rely on those personal and professional experiences to leverage the nuances of language and culture to connect with U.S. Hispanics. This can be in broad strokes when planning a content strategy, or granular, when analyzing what terminology achieves the objectives of a project.

Can you take us through an example?

I am often asked, usually at the start of a project, “what Spanish” we will use in our content. This is a reference to whether we will recommend regional or neutral terminology. It depends on the target audience and objectives of the project or client, there isn’t a catch-all answer. I’m a firm believer in having an approach rather than a solution when developing content for online U.S. Hispanics. I’ve even written about it for this blog, comparing it to the off-side rule in soccer. (Think about it – it applies!)

What’s your advice for marketers or brands looking to reach online U.S. Hispanics through content?

My advice is to think beyond language and resist the urge to translate. Think about culture and go below the surface to create content that connects with U.S. Hispanics – and know that not all Hispanics are the same. This requires nuanced knowledge of language and culture, and a pan-Hispanic team; these two components are the bridge between the right content and the right context for your customers.

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