By Elvis Jocol Lara
During the Super Bowl, Coca Cola ran an ad featuring people of diverse backgrounds singing “America the Beautiful” in a variety of languages. Immediately following its airing there was a backlash on twitter with people decrying the ad and demanding a boycott of all Coke products.
Following that, there was the obligatory backlash to the backlash.
Of course we’ve heard stories like this time and time again since the proliferation of social media has created an outlet for even the smallest of minds to have a platform from which to spew hatred and vitriol.
Before this there was the Marc Anthony incident at the MLB All Star Game where he was similarly attacked for being a non-American singing “God Bless America.” Marc Anthony was, of course, born in New York City.
Before that there was eleven year old Sebastian De La Cruz being assailed for singing the national anthem at the NBA Finals in San Antonio dressed in full “charro” attire.
The fact is, with so many major events happening on a regular basis in America, it is frankly surprising that ugly scenes such as these don’t happen more often.
You have the close minded people who initiate the firestorm condemning the increasingly diverse racial and cultural makeup of America and declaring “multilingualism” a threat to the American identity and patriotism.
On the opposite end you have folks who point to those comments as proof positive that America continues to be the racist, prejudiced country it has always been…and they’re right. But only to an extent.
Hatred and racism are alive and well in this country and the twitter attacks are the embodiment of that fact. However, in regards to the online battle taking place, I say: who cares?
The face of America is changing and that as an undeniable reality. Those who are posting malicious commentary on social media are those who do not understand that one simple fact.
The great irony is that ultimately, it is the diversity of America that has the greatest potential to reassert the country’s competitive advantage in the Global market place – only if it is allowed to flourish. Those who resist it are essentially engaging in self-destructive behavior more conducive to isolationism as an end state rather than economic prosperity and the subsequent boost in standards of living that come with it; a more un-American behavior I cannot think of.
Thankfully, all of their pooh poohing and belly aching will not change the fact that absolutely nothing can be done to stem the tide of change. It is precisely because America has irreversibly changed (undoubtedly for the better) that these events occur so frequently.
Marc Anthony was not invited to appear at the MLB All Star game to appease an insignificant minority group. He was invited because Latinos are a powerful consumer segment that today holds an ever increasing sway in corporate America. And if we are to believe that corporate America holds more influence in our nation than any other segment of the country (which it seemingly does), well then, the voice of Latinos has found itself one powerful ally.
MLB, the NBA, Coca Cola and other large corporations will continue to invite Latino artists and promote diversity in the face of calls for boycotts, if not because it is the moral thing to do, then simply because it is good business. And I’m ok with that.
As a segment of diverse individuals, the best reaction to such moments of ignorance is not to be angered, but to use these instances as motivation and inspiration.
Yes, having the conversation and doing our part to educate the ignorant or misinformed is important, but all too frequently we aim only to reveal the sources of such hateful language without understanding that the public shaming of such individuals will do nothing to change their minds.
We cannot become consumed by this online debate because it takes the focus off what is most important and that is our continuous effort to succeed.
Let’s let the myopic, small-minded bigots and xenophobes lead a one sided debate online while we proudly lead the changing face of, not just the American population, but of the American classroom, judicial system, political system and boardroom.
Because it is when we are successful and return this country to its rightful position of prominence that we truly win any debate.
And there is no stronger response than that, mis amigos.
Elvis Jocol is Founder and President of Casa Guatemala and an experienced Marketing professional who has worked with some of the world’s leading brands. A child of Guatemalan immigrants, he was born in Boston and raised in Waltham. Follow him on Twitter at @ElChapin