Florida Passes Anti Diversity Bill: Companies such as AT&T embrace racial economic exclusion
By: Al Piña
Florida’s Hispanic buying power is now over $107 Billion.
Our family has switched our business from AT&T to other companies that embrace diversity and access for Florida’s Hispanic businesses and families. Our voice is heard via our dollar.
My wife and I just had a son and we both worry about his future. Should we raise him in a state where Hispanics are treated as outcasts except during elections when each politician pledges his or her allegiance to our families, businesses and communities? Then they are gone never to be heard from again until the following election. In the end, we are still left in economic solitude that embraces our past and present. Our future and our children’s future must be defined by our actions and not by those who lack the sensibility to the suffering of others.
North of Miami Dade, Florida Hispanics continue to struggle for political and economic inclusion. Hispanics have a higher proportion of home foreclosures and subprime loans including automotive loans. Our children are dropping out of high school at much higher rates than non-Hispanic children. We have significantly higher unemployment and poverty rates. The lists go on and on and clearly demonstrate that Hispanics in Florida have not reached a stage of both social and economic inclusion. This is a fact that has a negative economic impact on all of Florida. Hispanics contribute only a fraction of the overall GDP north of Miami Dade.
Make no mistake about this, the key and solution for inclusion will always be economic and not political. The best affordable housing project will always be a good paying job. Access to capital is the key to growing jobs both in small businesses and large corporations. Yet Hispanic businesses in Florida receive less than 5% of all business loans outside of Miami Dade.
These issues of economic exclusion are rooted deeply in the history of Florida. One only has to take a look at some of the largest employers in Florida to see but a reflection of such economic exclusion. AT&T leads the way with a horrendous record of outsourcing to Hispanic businesses outside of Miami Dade, a lack of access to services for low-moderate income Hispanics and an overall negative diversity program in Florida.
I come from California where AT&T not only publicly embraced diversity and economic inclusion for Hispanics; they did so with public goals and objectives. The result being over 21% of all contracts going to minority firms with a net value of over $345 million last year. When AT&T Florida was asked to replicate this for Florida minority firms, Marshall Criser (President for AT&T Florida) showed complete disdain towards allowing minorities any such access. Why is AT&T public diversity goals good for California Hispanics but not Florida Hispanics?
A record of economic exclusion in Florida and the south.
The answer to this question lies in a recent anti diversity bill passed by the state legislature, Senate Bill 998. By the way, AT&T Miami was the largest contributor to the Jacksonville senator who introduced this legislation, a clear sign that AT&T Florida wants nothing to do with diversity.
Since the passage of the Civil Rights Act, Community Reinvestment Act, Home Mortgage Disclosure Act, and other civil rights legislation, diversity data collection and reporting has become much more commonplace among financial institutions, telecommunications companies, energy utilities, and others. The data tracked and published by each industry has led to greater effectiveness. So Florida basically outlawed diversity data.
How can we promote economic inclusion for our children? It is easy. With every dollar you decide what you will consume. If AT&T does not provide economic inclusion for Florida Hispanics then don’t purchase their products. If a bank does not lend to our businesses then don’t bank with them. In the end, we all have a dollar in our pocket and have full control how we use it. Do as we did in California and only consume with companies that share the value of diversity and you will see increased access and opportunities for your children, families and businesses.
Allow our $107 Billion of purchasing power in Florida to do the talking for us and then and only then will you see economic inclusion for Hispanics.