The Inevitability of Multiculturalism

It’s happening and there is no turning back.

Face it folks, short of a massive and prolonged vow of chastity by millions of hyphenated Americans, the move to a majority multicultural society will happen in 2042, if not sooner. No walls, extreme vetting or English-only requirements can slow down the inevitability of this fact, and it is indeed an empirical fact. The good news is, that it is all good news.

Companies in search of growth -which means every company- should be midwifing this process and weaving themselves into relevancy as the fabric of society changes. All companies should take a more assertive stance and cast their lot with the future as opposed to being held hostage to the past. Lots of them are doing it already, being consistent in their approach to better align with these demographic realities, others not so much. There will be winner and losers.

Our American society is well on its way to becoming a much more colorful and interesting place. It is sure to become more tolerant and inclusive, a reflection of the values already seen with Millennials and Gen Z’ers that will rule in our not so distant future. American kitchens will be teeming with scents of sriracha, chile ancho, curry and turmeric, accented by dashes of salsa – the condiment and the music – and everyone will be humming a future version of la Macarena or Despacito. We’ll hear a potpourri of different languages mixed with English como Spanglish, our very own American patois. While this linguistic convergence might not work for purists, it will surely be understood in our city streets, and that’s a good thing. This multilingualism will help nurture our ability to communicate with peoples all over the globe, and that can’t hurt either.

Everybody has a story

Except for Native Americans, everyone else with immigrant roots has a story to tell about how and why they or their people came to America in search of… (“insert reason here”). I seriously doubt anyone would put a government handout as the driver that made them brave the perils they faced as a reason to land on these shores.

America has been rightfully sold to the world as the land of opportunity. An opportunity is not much to bank on, it’s just a chance. To leave it all behind to risk life and limb for a mere chance took guts in the 1800’s and 1900’s and it sure takes guts today. The reason that America is a magnet for people willing to assume crazy risks is precisely because there is proof that you indeed get an opportunity. It might be uneven, it’s certainly not fair, but it’s a chance. In many places around the world an opportunity is way too much to ask for, not here.

Our multiculturalism should be a proof point

Today the multicultural nature of our society has become a proof point rather than a talking point. It has in fact reached critical mass with no way back. There are numbers (lots of them as a matter of fact), metrics that one can chart, track, analyze and project accurately into the future. In a nutshell, 37% of people in America today are non-white with a hockey-stick-like slope for accelerated growth. And guess what? Arguably in the larger scheme of things, we all kind of get along. There is a fragility in this balancing act; one that seems to improve with the passing of generations. But many are still standing idle on the sidelines. Many more brands should play a role if they want to be relevant to the new American mainstream and for the life of me, I don’t see it happening to the level it should despite the inevitability of it all.

What a difference a few years make 

I recall the days when no auto manufacturer or dealer would bother to advertise new vehicles to Hispanics. We would inevitably be sent to the used car lot, and then treated with a healthy dose of suspicion. Today, they are tripping all over themselves trying to reach our market. In 2015, the biggest sales year the auto industry has ever seen, Hispanics alone accounted for 35 percent of new vehicle sales growth, per CDK Global.

When will the fear of white backlash end?

Still, entire industries lag in their outreach efforts-some driven by sheer inertia but others driven by what we in the Hispanic and multicultural marketing spheres call the “white backlash”. Unfortunately, many companies are paralyzed by the fear of this backlash. Lots of them are laying low, hoping the unseemly atmospherics of bigotry and nativism unleashed since the 2016 election will quiet down. But this aggrieved segment of society will not go gentle into that good night. They’re disoriented and mad. What will marketers do? Will they continue to sit on the sidelines and kowtow to a dwindling and aging segment of society that temporarily feels empowered, as they are collectively preparing to kick the proverbial bucket? Or embrace a forward-looking optimistic populace who saw the opportunity of America, and took it?

Pedro de Cordoba, Senior Director | Burson Latino