Am I Wrong?

Children crossing
The current crisis of over 50K unaccompanied children crossing the U.S. borders have almost fallen from the news radar. Plenty of finger-pointing heated arguments and what becomes automatic polarization of any and all issues is common. Some little progress is taking place through funds allocated to quick deportation. ‘Let’s get rid of the problem’, I mean children, mentality prevails.

Nobody is addressing root causes.

For the returned children and their families, life will likely be worse than before engaging in the dangerous trip to the U.S. Maybe it is not our problem what’s happening in neighboring Mexico, Honduras, Nicaragua and Guatemala.

Maybe it is.

We do not want to accept that there is a humanitarian crisis at our borders. It is easier to feel safer by returning these children quickly, building bigger border walls, or, and we should, going after the ‘coyotes’ who smuggle children. It is easy to deny that there is a violence crisis in Central America or to even think that it is touching us.

I ask, why have violence surged in these countries? Drug cartels have existed for years. Nobody dares to look deeply into the answer. It is easy to blame the government or ‘those’ people.

Am I wrong to believe that as Americans we can do better? Let me offer some suggestions:

1) Although nobody has yet studied the long-term effects of the 1994 Assault Weapons laws end in 2004; ask anyone in Mexico or in Central American and he/she will point out to the immediate rise in violence correlated to the laws ending. An obvious, easy and no-cost to taxpayers solution is to re-enact these laws.

2) Illegal drugs traffic bosses and its organized crime structure are outstanding businesses. They understand how to increase demand, distribution and marketing through latest technologies. Can we limit the enabling tools they use?
What about changing the public perception on drug usage from a mentality that ‘using drugs for fun is not bad as long as you are not hooked’ to ‘if you use illegal drugs you are helping murderers’? How would jokes about drug explorations look if tied to the cruel realities of drug trade and its trail of violence? Legalizing marijuana may ease some, but the allure of hard, expensive drugs is likely to continue.

3) In most of these countries $1 USA dollar roughly equals $10 in the local economy. What about taking modest amounts of money and invest in safe schools, entrepreneurial and trade organizations that give these children hope for the future and a safe role in their own destinies?

4) In the meanwhile, could we take these 50,000 students and teach them something? What can we do creatively to equip them with tools that would help them in their life trials? What impression do we want to leave with them other than the richest country in the world protesting to expel them?

5) Finally and probably a more complex issue is to discuss comprehensive immigration reform. The 11M undocumented immigrants in the U.S. contribute to innovation, job creation, tax income, and overall demand for housing and products and services. For example, in 2006 “Texas Comptroller reported that undocumented immigrants provided $17.7 billion in gross state product, including over $424 million more in state revenues than they consumed in state services including education, health care and law enforcement.” An immigration policy that protects current citizens from technical obsolescence, while opening the doors to the creativity and zest of immigrant workers, both skilled and unskilled, would be good for the economy.

Some are afraid that comprehensive immigration reform means opening flood gates to more illegal immigrants. It does not have to. Comprehensive means that border controls and limits to protect national interests are part of the reform.

I am sure there are other solutions. Inaction or denial is no solution.

I am a little worried about the meaning for us as a country if we ignore the plight of children. In the past, we welcomed those escaping violence in Cambodia, Vietnam or the Middle East. These children come from Central America next door, also escaping violence and reprisal.

I am also concerned with the long-term effects polarizing politics is taking in the U.S. society. Our ability to discuss and look for solutions that elevate the human spirit while pushing the limits of efficiency and effectiveness are the hallmark of the American culture. We cannot lose that.

As a parent, I care for the children. I could not bear to imagine my own children in such a predicament. I am also concerned for our own future. How we treat our neighbors children today will help decide whether they would be ‘good or bad’ neighbors in the future.

Am I wrong to believe that we can do better in handling the current 50,000 children? No, I am not. It should be the American way.

Leading with Hair

When I first included Middle Eastern groups as a growing and diverse multicultural market within the United States, surprised everyone. I had to start with the statistics of the world population that is of the Islāmic faith and how America is experiencing the same growth patterns.

Back then, market development strategies would have never segmented this group. Much less would have new product strategy focused on the special needs of Middle Eastern consumers. A disruptive class on financial shariah* law and how to do business within the Islāmic world got cancelled due to low enrollment. Now, it is happening. According to the Wall Street Journal on May 20, top consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies launched personal care products specifically targeted for Middle Eastern tastes, such as hair products that address lack of ventilation under a scarf.

In the global scene, although slowly, companies are starting to realize that an American brand name is no longer enough to sell to diverse consumers. Sophisticated and empowered consumers want what is important to them, in their terms. Cultural influences, overt or not, shape preferences. Brands market share growth both in the U.S. and abroad is highly dependent on how well brands tap into diversity of tastes, styles, perceptions and behaviors that shape consumer-decision making.

This lesson is not new. African-American women have long wanted hair and skin products that fit her needs. Small entrepreneurs started to fill the void before major CPG companies started to even consider this as a market, in spite of this segment $1B buying power.


Originally woven by Peruvian villagers

Under-the-radar groups are big cultural influencers to the mainstream too. In fashions I remember when my friend and textile preservationist in Peru, Nilda Callañaupa from Centro de Textiles de Cuzco, brought the first embroidered ovary-tip, long-side-tie hat I have seen. (Gifted to our host at the Field Museum of Science and Industry where we were delivering talks about authentic Peruvian art forms and links to anthropological research). Soon enough some entrepreneur must have found the hat style, commercialized it and, after, the hat became fashionable to today.

Last week, at a business communications class after a participant spoke, most audience questions were about the outfit, a beautiful blue, white and black Sari** she purchased at one of the colorful Indian stores on Devon Avenue in Chicago. We all admired her chic look with a slight Indian flair within a quasi-American look. At a graduation party, the mother wore a similar outfit she bought at a boutique in California when travelling on vacations. She had not a clue that her outfit was a take on a sari.

Multiculturalism is about understanding cultural influences, differences and similarities. In business, these influences go beyond the way consumers speak, receive and process information to the very way consumers eat, dress, entertain and live their lives.

Multicultural influences come from multiple angles. From the targeted segment or subgroup, deeper understanding and connections feeds new products ideas and one hand and on the other hand, harnesses long-term relationships. From the mainstream, influences are bidirectional which opens doors for new creations or iterations of products and services as well. Furthermore, understanding trendy, young, multi-cultural individuals helps predict future trends and cultural shifts.

Why hair? It is personal. Is your product and relationship with diverse consumers personal?


*Muslims have a huge advantage in being able to turn to their religious teaching for guidance in their business dealings. Belief in God provides not merely the motivation, but the imperative for adhering to shariah law, which is to be applied in all spheres of life. For Muslims moral conduct in their daily lives is part of their devotion. Revealed teaching provides moral certainty, and a set of standards to which the entire community of believers can adhere.” Islāmic Banking

**”long, wrapping garment worn by Hindu women,” 1785, from Hindi sari, from Prakrit sadi, from Skt. sati “garment, petticoat.”

Has Hip-Hop Diminished Black Cool?


Rethinking Hip-Hop and de facto Black culture. @Latinotimes @NSMBAA

Originally posted on Hide it in A Book:


A few weeks ago, I sat on a panel for the 32nd Intercultural Communication Conference at Texas Southern University.The subject for this year’s conference was the effects of Black music on Black life. I argued that contemporary Black music inaccurately reflects the Black experience in America. A large majority of modern Black music (read: Hip-Hop & B) features the same theme of ostentatious wealth and gauche misogyny, to the point where a slight deviation can be lauded as something other than a softer version of the same theme.

Questlove, of the (world famous) Roots, in his third installment of his six-part weekly series of essays, takes the theory of Hip-Hop as cultural drag and takes it a step further, arguing that the concept of Black cool has lost its luster in the current of Hip-Hop in the 21st century:

These days, the vast majority of hip-hop artists follow a…

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