When Minorities become the Majority — by Dr. Julia Wai-Yin So

Not long ago, Texas made history.  It became a majority minority state. In other words, the minorities together make up more than 50% of the population. Here in Texas, diversity is a buzzword. Not only does it attract attention, it gets people excited, who now want to jump on the bandwagon to organize diversity initiatives such as cultural sensitivity training or setting up a diversity council.

In California or Hawaii, diversity permeates every corner. People in those states breath and live American diversity.
  According to the 2005 American Community Survey of the US Census, the 14 million Asian Americans in the nation make up about 4.3% of the nation’s population. The largest group is Chinese Americans (3.3 million); the second largest is Filipino (2.8 million). They are followed by Asian Indian (2.5 million), Vietnamese (1.5 million), Korean (1.4 million), and Japanese (1.2 million). Outside of Hawaii, the largest concentration of Asian Americans in the US continent is in California with 4.4 million, followed by New York with 1.3 million.

Texas ranks number three in the nation in terms of Asian population by sheer numbers—about three quarters of a million. Among the Asians, Asian Indians make up the largest percentage (24%). They are followed by Vietnamese (22%), Chinese (21%) and Filipinos (19%). A big majority of them lives in the Houston and Dallas/Ft. Worth area. Since diversity is here, we should acknowledge its existence. Companies that have diversity council, cultural sensitivity trainings, or business diversity suppliers program are ahead of the game. Not only these programs help them to adapt to the population change that we are experiencing, they will be able to maintain or even increase their market share and facilitate social change, especially in today’s global economy.

Take for example, sensitivity training. Educating employees about the various cultures and their traditions not only can change one’s perceptions of others and thus his/her attitudes toward them, it can also dispel many misperceptions one may have of others. A better understanding of each other’s cultural values can also help foster a sense of respect and appreciation for others, resulting in a more friendly and inclusive workplace and that leads to higher productivity of the employees. However, none of these can happen if one’s employees do not have an open mind. While being receptive to others is a first step, understanding the importance of inclusion can help instill this attitude. An exchange of cultures can also build bridges and break down barriers in communication, especially in a diverse community.

To those who see this as an important step, I suggest that you take the initiative to learn about the cultures of your neighbors or colleagues, or proactively share your own with them. Why wait for your company’s sensitivity training? Finally, we also have to remind ourselves that diversity is not about what percentage of a neighborhood is of African, Asian, or Latino origin. It is not about what percentage of a workforce or a corporate board is women. Numbers may look good on paper, but it is the people that we work with. To work well with one another, we have to better understand each other. Cultural Diversity is here in Texas and around the nation, but what to do with it? First and foremost, we have to be receptive of others. The understanding, respect, appreciation and value of other’s culture will come later.

Dr. Julia Wai-Yin So

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