Diverse Communities Are Hit the Hardest but Are Critical to Fueling Our Recovery
Article written by Mike Valdes-Fauli Forbes Councils Member, President & CEO of Pinta, a leading multicultural marketing firm with clients including Amex, Dr. Seuss, Heineken, Microsoft, NFL & T-Mobile.
For someone who has dedicated his 20-year career to helping companies engage the Latino community, it’s tragic to observe the disproportionate damage Covid-19 has brought.
Among many profound realizations that have emerged from the pandemic, it’s come into stark relief how severely disadvantaged minority communities are in both physical and economic health. Black and Latino communities have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, and in many ways were less equipped to deal with its repercussions. Ironically, it’s these very communities that will be integral for our country to rise from the proverbial ashes.
With more than $520 billion deployed through the Paycheck Protection Program and other efforts, the U.S. government has attempted to support small businesses in these dire times. Unfortunately, not all PPP candidates are regarded as equal.
According to a recent study from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, 41% of Black-owned businesses closed during the pandemic, compared to only 17% of white-owned. Furthermore, only 33% of Black employers report having a “healthy or stable” relationship with a financial institution, compared with 54% for white employers. These systemic hurdles are difficult to surmount.
The health data is just as dire. Although Black Americans account for 13.4% of the U.S. population, counties with higher Black populations represented more than 50% of Covid-19 cases and nearly 60% of deaths, according to findings from a joint study of epidemiologists and clinicians.
Similarly, the Latino community has been hit particularly hard, due in large part to deeply rooted societal inequalities. According to findings from the New York Times, American counties where at least 25% of the population is Latino recorded an increase of 32% in virus cases, compared to only 15% in all other counties.
Latino unemployment had reduced to 4.4% in February, but the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that Latino unemployment subsequently rose to 18.9% in April 2020, which exceeded figures for all other ethnic groups (16.7% for Black, 14.5% for Asian and 14.2% for white). While the unemployment rates have mildly declined since then, the national advocacy group UnidosUS claims the reality is even more treacherous because Latinos are significantly less likely to receive unemployment benefits.
In spite of these alarming statistics, it’s important to note that these communities had previously been a bright spot in our future economic prospects. According to a 2019 study by the Latino Donor Collaborative, Hispanic GDP topped $2.3 trillion that year, driving the U.S economy. Put in the context of Latino GDP as a country, this would make it the eighth-largest economy in the world (passing Brazil and Russia). Comparing compound annual growth rates, Latino real consumption had been growing 72% faster than non-U.S. Latinos in that time period.
It is, therefore, a societal imperative that we fix what’s broken, not only to do what’s right (help diverse communities), but also because it’s needed to ignite a return to exponential growth. With that in mind, several efforts have been launched to help.
The Hispanic Star Response and Recovery Plan is an offshoot of We Are All Human, a “first-of-its-kind national pledge to hire, promote, retain and celebrate Hispanics in the workplace.” The effort serves as a clearinghouse of information from more than 75 leaders and organizations, with the intent to mitigate the immediate economic impact of the pandemic and set a path to recovery for Hispanic-owned enterprises.
Big Facts Small Acts “is a grassroots, arts-based, multimedia campaign aimed at educating Atlanta’s vulnerable Black and Brown communities on the prevention and treatment of Covid-19.” Knowing that we can’t get the economy going until we get the pandemic slowing, this group persistently encourages the usage of masks in communities that have been hit the hardest.
The group partnered with leading national advertising agency, Chemistry, on a pro bono campaign to identify street artists and have them “mask” their own iconic murals around the city, thereby providing a daily reminder of the dangers for everyone, especially communities of color. (Full disclosure: Chemistry is an agency partner to my agency, Pinta.) The campaign has been well covered in national media and raised awareness of the disproportionate health risks associated with minority communities. In addition to the mural program, which is currently expanding to other cities, the organization is distributing masks during protests and rallies and in voting lines. It is also selling statement masks, with proceeds going toward underrepresented communities.
L’ATTITUDE consists of “CEOs, celebrities, economists, educators, entrepreneurs, journalists, politicians and industry influencers at its annual conference.” It is a national initiative highlighting U.S. Latinos’ significant value in various industries, and it educates executives on the importance of this cohort.
As marketers, we stand in a unique position to amplify these positive campaigns and critical messages. It’s incumbent upon all of us to volunteer our time toward worthy causes and champion initiatives that are making a difference. With the combination of the global pandemic and racial injustice, it’s never been more important to speak our minds in person (when possible and safe), at virtual events, on social media and in the work we do for clients across the country.
Ultimately, it will take all of these efforts and many more to get us back on track. A rising tide raises all ships, and helping challenged communities will ultimately fuel growth in the broader economy.