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Hispanics and Blacks: Different Languages, Shared Economic Perspective

This is the second in a series celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month 2014 — Monday, September 15th through Wednesday, October 15.

Among the most powerful commonalities between Hispanic Americans and African Americans are the bonds that we have formed to ensure the economic futures of our families and communities.

Ron Busby, Maria Contreras-Sweet and Aubry Stone

As we celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month, we find that while language differences and national origins sometimes cause cultures to appear worlds apart, the common bonds that are worth celebrating are clearly evident in our everyday lives. Those commonalities often illustrate the determined, loyal and strategic natures of both communities.

That’s the reason that when newly appointed U.S. Small Business Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet attended the summer conference of the U.S. Black Chambers Inc. (USBC), she was welcomed with great enthusiasm and expectation. USBC President Ron Busby expressed confidence that the fruit of USBC’s advocacy on behalf of black-owned businesses would continue to escalate under the leadership of Contreras-Sweet, former executive chairwoman and founder of ProAmérica Bank in Los Angeles.

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A presidential appointee and Cabinet member, Contreras-Sweet has been celebrated as the first Latina to hold the top position at the SBA. She and the Hispanic community are well aware of the daunting chore of growing and strengthening minority-owned businesses and entrepreneurship. In fact, Hispanics “start businesses at three times the national average and contribute over $468 billion to the American economy,” according to a White House statement marking her appointment.

Still the modern-day struggle for economic parity for Hispanics is comparable to that of African Americans. Despite challenging economic climates, both communities have a rich heritage of entrepreneurship and business ownership in their native countries and both contribute that ingenuity to America’s cities and neighborhoods.

Hispanics and Latinos, at about 17 percent of the U. S. population, own slightly more U.S. businesses than African Americans at 13 percent of the population. Approximately 8.3 percent of businesses are owned by Hispanics/Latinos and 7.1 percent by blacks, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

While business ownership is to be celebrated, there is clear need for growth and support. Therefore, both communities have taken similar measures to strengthen and increase their economic standing. African Americans and Hispanics have both formed chambers of commerce that strengthen business ownership through education, workshops and advocacy for economic support.

Likewise, Michael Grant, president and CEO of the National Bankers Association (NBA), an organization of 37 minority-owned banks, says that while Hispanic- and black-owned banks have struggled disparately throughout the economic downturn, they have remained loyal to the needs of people in their surrounding communities who have depended on them for loans.

“We are used to doing more with less,” Grant said on National Public Radio. “So this really gave us an opportunity to turn inward and to focus and to make ourselves more worthy.”

Amid this historic determination for economic survival, Hispanics and African Americans share yet another common bond. Both communities tend to strategically give greater support to businesses and corporations that show affinity for their causes.

Approximately a third of Hispanic and African American consumers who responded to the Yankelovich MONITOR Multicultural Study 2010 said they were more likely to buy from “companies that support causes they believe in, compared to just one in five Non-Hispanic Whites,” reported VanguardComm, which co-announced the results of the study.

“Simply put, engaging in multicultural communities to make a positive difference pays off for businesses in purchasing and brand loyalty,” said VanguardComm CEO Esther Novak.

Determined, loyal and strategic. Those are common attributes in the Hispanic and African American communities that are worth celebrating!

In celebration of Hispanic Heritage, join or renew now and save up to 25 percent off your membership dues (ends 10/20/2014).

>> Get discounts on financial services with your AARP Member Advantages.

Photo: Courtesy of U.S. Black Chambers Inc.

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