As Hispanic Heritage Month gets underway, I look forward to the abundance of good that we can celebrate about Latinx heritage. The wet serape on our fiesta, however, is how the United States treats immigrants from Latin America. It’s a time of tension, fear, and danger. I don’t personally have safety concerns because I am a U.S. citizen, and I don’t look very Latina so I’m not at risk of being accidentally swept up in an ICE raid. My kids appear lightly ethnic, and my extended family is either in Mexico or legally residing in the States. My direct friends and family are safe. I am very aware of this privilege.
My extended Hispanic community is at risk, however, and I feel powerless to help. Children are dying. Legal processes are thwarted. Legal residents are unfairly targeted. Illegal immigrants are treated abhorrently. My anger and my empathy abound, but it’s not enough. All around me, the world is unravelling. I feel overwhelmed to the point of inaction – small and powerless against huge systemic problems. It makes me numb. But if I stay that way, numb but safe in my privileged world, I risk inaction.
I’m stressed because my future employment is uncertain. As the primary breadwinner, this puts my family at risk. I feel under-resourced and emotionally exhausted. With these heavy weights on my mind, where do I find time and energy to take action on the many social issues, the figurative fires to fight, the inequities that I wish to extinguish?
I find clarity and strength in voting: in elections and with my dollars. I have added the office phone numbers for my Senators and Representatives into my cell phone. When I have an opinion, I take two minutes and call them. I have a note on my weekly “to do” list just to make sure I stay engaged. Yes, I can set aside at least those six minutes each week to make three calls.
I use my money to support causes that matter to me, and I patronize businesses that fight for what I believe in.
Voting with my dollars potentially has more power. In addition to pressing social issues, I still have to run a household. I have to grocery shop, make online purchases, clothe my kids, pay the mortgage, and deal with medical expenses. I am blessed to have the resources to afford these things. So, I use my money to support causes that matter to me, and I patronize businesses that fight for what I believe in. The idea of voting with my dollars is one that companies cater to – even reference – in their brand efforts (examples: 1, 2, 3, and 4). Symantec does it too.
I buy my skincare products at The Body Shop because they support the environment and fair trade. I value my Adobe subscription because they support sustainability and educational endeavors. I enjoy Starbucks’ lattes because they support an array of causes that I believe in. I shop at many companies that advocate for the LGBTQ community.
I also do the reverse. If a corporation is supporting people and causes that I disagree with, I stop giving them my money. I switched my brand of paper towels because I disagree with the company’s views on climate change. I refuse to shop at a certain retailer because they underpay and underpromote minorities while also undermining local businesses.
You can do this too. Open Secrets track where politicians get their funding. How Much provides a visual summary of similar information. Done Good organizes products and companies that align to your values. The left-leaning Grab Your Wallet lists specific reasons you might reconsider supporting a certain company. Don’t like a certain billionaire’s point of view? Google them and their companies and make your own personal boycott list. Look for ways you can support your values with your dollars.
Don’t like a certain billionaire’s point of view? Google them and their companies and make your own personal boycott list. Look for ways you can support your values with your dollars.
Is my approach flawed? Certainly. Am I perfect? No. Sometimes I make hard choices. Nonetheless, at least I am doing something, besides feeling numb and overwhelmed. I stay engaged by using the resources available to me. I refuse to be complicit through my inactivity. For Hispanic Heritage month, I will certainly celebrate my culture. Also important is taking action to preserve the rights and dignity of Hispanic people everywhere.
I wish I could do more. If I could, I would reunite detained immigrant children with their families, find a path to citizenship for DACA/DREAMers, and create humane immigration and asylum processes. But these things are not in my power. What is in my power is to vote with my ballot and vote with my dollars.
To celebrate Hispanic Heritage month, I invite you to look for ways to support treating all people with humanity and dignity. Inspiration is everywhere: learn about nine-year-old activist Sophie Cruz (pictured above), or take in works by actress/philanthropist Gina Rodriguez and actress/activist Eva Longoria. Whatever you choose to do, know that Latinx people have $1.5 trillion dollars in annual buying power. That’s a lot of potential dollars that can be used to influence social change.
How are you going to support Hispanic Heritage this month – and always?
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