Several employees are suing retail giant Target, in some part as a result of the leak of a "cultural guide" that had made its rounds to warehouse management in Yolo County, California. The cultural manual was apparently created in an effort to better inform Target management about the groups of Hispanic employees that work underneath them ... and that's putting it as generously as one possibly could. What was actually in the guide, however, was not only offensive, arguably its release is a severe blow to the Target managers that evidently needed such a guide in the first place.
The contents in the manual include but are not limited to questionable tips such as:
a. Food: not everyone eats tacos and burritos;
b. Music: not everyone dances to salsa;
c. Dress: not everyone wears a sombrero;
d. Mexicans (lower education level, some may be undocumented);
e. Cubans (Political refugees, legal status, higher education level); and
f. They may say 'OK, OK' and pretend to understand, when they do not, just to save face.
Perhaps the premise of the document is most infuriating. The presuppositions here seem to be that Hispanics are mere minions that must be controlled using alternative techniques. There is a dehumanizing aspect to this story in that these workers are apparently seen more as subjects of a science experiment than people just striving to make a living, much like their American counterparts. And there is no doubt that this is embarrassing for Target. Company spokeswoman Molly Synder addressed the issue with the obligatory "this story does not represent our company as a whole" line. It's certainly not a good look for a company currently in the middle of a campaign to reach out to Hispanics.
While there is certainly a racial component to this story, there is also a stigma here that should be reserved for the managers at this particular Target (the claim is that this was isolated to this local target). As offensive as the content in the document was, the very fact that this manual was needed for managers in the first place shows that gaps in workplace understanding is a major issue. The very idea that managers had to be informed that their Hispanic employees were not all the same and that they did not all fit cultural stereotypes, is embarrassing to not only the managers but also the company that hired them in the first place.
A brief look at the 2010 census numbers shows that Yolo County, California has a 31% Hispanic population. That is not insignificant by any means. That number is almost assuredly higher when it comes to the retail industry. Managers are expected to know how to work in diverse environments. Managers should be expected to know how to deal with their Hispanic employees, or at the very least know that Hispanics, like any other social group, are not a monolithic, homogenous group. In other words, they're not all the same. Managers should not have to be informed that these racist stereotypes are not acceptable in the workplace.