Thursday, April 13, 2006

Chambers Galore

Speaking of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, I am not quite sure what to make of the modern tendency to create a Chamber for every diverse group. In Denver; so far I have found a Black Chamber, a Woman's Chamber, a Hispanic Chamber, a Indian Chamber along with a chamber for every single neighborhood.

I do realize that there are driving economic forces behind this trend for ever more specific ethnic chamber and gender based chamber. However I fear that they also feed an innate human impuluse to split into warring sects.

I cut my teeth in the business world in Salt Lake City. In Salt Lake the divide is religious. Salt Lake has an unfortunate history where the market was deeply divided by religion. In early Utah history, Saints were admonished to avoid buying from gentiles. There are still a few hints here and there of this unfortunate tradition. My experience in Salt Lake has been that, whenever anyone makes a decision based primarily on group preference, the decision almost always hurts the stake holders in the decision.

With the opinion that dividing people up into groups hurts people, I found myself interested in seeking out those things that unite us.

The local Chambers of Commerce has a history of being one of those things that unite people. In progressive speak, Chambers tend to be filled with a bunch of capitalist pigs who are most interested in the almighty buck and not in the color or shape of the hands holding the buck.

The primary concern of a Chamber is business. As a result, chambers have generally been on the forefront of integration, immigration reform and gender equality.

Seeing this group that has traditionally served as a unifying force in society split up into fractions is a bit disconcerting.

On the positive side of things, the different chambers can serve as a conduit of information between different segments of a segmented community. If your business desires to reach out to the Hispanic community, a Hispanic chamber can serve as a conduit to that elusive market segment. The danger, of course, is that an excessive emphasis on race can lead to bunker mantality where people conclude that they can only do business with people in the same ethnic group.

I do realize that in the current economic climate, the different ethic chambers do serve important needs. The Indian chamber serves a diverse group that is spread over a much larger area than Denver. The Hispanic chamber is a group trying to overcome a language barrier.

The black chamber is working to overcome centuries of racial prejudice. While there is still an unacceptable achievement and education gap between black and white, I hope that someday this chamber will find that there is no longer a need for black owned businesses to be developed outside of the community at large. The same hope applies to the Hispanic chamber.

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