Diez y Seis: Reflecting on Colonialism’s Impact in the Workplace

Written by Emily Arismendy

Colonialism in the Workplace

Colonialism is a practice of domination and exploitation, which involves the subjugation of one people to another. It has had a profound and lasting impact on various aspects of American society, including the workplace. Here are a few points highlighting how the effects of colonialism continue to influence the workplace:

Structural Inequality

Colonialism established hierarchies that empowered colonizers and their descendants to control Indigenous, Asian, and Black communities. This legacy of structural inequality can be seen in the U.S. American workplace, where disparities in access, income, representation, and more persist along racial and ethnic lines. People of color often encounter barriers to advancement and are underrepresented in leadership across various sectors in U.S. society.

Cultural Appropriation

Colonialism often involved the appropriation of Indigenous and Black cultures and resources. At work, this can lead to cultural appropriation, where aspects of these cultures are used without acknowledgment or respect. Examples include dress codes, language, and branding that appropriate Indigenous or other minority cultures.

Labor Exploitation

Colonial powers frequently exploited Indigenous Black, and Asian labor for economic gain. In the U.S. American context, this history of labor exploitation has contributed to the development of certain industries and labor practices. For example, the agriculture and hospitality sectors often use low-wage immigrant labor in tough working conditions.

Discrimination and Stereotyping

The colonial era perpetuated stereotypes and biases about different racial and ethnic groups. These stereotypes can persist in the workplace, affecting hiring, promotions, and everyday interactions. Stereotyping can lead to unconscious biases, which in turn influence decision-making processes within organizations.

Land Dispossession

Colonialism often involved the forced displacement of Indigenous peoples from their ancestral lands. This history continues to affect Indigenous communities, who may face challenges accessing education, employment, and economic opportunities. These challenges can create barriers that make it difficult for them to fully participate in the U.S. American workforce.

Language and Communication

Colonialism often introduced new languages and communication systems. In the American workplace, English is the dominant language, and those who aren’t fluent may face barriers to employment. This linguistic hierarchy can limit opportunities for non-native English speakers.

Legacy of Slavery

Colonialism also contributed to the transatlantic slave trade. The legacy of slavery in the United States continues to influence the workplace, as Black Americans historically faced discrimination, segregation, and limited economic opportunities, contributing to present-day disparities.


Perfectionism can be seen as a product of colonialism due to its historical roots in Eurocentric ideals of superiority and control. Colonial powers often imposed their cultural norms and standards upon indigenous populations, asserting their way of life as superior. This legacy of dominance and control has contributed to a culture of perfectionism, where individuals and societies strive to meet unrealistic Eurocentric standards, often at the expense of diverse perspectives and values.

The effects of colonialism continue to influence workplace cultures. Acknowledging and addressing these historical legacies is essential for creating more equitable and inclusive workplaces.

Diez y Seis

Diez y Seis, also known as “16 de Septiembre” or Mexican Independence Day, is a significant holiday celebrated in Texas and Mexico. It commemorates the start of Mexico’s struggle for independence from Spanish colonial rule. The holiday’s name, Diez y Seis, translates to “16th,” referencing the date of September 16th, 1810, when the Mexican War of Independence began.

The celebration of Diez y Seis is particularly important in Texas due to its historical ties to Mexico. Texas was once a part of Mexico until it gained independence in 1836 and later became an independent nation before joining the United States. Many Texans of Mexican descent, as well as others, recognize and celebrate Diez y Seis as a reminder of their shared history and heritage.

While Cinco de Mayo is a well-known Mexican holiday, Diez y Seis is often considered more meaningful because it directly relates to the struggle for Mexico’s independence, which had a significant impact on the course of history in Texas and the southwestern United States. Texans and Mexican Americans celebrate this day with parades, festivals, traditional Mexican food, music, and cultural events, all to commemorate the historic moment when Mexico began its quest for freedom from Spanish colonial rule.


These resources cover a range of topics related to the effects of colonialism on the American workplace, from historical perspectives to contemporary challenges in achieving diversity and inclusion.

SAFE Institute – “Your team culture could be silently toxic”: This blog explores the impact of unconscious bias and microaggressions in the workplace, how we can learn to foster a safe and inclusive work environment where everyone feels valued and respected.

– SAFE Institute Blog: https://www.safeinstitute.org/post/blog-unconscious-bias-and-microaggressions

National Museum of the American Indian – “American Indian Boarding Schools”: This website offers information and resources about the history of American Indian boarding schools, which had a profound impact on indigenous communities and their engagement in the workforce.

– Website: American Indian Boarding Schools: https://americanindian.si.edu/nk360/code-talkers/boarding-schools/

National Public Radio (NPR) – “Code Switch” Podcast: The Code Switch podcast explores issues of race, ethnicity, and culture in the United States, including how colonial legacies influence various aspects of American life, including the workplace.

– Code Switch Podcast: https://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/

Harvard Business Review – “Why Inclusive Leaders Are Good for Organizations, and How to Become One”: This article discusses the challenges related to diversity and inclusion in the workplace and how historical factors, including colonialism, play a role.

– HBR – Inclusive Leaders: https://hbr.org/2019/03/why-inclusive-leaders-are-good-for-organizations-and-how-to-become-one

Forbes – “The Racial Wealth Gap: Addressing America’s Most Pressing Epidemic”: This article delves into the racial wealth gap in the United States, which is a consequence of historical events, including colonialism and slavery, and explores its implications for economic opportunities.

– Forbes – Racial Wealth Gap: https://www.theatlantic.com/sponsored/schwab-2020/addressing-the-racial-wealth-gap/3462/

Pew Research Center – “Race in America 2019”: Pew Research Center conducts surveys and research on various aspects of race and ethnicity in the United States, including workforce disparities.

– Pew Research – Race in America 2019: https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2019/04/09/race-in-america-2019/

Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice (Brown University) – “Resources”: This center offers a range of resources and publications related to the historical and contemporary impact of slavery and colonialism, including their effects on the workforce.

– CSSJ Resources: https://slaveryandjustice.brown.edu/report/resources

What Is Diez y Seis and Why Do We Celebrate It In Texas? – Texas Highways: A look into the significance of Diez y Seis and why Texans also celebrate.