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Richard Crespo

During the turmoil we are living now in the U.S. some say, “All lives matter.” Of course they do, but that is not the point!

People of color and different ethnic groups are systematically disrespected and denigrated by the dominant culture because they are different — different in color, culture, and language. Our attitudes and ways of thinking are ingrained in our culture to such an extent that it makes us believe that our way is the right way. When confronted with people who look and think differently, our inclination is to think they are wrong and to think less of them.

I experienced that as a Puerto Rican, even though I have white skin. I went to college just north of New York City. When people asked where I was from, initially I said Puerto Rico. I was, however, so bombarded with insulting names and negative stereotypes that for a while I changed my story to say I was from Michigan, where my mother was from. Eventually I got up my courage, said the heck with it, and returned to saying I was from Puerto Rico, because that is where my family and I lived.

As someone who has lived in multiple cultures, I have seen this mindset of superiority and distrust of people who are different throughout my life, and even before I was born!

My parents were single missionaries in Colombia, South America. They met on the mission field, and as my father said, it was love at first sight. The problem was that as a Latin man he was not trusted by mother’s mission agency, even though he was a missionary himself!

They put intense pressure on her to not marry him, including sending her back to headquarters in the U.S. to confront her. She stood her ground, resigned from the agency, and married my father.

The Quichua people I worked with in Ecuador were severely marginalized by the dominant Spanish culture. While in theory public education was free for everyone, very few schools were built in Quichua communities.

Ecuadorian people I talked to would universally deny that they discriminated against Quichuas. Yet their language and stereotypes were full of derogatory words and attitudes about Quichuas. Quichuas had to fight to get schools, roads, electricity, and water. They fought for their rights, otherwise nothing would have changed.

For people here in the U.S. who don’t understand why Black Lives Matter, you don’t understand because you have not lived being discriminated against. You don’t know what it is like to hear doors lock when you walk by people in their cars; what it is like to have your kids looked down on because they are biracial; to fight to keep your kids out of special education classes just because they are black; to be considered a people who come from s**thole countries in Africa and told to go back where they came from.

It is human to have resentment built up, and then explode when a crisis, such as with George Floyd, occurs.

I urge people to first listen, to try to understand what people who are of a different color and race are going through. Understand before judging.

It is interesting to me that Jesus was noteworthy in His time because He sat and ate with Samaritans, lepers, women, adulterer, and tax collectors. I urge you to follow Jesus’ example: sit, eat, and listen to people who are different from you. Understand their experience.

Richard Crespo is a professor in the Department of Family and Community Health, Marshall University School of Medicine.

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