2000-10-06 El Hispano News "Residents Share Experiences with Racism"

Residents Share Experiences with Racism
El Hispano News


Richard Pacheco, a Mexican, knows first-hand the bitter thorn of racism. this resident of Holland has been stopped by the police and subject to numerous unjust interrogations simply because he is Hispanic.

For Wayne Coleman, pastor of he Church of the Burner Bush, who is African American, the last seven years have been hell for him and his family.

Last Friday, September 29, Pacheco and Coleman were two of twenty-four residents who shared their experiences at St. Francis de Sales Church at a meeting on racism, the first of two that are being held in preparation for the Summit on Racism in February 2000.

"I think it was good, but we have gone beyond the point of testimonies," said Pacheco. "What we need now is action," he emphasized.

More than 300 people attended the forum, organized by the Lakeshore Diversity Alliance, to listen to and share their experiences with racism and to exhort the organizers to bring about positive changes for everyone.

A panel of seven leaders of the community and representing the diverse races of the community led off the forum, sharing their experiences and listening to the residents. The forum will lead up to the first Summit on Racism to be held at Hope College in February 2000.

Teresa Salazar-Lamb, vice president of Latin Americans United for Progress, said that racism is a reality in Holland, and that it is necessary to unmask that horrible and silent monster.

The first reason no solution to the problem of racism has been found is the denial of its existence, Salazar-Lamb explained. "Don't say, 'I'm not a racist' when you laugh at jokes about Mexicans. Don't say 'Not me' when you cross the street because a group of African Americans is approaching."

"Tonight we must take a stand for future generations. Today my children are playing with yours, and perhaps tomorrow they will start a business together or a family, or they will simply go on being friends ... or maybe they will be killing each other, if we don't do something about it now," she said.

Rev Andy Fierro, moderator of the forum, offered an explanation saying, "Tonight it is not a question of finding solutions. We are  beyond that stage. What we must do is respect, value and accept each person as an individual." Speaking with much emotion and recalling his youth, he observed, "I remember when the parents of my friends told me 'Andy, you're a nice guy, but just don't get it into your head to get involved with my daughter.'"

"We are living with injustice between the laws that apply to Anglos and the laws that apply to Hispanics," Pacheco concluded. "When Anglo young people have problems, they get counseling, but when Hispanic young people do that same thing they are punished."