On Wednesday afternoon, Salvador Cruz, St. Cloud, spoke to the Paynesville Area Middle School students about cultural/racial issues.
Cruz was born in the United States but raised in Mexico until the age of eight when his family became migrant workers in the United States. He is the only one from his family of 12 that has graduated from college. He presently works as an in-home family therapist in 15 counties. He works with families who have problems of abuse and incest. ďNinety-nine percent of the issues I deal with are not nice,Ē he told the students.
Through his life experience and educational background, Cruz has learned to live between two cultures and has learned to deal with racism and discrimination that is faced on a daily basis by people of color.
Cruz explained to the students how frustrating it is for students of different races not to be accepted in schools because they look different or because they speak with an accent. He had dropped out of school twice by the time he reached fifth grade.
ďThere are problems in todayís world because people donít treat each other with respect, there is no wonder they canít treat people of different races with respect,Ē he said. ďYou donít need to tell a person of color you donít like him. They know by your body language and how you treat them.Ē
Cruz told the students that when he entered the cafeteria, kids stared at him because he was different. ďYou acted like you had never seen a person of color in school before,Ē he stated.
He also noticed by their body language they didnít have respect for other students or for the teachers. ďIf you canít have respect for others, you wonít have respect for yourself, either, he added.
While in high school, he was told college was for white people. Cruz said he hated to go to school, because he had his hands spanked because he spoke in Spanish. The teachers insisted everybody speak English at all times.
At 48, he has several college degrees and is working toward his masterís degree. ďIt should never have taken me 20 years to get to college. But I believed what people were telling me, that I was dumb. I later found out I wasnít dumb. In college I got above average grades and earned lots of honors.Ē
ďI and other people of different races only want to be treated as you would treat yourself. You can either make bigotry grow, or you can stop it by simply walking away from a bad situation or saying something against it,Ē he added. ďAll you have to do is plant the seed of change and it will happen.Ē
Cruz added that people donít care who you are, they just judge you by the color of your skin. Many people donít want to accept change and they donít want to accept people who are different than they are.
ďWhat people tell me in crisis interventions and what they do are often two different things,Ē Cruz told the students. ďAs part of my job, I read body language.
ďWhen you are out of school and working, the majority of the people in the United States will be of color...be it red, yellow or black.Ē He urged students to start accepting others and treat people of color as if they were their brother or sister. The 1990 census showed that the Asian population in the United States was number one and that hispanics and blacks were close behind. The white population was located at the bottom of the list.
ďPrejudice and discrimination are not only found in big cities, but right down the road in your back yard,Ē Cruz said. ďIf you canít accept people of different colors in schools, you will have to deal with them in college and on the job.Ē
He encouraged the students to be part of the changing society to help stop racism.
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