In a response to the hate crime that occurred last month, Jose Lopez, executive director of the Puerto Rican Cultural Center and instructor at UIC, brought a Latino perspective on racism in the President’s Dining Room, Nov. 18.
According to Lopez, there is no evidence of humans separating other humans by race prior to 1492.
“We invented race after 1492. Racism is a product of modernizing. Racism is connected to the enterprise of colonialism,” said Lopez. “Racism is justification for colonialism.”
Lopez said everyone should learn the history of the U.S. because there is nothing uniquely Western about Western civilization.
“What is an American? The interesting thing about this country is that there has never been a moment where there weren’t multiple languages or multiple cultures,” said Lopez.
The problem with Elmhurst College or any other institutions, according to Lopez, is that all the courses are Eurocentric.
“When we begin to create ideas of a great white man, that’s problematic,” said Lopez.
Junior Andrew Kolb said Lopez’s speech emphasized how the U.S. culture has been taking from other cultures and is not defined by just one.
“I really liked [how he talked] about learning about other cultures and how most American ideas come from them,” said Kolb.
Sophomore Kevin Garcia invited Lopez for a project for his cultural class and as a response to the hate crime that occurred last month. However, his speech opened Garcia up to a historical perspective on racism.
“Hate crimes come from lack of knowledge, and we should just be open to learn from different cultures,” said Garcia.
Lopez said that humans are the only living things capable of doing things in the act of solidarity, we are the only ones who can recognize and learn from differences, and most hate crimes are based on the inability to learn from one another.
“We’ve got to think about what drives people to hate others. There’s a good phrase in the Qua’ran: ‘We have made you different so you can know each other,’” said Lopez. “The ability to know the other is the ability to be human.”
At the same time, Lopez is careful with hate crimes, because deep down inside, he believes people should say what they want.
“We don’t have the right to take away the humanity of everybody. Every human being should be able to have access to life,” said Lopez. “The two words we need to take out of our minds are isolation and exclusion.”