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Diversity advocate promotes awareness

Justin Tardiff | Wednesday, October 6, 2004

“The Matrix,” the Titanic and eating M &M’s – Hugh Vasquez tied all of the above to racial tensions when he spoke Tuesday night at Saint Mary’s.In a talk titled “Dismantling Racism and creating Cross Cultural Alliances,” Vasquez, one of the country’s top diversity advocates, stressed that racism is everyone’s problem. “The first step is to wake up” in order to create cross-cultural alliances, he said. Using “The Matrix” as a metaphor, Vasquez said everyone needs to make a choice to recognize reality. Just as in “The Matrix,” Neo had to choose between the red pill (entering the Matrix) and the blue pill (returning to reality), everyone has the choice to wake up, Vasquez said. He handed out packets of M&M’s to demonstrate his point.”We need to wake up to the reality of what is going on around us,” he said.The next metaphor involved the Titanic.”When it comes to racism, we’re all in the same boat but not on the same deck,” Vasquez said. “We have different experiences.”Using a hole in the bottom of the boat to signify racism, Vasquez said the hole is everyone’s concern, not just the people that are at the bottom – even though it is more immediate for them. This works for every “ism,” not just racism, he said.”To make cross-cultural alliances you have to move from deck to deck to deck,” Vasquez said. “Look at each other … who is on your deck, and who is on the different decks.”Drawing a heart for the audience, Vasquez said babies all have the same hearts, but something changes them to form racism, sexism and other prejudices. We are told what is right and wrong and messages are sent to our heart, he said.”Messages bombard our hearts,” Vasquez said. “We have attacks on our heart. To create class-cultural alliances, I have to recognize heart attacks that came your way, and you have to recognize the heart attacks that came mine.”Vasquez said people don’t forget these attacks easily, because they are hurtful and are the reasons for racism and other “isms.””I encourage you to keep eating the red [M&M’s] and wake up,” Vasquez said before concluding his speech.Vasquez had been an actor in documentaries such as “Skin Deep,” which involves racism in colleges. He has also co-authored books involving the creation of cross-cultural alliances.

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