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Olmos preaches pride, unity

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Edward James Olmos, actor and activist who has appeared in the movies, “Selena,” “American Me” and “Stand and Deliver,” entertained overflowing crowd of nearly 1200 people in the OUC Ballroom, Sept. 20. 

Edward James Olmos, actor and activist, speaks to the overflowing room, encouraging them to quit using the term race as a cultural determinant. Photo by Allen Beal.

“There is only one race and that’s the human race,” Olmos said.

He came to deliver a message of unity and to refute the idea of racial differences between humans, he said. Olmos’ speech was received by a standing-room only crowd. All available seating was taken in the ballroom, walls were removed separating the ballroom from the Hearthwell Lounge and seating was arranged. Around a hundred people stood to hear him speak.

“Hundreds of years ago, they started to use the word race to define cultures,” Olmos said. “The word race was a unifying word, but we turned it into a divisive term.”

Olmos told the crowd that the term “race” has become dangerous. Not only has it divided people, it has given them justification for hatred and discrimination, he said.

“The reason we started using race as a cultural determinant, is so that we can kill one another,” Olmos said. “It’s hard to kill your own race, so we had to make them ‘the others.’”

Olmos encouraged the crowd to stop using the term in order to change the perception of one another.

 “If you can walk out of here and never use the race as a cultural determinant again, then we will have won.”

Olmos then said he hopes to empower Chicanos by educating them about their identity and cultural background to further change their beliefs about race.

“I am one million percent Chicano. A Chicano is a Mexican born in the United States. That’s the only way you can be a Chicano,” Olmos said. “But what is a Mexican?”

A Mexican is half Indigenous and half Spanish, but the history goes deeper than that, Olmos said.

Olmos believes, based on scientific research, that human life originated from Africa, migrated into Asia, then Europe and finally to the Americas, he said, and he believes all Latinos should consider themselves a mix of these ancestral lines.

“We are all from the same exact DNA,” Olmos said. “We are all related in this human race.”

Nicholas Rodriguez, 68, a social worker at the Pueblo Community Health Center, believes Olmos’ message was both powerful and truthful, Rodriguez said.

“He used a historical and scientific approach to prove we are all the same,” he said.

Rodriguez understood the connections Olmos was making because it’s reflective of 19th century scientist Gregor Mendel’s genetic research, he said, which deals with genetic combinations and the resulting cosmetic variations in species, according to detectingdesign.com.

“What he meant was that only when we began to believe and accept the fact that even though there are differences among us and between us, it’s more important what lies within us,” Rodriguez said. “His belief of all of us being the human race, where we develop a oneness is, I think, the key to harmony.”