SkyRidge Medical Center physician Dr. Obadias Marquez took the opportunity to speak about multicultural awareness at the Kiwanis Club of Cleveland’s weekly luncheon Thursday afternoon.
He informed the Kiwanians his family is color blind.
Except, he was not referring to color vision deficiency in the literal sense. He meant the color of a person’s skin does not register to him nor his family. Marquez provided some background to support his claim.
His mother’s family is from Italy. His father was born right next to Brazil in the middle of Colombia.
“So we have this family that is really unique. They are from all over,” Marquez said. “So we are pretty much color blind.”
He said he has six sisters, as well as one brother who teaches theology in Greek and Hebrew. One sister married a man from Jamaica. Another married a man from Caribbean.
“So they are black. I mean really black,” Marquez said. “There is no such thing as an African-American in Colombia, because it does not apply. You are either black or you are white or Hispanic or whatever.”
He explained his nephew is an aeronautical engineer who came to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga to learn English. His experience was unique. Instead of following the norms of the school by hanging out with one demographic or another, he made friends with everyone.
“He is color blind. He used to hang around with everyone. People would ask him, ‘Hey, why are you hanging around with everyone, but you don’t hang around with us?’” Marquez said. “He was like, ‘Why do I have to just hang out with the African-American people?’”
His nephew never considered himself a member of a particular group, though people in the U.S. automatically placed Marquez’s nephew in a particular group. It threw people off when he did not fit the mold.
“When we would go to Walmart or we would go out to eat, people would talk to him. Well, he didn’t know any English whatsoever. He knew Portuguese and he knew Spanish,” Marquez explained. “So having someone who was black and didn’t know any English was a shock for a lot of people. They thought he was either rude or mean, because he would talk to him ... and he was like, ‘I have no idea what you are saying.’”
He encouraged the Kiwanis Club of Cleveland to promote multicultural awareness among today’s youth.
“It is up to us to teach the next generation that is coming behind us a multicultural awareness. We all are different in some way: different accent, different job, different profession, different faith, but the bottom line is we have to start when they are little,” Marquez said. “You guys in Kiwanis ... will be responsible. You deal with a lot of kids. Be a mentor. Be someone they can look up to. Tell them we, in all of the diversity we have, are good people.”
In other news:
n the Kiwanis Pancake Day will take place Saturday, April 12, at the Bald Headed Bistro from 7:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Tickets cost $5.
n George-Pacific donated $2,500 toward books purchased for the Cleveland State Community College Dr. Seuss Day.