Fernando Velasco

As interviewed by Julia Veri, March 21, 2015

Fernando Velasco: In His Own Words

The first time I ever felt discriminated against was basically when I was in Chicago and I would work in a store and I would get a paycheck every Friday. And I did not have enough money to have a checking account, so I went to cash my check at the bank, The Harris Bank, in Chicago. And it took about half an hour to cash my check. While other people, they were Americans and they were there, and they would just come in, show them their ID, and automatically get their checks cashed. And this made me feel not American, just because I spoke Spanish and because I had a drivers license that does not count in America. So, they had to do a lot of research to make sure that I was a legal resident before I could cash my check.

How did the people tell you to get out of line?

They would just say please step aside and the other people would just say “sir, step aside we got to take care of this other customer first,” while someone else was doing the research about if I was a legal resident.

Where I saw a little bit of discrimination was their were a lot of blacks from Illinois, who were the athletes. The athletes were well respected but the non-athletes were not very well respected. It was sad because I became very close friends with the black people that were going to school, even though it was still Illinois, there are a lot of different nationalities, I felt that the black people really got looked down even in groups, parties and get-togethers. So I saw a lot of discrimination in that.

Who were the people who were discriminating against the black people?
I think it was mostly white people. It was funny because the Asians and the blacks got along very good. White people and Asians, so so. And the white people and blacks, not very much, except for the athletes.

Kids coming over and learning to play the game when they are 7,8 or 9 years old and eventually stick with the game and they continue and improve in the game, they go to another program, an advanced program and eventually get a scholarship in college. But the biggest reward is when I get letters from people, even if they don’t get a scholarship, and letting me know whatever we did here, at the club, it changed their life.