An insider's view of tolerance and diversity

October 14, 2020 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council of Edward-Elmhurst Health: We are DRIVEN to create a culture in which all races, ethnicities, religions, sexual-orientations, physical abilities, and socio-economic backgrounds can meet, share, learn, and flourish in an accepting environment. By creating platforms and opportunities that allow us to come together, we can begin to know and understand each other. And through better understanding, we can effectively meet the needs of our diverse patients and deliver on our mission.

To fully understand Erich Fauteck’s views on diversity, it helps to know where he came from.

Though Fauteck, a clinical lab scientist at Edward Hospital, grew up in Des Plaines, Ill., he has siblings and stepsiblings scattered across the country, added over years of each parent’s divorces and remarriages.

They aren’t all white like he is. He has a Hispanic half-brother, a Hispanic half-sister and Korean stepbrothers. His dad was not only fluent in English and Spanish, but also German. Fauteck’s grandparents spoke German and raised his father to maintain close ties to his German heritage.

Fauteck grew up closely entwined with that German heritage, and even spent years performing with a German folk dance group.

As an adult, Fauteck married his next-door neighbor: Shreya, whose family is from India. He was the first white person to join his wife’s family. Together, he and Shreya have three daughters: Jennifer, Amanda and Michelle.

Even with his diverse family, Shreya was the first Indian person Erich ever met.

“I thought nothing of the cultural differences,” says Fauteck, though there were plenty. “Her food was just a mystery to me. She knew nothing about American culture. She struggled to communicate with my Dad and younger brother, and I couldn't communicate with her parents at all. But she was having fun, I was having fun.”

His parents taught him tolerance, through actions and words. Acceptance was required.

Everything Fauteck learned about diversity and tolerance was through his family—his community and high school growing up was overwhelmingly white.

He and Shreya decided to raise their daughters in Aurora, a more integrated community than Des Plaines in the 1980s.

“If nothing else, I am confident that I have taught my children to be tolerant and open-minded. My kids went to high school with thousands of other students who looked just like them,” says Fauteck.

His childhood, marriage and experiences throughout his life have given him an inside view of racism that many white people never experience. It has instilled in him a drive to promote equality and make a difference.

“People refuse to accept (racism) is a problem. Which to me seems un-American. But to that person, they’re so recalcitrant in their thinking that they would consider my thinking to be un-American,” Fauteck says.

Through the years, there were branches of Fauteck’s family who weren’t accepted as equal by society. He saw it and felt frustration, anger and shame.

“When you hear someone say, ‘Black lives matter,’ and you hear someone in return say, ‘All lives matter,’ it’s dismissive,” he says. “It’s, ‘I am not going to face this concern, it’s not my problem.’

“The only advice I have, and it is something that so many people refuse to do, is put yourself in that person’s shoes. Do you really think you’d be willing to hear someone from the more prevalent race in that community say, ‘What’s the big deal?’

“In this nation of immigrants, where everyone who’s here came from somewhere else, how can we treat any other ethnic group as inferior? This becomes more important to me every day. As I see things devolve in our society, I refuse to give up hope. I’ll shout it from the rooftops. I’ll never stop believing that it can happen and will get better.”


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