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How Does Race Shape Your Life In LA? Tell Us

(Illustration by Chava Sanchez/LAist)
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The conversation started around a table here last summer. And it's more relevant now than ever.

On a Monday morning, August 5, two days after a mass shooter in El Paso went gunning for Latinos at the local Walmart, KPCC and LAist staffers gathered around the big newsroom table where we usually talk about stories, to vent, grieve, and try to wrap our heads around what had just happened.

As we talked, and some of us cried, many of us began sharing personal stories about how our skin, face, surname, perceived national origin -- any and all of these -- have factored into our lived experience.

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A Latina producer with dark skin talked about the time a store employee treated her like she could not afford to pay her bill; a Latina reporter with light skin talked about the anti-Latino slurs she has heard when people are unaware of her ethnicity.

It was an emotional conversation -- and now, we're having it again as we once more try to wrap our heads around the senseless death of a black man at the hands of police. Another. Again.

So we are grieving again as our community, and the nation as a whole, faces a reckoning. It's a reckoning sparked not just by the shocking killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, but by an ongoing catalog of abuses suffered by people of color in this country. The protests are fueled by centuries of racism and institutional violence that is disproportionately directed at black Americans.

We know that racism is pervasive. We also know that even in L.A. -- diverse on the whole, but still very segregated in reality -- it happens every day, casually and overtly. And we know the media bears responsibility for failing to speak more forcefully about this injustice.

Here is how Austin Cross explained it in an essay he wrote about coming to the realization that as a black man he had no way to escape racism: "For so long, I wanted, needed, to think that there was something I could do to be safe in the world. There wasn't. There never was, really."

In hearing the raw emotion of colleagues willing to share stories about being profiled; about being put in a racial or ethnic box; about feeling unsafe, daily; about never being "enough" of an American; about privilege and discomfort, we realized there was more we could do to make sure those voices are heard. Our job is not to lose focus on this. We are asking for your help, both in joining the conversation and holding us accountable to keep it going.

Over the next several months, we're hoping to hear your stories about how race and ethnicity shape your life and, hopefully, publish as many of these stories as we can, so that we can all keep on talking. Because we have to.

Here's how to participate.

Note: The language we initially used in a field that you see on social media used "they" instead of "we" when talking about Angelenos. After listening to your feedback, we changed it. We are also Angelenos who live these same experiences:

We live race every day: We get profiled, we get pigeonholed, we pass, we get the what-are-you question, we get nervous behind the wheel, we get uncomfortable, we get the message that we're never American enough. We want to hear your stories.

Thank you for pointing it out.