Race In LA

How does your race and/or ethnicity shape your life and experiences? We want to hear your stories.

(Chava Sanchez/LAist)

Race In LA main illustration

Race In LA

How does your race and/or ethnicity shape your life and experiences? We want to hear your stories.

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SERIES ESSAYS

'White' Without The Privilege: An Arab American's Quest To Be Counted 
Rashad Al-Dabbagh
Soon after arriving in the U.S. from Saudi Arabia, he learned he was expected to check "white" for racial identity in the census. But amid the anti-Arab hate that followed the 9/11 attacks, he quickly realized that his "white" label came without the privilege.    
Published: Nov. 20, 2020
From 'Go Back To Your Country' To A Vice President-Elect Who Shares My Grandmother's Name
Reshma Shamasunder
An American of Indian descent reflects on hate and hope: the hate that generations of her family have experienced — and, as the mother of three girls, the hope that she has for their future.   
Published: Nov. 13, 2020
My Mom Was A Black Entrepreneur. I Never Thought About It, Until Now
J.D. Bryson
Facing wage discrimination at the clothing store where she worked as a tailor, his mother decided to quit and strike out on her own. Working out of her basement, she built a clothing business that lasted more than three decades.   
Published: Nov. 6, 2020
'You Can Only Choose One': A Biracial American Explores His Filipino-Russian Roots — And Explains Why He Won't Check Just One Box
Mark Moya
Growing up as the son of a Filipino dad and Russian American mom, Mark Moya felt equally attached to both cultures. He still does. Lately, he's been thinking more about their immigrant legacy and how it shaped him, especially after losing his dad earlier this year to COVID-19.
Published: Oct. 30, 2020
How An Outsider Found Identity, Belonging In The Intangible Shared Spaces Of A Redlined City
James Rojas
Growing up Chicano and gay on the Eastside in the ‘60s and ‘70s, James Rojas often felt like an outsider. He found safe space and acceptance amid Black peers and disco music as “we blurred the L.A. redlining map and found identity, and community, in the fusion.”
Published: Oct. 23, 2020
Perspectives On Artsakh From A Black Armenian Angeleno
Carene Rose Mekertichyan
Carene Rose Mekertichyan reflects on her identity — the discrimination she's endured because of her race and feelings of being excluded because of her ethnicity — the legacy of the Armenian Genocide and the current conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Published: Oct. 16, 2020
Our Heroes Got Us Into This Mess. We Have To Get Ourselves Out
Brian Frank
He grew up surrounded by the status quo: myths of good guys versus bad guys, white suburban casual racism. But when a close friend who is nonwhite was beaten by police, he was forced to challenge his assumptions.
Published: Oct. 9, 2020
Surviving The Endless Waves: When American Dreams Aren't All They're Cracked Up to Be
Judy Jean Kwon
In a series of recollections, Judy Jean Kwon reflects on what her Korean American family lost when they settled in the U.S. — and what it's taken for her to reclaim at least part of it.
Published: Oct. 2, 2020
How A 'Secret Asian Man' Embraced Anti-Racism
Eric J. Daza
"I came to deeply embrace anti-racism in slow, sustained increments. To do so, I had to embrace my own identity as a Brown person — and understand my own complicity in white supremacy."
Published: Sept. 25, 2020
On Race, School, The Teacher Who Tried To Decide My Fate And Those Who Let Me Decide It Myself
Jervey Tervalon
Growing up in a family of New Orleans transplants in L.A.’s Jefferson Park neighborhood, Jervey Tervalon wasn’t always appreciated by educators. It took some special teachers to take a deeper look and recognize his talents.
Published: Sept. 18, 2020
How An ER Doctor Combated Racism In Pursuit Of An Olympic Dream
Dr. Omar Amr
A racial slur was part of Omar Amr’s first experience playing Division I water polo at UC Irvine. It wasn’t the first time he’d heard racist comments. Growing up in East L.A., Amr was groomed to “behave appropriately” so that hate directed toward him would not turn into harm.
Published: Sept. 11, 2020
A Baby Boomer's Recollection of Systemic Racism And The Police
Keith Taylor
When he tuned in to a radio interview with a top law enforcement official, and the topic of racism came up, Keith Taylor was hoping to hear some sympathy for Black people killed by police. Or perhaps, "some idea of how to work in earnest to combat this pervasive issue." What he heard instead brought back painful memories from many years back.
Published: Sept. 4, 2020
Rising Above: How I Found My Voice To Push Back Against Stereotypes, At Work And In Life
Brenda Dupré
Growing up in the mostly white Orange County suburbs, she felt safer staying quiet, keeping her feelings to herself whenever stung by subtle or overt racism. But over time, she found her voice.
Published: Aug. 28, 2020
Reading About Anthony McClain Felt Like Reading My Own Obituary
Austin Cross
I'm a 32-year-old black man. Last Saturday, another 32-year-old black man breathed his last breaths miles from where I work. In the wake of his death, I reflect on all the ways he could've been me.
Published: Aug. 25, 2020
“Who Invited Miami?”: An LA Transplant’s Discourse on The Rules of Racial Division - And How We Can Bend Them
Yoán Moreno
Things that violate the racial rules in L.A. — like everywhere else — are real. And you shouldn’t fall into the trap of minimizing them because they’re exceptions or simplifying them to satisfy the rules.
Published: Aug. 21, 2020
'No Soy De Aquí, Ni Soy De Allá' (I'm Not From Here, Or From There)
Marina Peña
Assimilation as an immigrant is hard. How do you fit in and stay rooted in the country and culture you’re so proud to be a part of? For one Argentine girl, it was a new friend, tastes of home and a whole lot of Harry Potter.
Published: Aug. 14, 2020
‘We Don’t Hire Colored Girls’: After A Job Rejection In 1956, A Young LA Telephone Operator Began Kicking Down Doors
Shirlee Smith
She'd been hired over the phone. All was well until she walked in her first day on the job, and her new employer saw she was Black. Here's how the experience shaped her life.
Published: Aug. 7, 2020
‘Dear Racist’: How Rage-Writing Turned To Rage-Drawing For An Artist Who's Fed Up With Anti-Asian Hate
Tracy Park
I began writing this illustrated letter as a way to shed my fear of the person who racially insulted my children. By the end, I remembered that racists are the ones who are truly afraid.
Published: July 31, 2020
Brown and Blue: A Mexican American Police Family Tries To Reconcile ‘Who We Once Were, Who We Now Are, And Who We Want To Be’
Catalina Lara
She and her husband grew up in a neighborhood where they and their peers were the ones profiled by white LAPD officers. His response was to join the force, to represent his community. Now, decades later they find themselves navigating some difficult conversations.
Published: July 24, 2020
An Education In Becoming Whole Again: How My College Experience Taught Me To Love My Blackness
Brandi Tanille Carter
She apprehensively left her home Los Angeles to go to a college she had never seen in a state she'd never visited. But it's here she learned to embrace her Blackness, and it's this experience which allowed her to return home to L.A. empowered.
Published: July 17, 2020
My Life In Public Spaces: How My Race Colors The Way In Which The World Reacts To Me
Caroline Rhude
My interactions with race are valuable, and I'm reminded that they require serious reflection and mindful application. Not only in my personal experiences, but also in relation to other minority groups.
Published: July 10, 2020
What It Really Means To Amplify Black Voices
Austin Cross
When the voice of Black America is too loud for any newsroom to ignore, Take Two producer Austin Cross explains what it means to truly amplify Black voices.
Published: July 6, 2020
Raising a Black Boy in America When You’re Neither Black Nor American
Darren Fung
Earlier than expected, my wife and I had to give my 6-year-old son “the talk” about what it means to be Black in America. Except I’m neither Black nor American.
Published: July 3, 2020
On Life As A Freckle-Faced, Redheaded, Mexican American From Southeast Los Angeles
Erick Galindo
Sometimes I feel the weight of being judged as a person of color. Other times I feel awkward being seen as the only white guy in the room. It is through this murky fog that I have fought to carve out my own American identity.
Published: June 26, 2020
Lessons Learned While Being Black: 'I Never Live Above Scrutiny'
Eric Craig
For some, racism has resulted in obscene and life-threatening actions. For me, it's been a never-ending journey of internalizing microaggressions and trying to live above them.
Published: June 19, 2020
The Hidden Cost Of Inherited Blackness
Austin Cross
It's the inheritance I never wanted, but also kind of need every day. It was delivered in pieces over the course of 30 years with no receipt. What can I say? Thanks. I hate it.
Published: June 12, 2020
Jogging While Black: I Tried Everything To Look Less Threatening, And 'Still They Crossed The Street’
Cheryl Farrell
She enjoyed her morning jogs along the tree-lined streets. Until she noticed people avoiding her.
Published: June 12, 2020
Conflicted: A Black Journalist's Reckoning With Her Race, Family And Police Brutality
Dana Amihere
LAist Data Editor struggles to find peace within her personal divisions — as a black woman, journalist and wife of a white man — following the past few months of police brutality and protests.
Published: June 5, 2020
Black And Tired In This American Newsroom
Austin Cross
I covered unarmed killings: etched in my mind are names like Walter Scott, Sandra Bland, and Philando Castile. After each incident, I diligently worked with a sense of purpose.

Then came George Floyd.

I think it broke me.
Published: June 1, 2020

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HOW TO PARTICIPATE

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ABOUT RACE IN LA

The conversation started around a table in summer 2019. And it's more relevant now than ever.

On Aug. 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.

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 year, 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.

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