Race In LA was conceived following the 2019 mass shooting in El Paso, Texas. LAist staffers gathered and shared stories about being racially profiled; about being put in a racial or ethnic box; about feeling unsafe; about never being "enough" of an American. Our newsroom realized there was more we could do to make sure diverse voices are heard in our coverage.
In June 2020, we began publishing your stories each week to continue important conversations about race/ethnicity, identity and how both affect our lived experiences. (We'll continue doing so until summer 2021.)
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Latin America is no stranger to racism and colorism — just turn on a telenovela and see for yourself. And it’s alive and well in our own communities here in the U.S.
George Floyd's death shook the conscience of our pandemic-stricken nation, and set many of us on a path of self-reflection unrivaled by any single event in recent memory. A year later, there's no going back — that much we know.
‘Spy In The House Of Race’: A Daughter Of Black, Chinese, And Jewish Parents On Belonging Everywhere And NowhereLili Nadja Barsha doesn’t like hyphens. She sees herself as “the bloom of my ancestors, a vessel filled with genetic memories.” That, and as someone who is “included in many circles, but exists without a circle of her own.”
‘Do I See A Change?’: What We Can Learn From The Wrongs Of The Past — And Our Parents Who Witnessed ThemCollege student Lia Hurd wasn’t around in 1992 L.A., but her mother was. After hearing comparisons between the trial of George Floyd’s killer and that of the four officers who beat Rodney King, she asked her mom a question: Has anything really changed?
After Shirlee Smith wrote about her experience, that employer sought her out. She wondered if anything would come out of a conversation.
Dr. Omar Amr wrote about his experiences with racism, on his path to graduating from Harvard medical school and as part of Team USA’s Olympic water polo team, in a Race In LA essay last year. He never imagined the notoriety or loss of personal friendships that would follow.
He left Tijuana and landed in Southern California as a suburban high school student. While he'd never felt unwelcome as a visitor, "those feelings quickly changed."
As anti-Asian hate began rising during the pandemic, she began feeling less safe in her old neighborhood. She moved to Koreatown, seeking security among other Asian Americans. But nowhere, really, feels safe.
Asked to make a "persona doll" and write its story for a college course years ago, Leilani Burrell-White drew from her experience as a biracial child in the early 1960s.
Latinos in L.A. have suffered disproportionately in the pandemic. For one young doctor treating critically ill patients in a COVID-19 hotspot, seeing media images of sick and dying members of his community has made the pain worse.
"The story of how I found myself in this sometimes awkward position as a 'gringo' who really isn't one is, in many ways, the story of 20th century America."
For an Asian American working in the film industry, "What good is a seat at the table if you have no voice?"
THE ORIGINS OF RACE IN LA
The conversation started around a table in summer 2019. It resumed two days after a mass shooter in El Paso went gunning for Latinos at the local Walmart. And it's more relevant now than ever.
On Aug. 5, 2019, 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.
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.
This 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.