Start Where You Can

by Erika Tamayo

It took very little time watching social media and seeing the news resources paint glaringly different stories before I realized that I had to go out and see for myself. So I went and this is what I saw.

Before my arrival at the protest at Downtown Los Angeles’ City Hall, I saw support from passers-by honking and cheering us on as we walked the Los Feliz streets to the subway. I saw gratitude shown from strangers encountered on the subway in, thanking us for doing what they felt they couldn’t. Within the first moments of entering via Brand Park, I saw compassion as I watched numerous individuals who appeared to be handing out waters, snacks, even burritos, to those who had been protesting and would continue to be for many more hours that day. I saw empathy as I watched individuals gather with others. Never really being able to understand each other's experiences fully, but trying their hardest to not only hear but listen. I saw courage as I watched people stand, kneel, and chant for justice.

The energy was palpable. A mix of anguish, hope, fear, and a slue of other emotions. I would be lying if I sat here and said that I didn’t spend much of my day hiding my sobs behind sunglasses and a bandana. I would be lying if I said I didn’t have to take a seat and meditate many times because my knees were buckling under me from the weight of the energy of the individuals around me. I would be lying if I said that when I woke up that morning I wasn’t shaking from the anxiety of the unknown. I don’t know what it feels like to be feared because of the color of my skin. I don’t know what it's like to get in my car and think that a random traffic stop could be my last. I can’t ever know what it's like to be Black in America.

This is why I went. I went because I didn’t want to go. I went because I didn’t think this was my fight. I went because people asked why would you put yourself in harm's way for someone else’s battle. I went because this has to be my fight, because if I had to fight someday I sure as hell wouldn’t want to do it alone. I went because we need to fight alongside our Black brothers and sisters in solidarity because its the human thing to do. I went because I can’t accept freedom and justice unless it's freedom and justice for all, and neither should you.

I encourage each and every one of you to educate yourselves on the individuals of the world around you and really get uncomfortable. Listen to your Black brothers and sisters, albeit knowing it is not their duty to teach you everything about racism. Pick up a book, watch a documentary, the limits are endless. Centuries of trauma at the hands of white people are what we are talking about here so no we don’t get to be the good guys. We don’t need to come in and speak for anyone, we need to amplify the voices of the oppressed. In a society indoctrinated in systemic racism, there are much bigger battles involved than we can imagine. This is why we have to start at the level of the individual. It is not enough to not be racist we must be anti-racist. Please in this battle make it one of compassion and patience. If we know racism is taught it can surely be untaught. Start wherever you can, but please start.

Lives depend on it.

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