By Ernesto Saavedra
It’s an early Sunday morning in August, we’re recapping the night before—a lot of liquor, a lot of laughs and a lot of “recreational” activities. We’ve just celebrated the going away of some good friends of ours; one is going to an Ivy League school on the east coast, another is going to school in Northern California. This is a big deal, especially being low-income women of color. Powerful. Amid the euphoria, the reality from which they come from, a reality most low-income people of color come from, seems to make its way in—as if to make their last day in Fresno that much more memorable.
We were hanging out around the Jensen and Cedar area, near Calwa. The Ivy Leaguer gets word that her sister’s partner just got pulled over and arrested by a sheriff’s deputy down the block. The motive: He and his friends looked and were acting “suspicious.” Luckily, he didn’t get taken into jail. Luckily, he didn’t get shot. The day before, a young Black man in Ferguson, Mo., didn’t get so lucky.
He gets released, we all talk about it. He seems unfazed, as were we. The normalcy of it all hung above us like the sun. Just another day growing up as a person of color and poor to the point of desensitization and apathy in the United States. All we can say is “the struggle is real.”
This is the aftermath of more than 500 years of continued physical and psychological oppression. Where a young Black or Brown man can’t walk down the street without looking “suspicious.” Where a young woman of color has her whole family and community on her shoulders as she goes on to higher education against all odds and by all means.
We try to make it in a society that was not built for us. A society that constantly tells us to pick ourselves up by our own “bootstraps.” Where I get asked, “Why don’t Mexicans learn English when they come to this country? Why don’t the Mexicans succeed like the Southeast Asians? They seem to be doing pretty good.”
Later that day, we take a trip from San Jose to Los Angeles, down Highway 1. The view temporarily makes us forget our struggles. It gives us hope and refocuses our aspirations, our dreams, our realities all in one. While in Los Angeles, we go to Venice Beach late at night, counting down the hours until my friend gets on her flight to Rhode Island. The waves were talking to us and telling us that everything will be okay. What a crazy dynamic and mix of emotions, all within a few days.
This is a time of new beginnings and reflections. People are starting school, maybe a new job, or are on vacation. Wherever you may be, reflect. Reflect on how you feel when another young Black man in America gets murdered by police. Reflect on that feeling you get when you see that homeless person with a sign asking for food and money when you exit that freeway. Reflect on that feeling you get when you take your shower in the morning, knowing that others not too far from you don’t have that luxury. Reflect on that feeling when everyone else around you seems to think they know your struggle—but they never will.
Let’s build this September and get closer to a society in which all of us can feel good about ourselves and each other. Tlazocamatli.