By Fernanda Frausto
This essay was originally published by Gente Organizada, a social action organization in Pomona, California that promotes a community-led movement for change.
Many Latina/o young people like me in Pomona, a city east of Los Angeles, stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, but this stance has challenged a silence from elders in our homes and community. As a child of an immigrant who fled the Salvadoran civil war and U.S. militarism, my family lashed out at me for attending BLM protests. I was taught to stay quiet, or as my family used to say, tu quedate callada, nunca te involucres, no entras a problemas con la policía, even in the face of injustice. Young people have been quick to support change in the community, but creating a better Pomona needs elders to break their silence in the face of injustice.
Disturbingly, Black residents and youth are being racially profiled by the Pomona Police Department. In my community of Pomona, from 2016 to June 2020 under the leadership of Mayor Tim Sandoval and three police chiefs, Pomona PD has arrested an alarming number of young people under 25 — hundreds of them. Of those arrested, 22% were Black youth. Black residents are only 6% of the Pomona population. But in my home and in my city, it has been normalized to look the other way, to uphold racism, and to uphold anti-Blackness.
Because growing up in Pomona is a segregated experience, the first time in my life I witnessed a public display of vulnerability and pain of my fellow community members was at a BLM protest. These emotions were caused by killings of unarmed Black civilians, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Elijah McClain, and countless more lives senselessly robbed and disregarded by police departments across the country. Many of those mourning came with t-shirts of family and friends whose lives had been robbed by the police. In a time of great uncertainty and struggle, community members of Pomona came together. Some shared their own experiences with racial discrimination at the hands of the police. Amongst the crowd, there was a great sense of anger, sadness in the treatment of Black lives at the hands of the police.
As a white passing member of the Latina/o community, I have privileges Black people in my community are not afforded. Using my own privilege to protest is not an act of heroism nor should it be applauded, it should be a normal reaction to standing up for communities in a time of pain. But within the Latino community, this is not evident or ‘normal.’
To my city and those in power, what has enabled our silence to stand up for Black Lives in the Latina/o community? Some of our ‘elders’ are quiet because they have experienced the pain of living under fear of police terror and being the target of their abuse. Others were once the first-generation Latino kids trying to navigate the world without parents who understood systems in this country. Some have grown up to place conformity before justice in their lives and careers. While this fear of standing up is valid and a result of society pressures, turning an eye to what is happening to the Black community is acting in compliance with racism.
The Black community of my city has been forgotten for too long. What I ask of elders in my family and at city hall who have remained silent is to recognize your privilege, fight your fear, and support a Pomona where Black lives matter. Not being a racist is not enough, we must be anti-racist and through this, dismantle systems purposely harming Black lives. Pomona must reimagine public safety so we can create a Pomona where Black lives matter.
Fernanda Frausto is a Pomona resident, youth organizer with the Pomona Students Union, and a student at U.C. Berkeley.