Men's assistant soccer coach, adjunct lecturer in sociologyAnti-racism is:
“Anti-racism is confronting racism in the moment, at the structural level and in yourself. It is the step toward advocacy, awareness, empathy and allyship.”
A Family Party Fueled My Anti-Racism Journey
I received my driver's license at 16.
Having a car and the freedom it brought was my indoctrination to the police in my city. The next six years consisted of constant interactions with police officers. At first, I didn't know what to think, and I would get out of my car with no hesitation and accepted handcuffs being placed on me while I sat on the curb.
Vehicle searches were the norm, and constant questioning made sense to ensure the safety of our residents.
However, as getting pulled over became more common, the explanations became more repetitive. As the handcuffs got a little tighter, my responses became more hostile. Naturally, the police officers responded with citations, and my trust in their intentions began to dwindle.
On a January day in 2011, it all came to a climax when police came to lower the music at a family baby shower. The encounter escalated and several of us were arrested. I was a senior at UCI and weeks away from playing professional soccer in Europe.
Two years later, after a process that drained the minimal resources we had as a family, our perception of the police completely changed.
Our family quickly learned that being compliant, regardless of what you think your rights are, is a must. You take your ticket, take the search, take the handcuffs, and take whatever is given to you to make sure you get home.
However, this fueled me. The words exchanged that night and the picture painted of my family during those two years in court motivated me to do more.
I went on to get my master’s. My thesis was about the Latino education gap and detailed all the variables that contribute to this gap. I turned my thesis into the start of an afterschool program in Santa Ana — a program that speaks directly to the picture painted of our kids, families and communities, in hopes of changing the narrative on both sides.
I believe that racism is embedded in our institutions and structures, and that the officer who arrested me may think he’s not racist. But the system that gives him the power to be an officer is rooted in institutional racism. My hope is that we continue the work and conversations to make constructive change in our systems.
So, one day if I ever meet this officer again, I can tell him, “You were wrong.”
Today, I'm a homeowner, father, husband, college graduate, adjunct lecturer, coach and mentor, proud of my Santa Ana roots.
Jorge Reyes, who received his master’s degree at Cal State Fullerton, is a men’s assistant soccer coach and an adjunct lecturer in sociology. Reyes runs an after-school soccer program for Santa Ana Latino youth.