Sunday (5/17/2020) was a beautiful day. Sunshine. The beach was open. Pacific Palisades Park was open. People were smiling, friendly, good vibes everywhere. I was on my way to pick up a little boy I have babysat for seven years. We would get to hang out at last. He came with me while his mom did work on her laptop while sitting in the park. Two hours flew by with this delightful sprite and I handed him back to his mom. They began the walk back to their nearby apartment. The little guy was actually joyfully riding his bike for the very first time.

I had barely arrived home when I received this text from his mom: “_____ just had his first encounter with blatant racism. A young white man around 25 just followed us down the street screaming “f*** you n***** boy.” Nobody watching said anything. I looked the guy the in the eye to assess the threat level because he was punching stuff and I wasn’t sure if we should try to pass him. Turned down a different street and would have confronted him if he kept following us but he lost interest. This was on 4th and Montana.”

As I called her in response to the text, I was crushed. Crushed and angry that this sort of thing is still happening. She was more matter of fact. After all, as a biracial single mom, this was not her first experience with racism. But to have it directed at her beautiful son – ah, that is the kind of pain that is indescribable.

I brought up he was probably mentally ill, possibly homeless and we could pray for these lost souls roaming our streets. “No,” she said. “He did not appear homeless or mentally ill.” Just your average, garden variety racist. She explained there were so many people around her, watching and listening to the whole ugly encounter. Not one person – not one – stepped forward to help. He was outnumbered by so many men and women who could have let him know he needed to slink back to the rock he crawled out of. He should have been told that this precious child and his mother were ours. Part of our community, part of who we are here in Santa Monica.

But you didn’t. You people on 4th and Montana and I sure hope you are reading this.

You know, when I was a kid, my dad used to grouse about the lack of shame in this country (and this was back in the 50’s and 60’s). He thought they should bring back the practice of putting folks in stockades in the middle of the town square. They would have placards around their necks saying things like “I’m a liar,” “I’m a thief,” etc. I would like to see that happen to you – I really would. Yours would read: “coward.” YOU SHOULD BE ASHAMED.

You can see I’m not yet in the mood for forgiveness but you on the other hand, should feel that shame, then guess what? Go ahead and forgive yourselves because guilt will keep you paralyzed. But vow to do better next time. Give yourself another chance to be braver. To do the right thing.

Because, listen people. If you don’t – if you don’t do better – then this pandemic that destroys your lungs – ain’t nothing.

Silence will eat your soul.

Tamara Tarsitano

Santa Monica

Join the Conversation

7 Comments

  1. I am so sorry you had to experience that horrible incident. I’m especially sorry to know your beautiful son has now tasted the bitter fruit of racism. No one deserves that.

    I want you to know there are many of us who would have stepped forward and dealt with this young man. I certainly would have, as would most of my friends.

    I’m sure your letter will have its intended effect on a few people. Shame still works on those who think of themselves as good.

  2. The problem is that they did nothing are just cowards or racist themselves. How horrible that you and your son could not just have a pleasant day without some moron spewing his hate. One thing that the pandemic has done is uncover even more racism,hate and selfishness.

  3. Yup. That’s how people are now. I have learned over the last year, especially, that people in general, ultimately, when faced with situations where they could do something to help others by standing up for them in whatever way the circumstance called for, won’t. Most people do not really care when it comes down to it. It may be that its because they just don’t know how, or even don’t realize that they are not doing something. That may sound confusing, but I have noticed that people have a certain idea of themselves in their head, which I think is a mix of who they are and who they want to be, and they have subconsciously convinved themselves that they are this person. People will talk about doing the right thing and somehow actually believe that they DID something by offering their sympathy or suggestion verbally. Its rather weird and probably complex and everyone will deny it. My mother is a perfect example. We need to look at ourselves more honestly. I really don’t think that people do that nearly enough. Like, at all. Sorry so long….

  4. I lived in Santa Monica for 25 years, growing up on the north side of Wilshire, and I am not surprised that the man accosted the little boy or that people around him did nothing. I had no friends growing up, we were simply “tolerated”. Santa Monica has a LOT of racial growing up to do! When the LA riots took place I went back to work the day after it started. You would’ve thought an alien walked into the building. Everyone, and I mean everyone froze. Were they expecting terrorism as I put on my service apron? I was there recently visiting my father. We were at a red light and some red neck White man on a bike came to our side of the street, head to toe dressed in red, white and blue with a cowboy hat. He started flipping me and my 17 year old daughter off over and over while on his bike. I look to my right and see other Black people in the car next to me. I immediately called the non emergency police department only to be told that he could flip us off, curse us up one side of the street and down the other. Call us anything he wanted, because it is constitutional right to do so. Yes, Santa Monica has a LOT of racial growing up to do.

  5. I’m really sorry that that happened to you and your child. but don’t lose faith in humanity have faith in God there are good people in the world it is too bad nobody spoke up but they have to answer to God for that.

  6. First, CALL law enforcement IMMEDIATLY and tell them you are being followed, your location and that you, and your son, are being verbally assaulted and threatened and you are in fear for your safety, physical well-being and you and your son’s life!!!!!

    Now use your phone and video record the person as you seek immediate safety and shelter from the/this violent threat!!!!!!!

    Wait for law enforcement and have them arrest this person for harassment, assault, intimidation and terrorist threat’s!!!!
    What he did is a crime!!!
    Especially when it involves a child/minor.
    Make no mistakes about it!!!
    A crime!!!
    And let no one tell you differently!!!!
    But also, and please, don’t ever expect others to do for you what you are capable of doing for yourself.
    Especially not strangers!!
    Now that you know what some people are capable of….. .
    Have a plan to deal with it!!!
    If and when it should happen again!!!
    Best,
    Been there, done that.

  7. I’m so sorry that little boy didn’t see anyone stick their neck out for him and defend him. That’s the kind of stuff you remember growing up and kind of never forget. If I was there I would have said something. I’m usually hesitant to say anything to all the crazy homeless people in SM but this guy sounds like he should have been brought down by all they bystanders. Very good of you to bring this to light and hope readers will think twice.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *