by José Luis Gandara

José Luis Gandara is a 2020-2021 Benest Fellow at Joint Venture. Originally from Seattle, Washington, José is a freshman at Stanford University. He is passionate about state and local policy and has studied gentrification processes in San José, wildfire policy in California, and rent assistance in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. He is currently pursuing a Bachelor's degree in Public Policy with a concentration in Urban and Regional Policy and he is also considering a double-major in Economics.

Illustration of Summer Taylor

On July 4th, I lost my cousin, Summer Taylor (they/them), after they were struck by a high-speed car that drove into a Black Lives Matter protest in Seattle. They worked full-time in a vet clinic but for the past several weeks had used any time off to protest against police brutality and in solidarity with Black lives. They dedicated their life and what privilege they had to make the world a better place. Summer is my hero and role model for what antiracist white allyship really looks like.

I hope Summer's memory inspires you all, too.

  1. To stand up loudly and boldly to injustice, even when it is difficult or an inconvenience or may come at your personal expense.
  2. To take a critical look at yourself and see how systems of oppression have wired your thoughts, feelings, and behavior in ways you may not have even been aware of (and then, take meaningful action to change that).
  3. To not just post online, but continue to go out into the streets until justice comes.
  4. To be kind to yourself and one another, because every moment of life is precious.

The loss of Summer’s life points to the countless Black lives stolen by police brutality and other forms of racial injustice in our country Summer risked their life so that you would know that their lives matter, too.

I come from a mixed-income, multiracial community in northern Seattle. A Stanford education is beyond the wildest dreams of most students I grew up with. The son of a Mexican immigrant, I am incredibly blessed to have my hard work and the sacrifices of the generations before me bear the fruit of a Stanford education. However, this opportunity is a privilege that I can either keep to myself or share with others.

This is why I am studying Public Policy at Stanford. This is why I have spent my first year researching gentrification in the Tenderloin, urban development in San Jose, and emergency rent assistance in Santa Clara County. This is why I spent the last month of my remote spring quarter joining classes on Zoom while protesting police brutality in Seattle. This is why I am spending my summer interning for an affordable housing nonprofit while also working for Joint Venture as a Benest Fellow.

I want to learn how to use innovative policymaking to undo the racist hierarchies that extend far beyond policing. Racial justice extends into transforming our housing, our economy, and our climate. I hope that my experiences continue to equip me with an arsenal of knowledge and skills so that I can strike at these systems whenever I have the chance. I don’t know where my studies and career will take me, but my goal is to be ready for the day that I can pierce them at their heart. Until then, Summer’s memory will always remind me of what antiracism, allyship, and courage really looks like.

I have tried my best to take every chance I have to learn from the incredible Black faculty at Stanford. Vastly underrepresented as only 2% of the university’s faculty, these professors and their work deserve to be recognized. I encourage anyone who has read Summer’s story to also explore the work of these four professors I have had the privilege of learning from in my first year at Stanford::

  • Jennifer Eberhardt is a psychologist specializing in implicit racial bias, with past work focusing on policing (author of the book Biased).
  • Steven Roberts is another psychologist who works on social grouping, particularly with young children conceptualizing race.
  • Hakeem Jefferson is a political scientist researching American identity politics and Black political participation.
  • Ken Taylor was a philosopher interested in the philosophy of language and mind. He passed this last December.

In the moments before Summer's life was taken, they were dancing. I hope, more than anything else, their memory reminds us to find moments of joy and love as we continue in the fight for racial justice.


About the Author

José Luis Gandara is one of Joint Venture's 2020-2021 Benest Fellows.

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