College student spends 7 hours a day answering questions from fellow townsfolk about racism

Nifa Kaniga stands alone on a street corner in 100-degree heat in his town of Dripping Springs, Texas, waiting for fellow townsfolk to stop by. From noon to sunset, around 7:00pm, according to CBS Austin, Kaniga answers questions about race and racism from his perspective as a Black man living in a mostly white and Hispanic community. (Dripping Springs has a population of less than 5,000 people, less than 1% of whom are Black).

The 20-year-old holds a sign that says, "ASK ME ANYTHING. MAKE YOURSELF UNCOMFORTABLE." He even offers sample questions, such as "Why is everything about race?" "Black lives matter or ALL lives matter?" and "Institutional racism exists?"


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"Many people have asked me, 'What's up with all lives matter versus black lives matter?'," he told CBS Austin. "Nobody said only black lives matter or black lives matter more than white lives. We're saying when black lives are taken unjustly and nothing is being done about it, it sends the sentiment that black lives don't matter."

Kaniga, who attends UT Dallas, said that he has experienced racism in the community and has concerns about the police. But he also feels that change will come if people are willing to listen to different perspectives and discuss the tough questions.

"It's uncomfortable talking about race. It's uncomfortable having to put yourself out here, but I mean that's why I put on this sign, 'make yourself uncomfortable,'" he said. "Because it is uncomfortable to talk about racial issues and political issues."

He doesn't expect everyone to talk to him, or for everyone who talks to him to agree with him. But the conversation is important.

"It's easy to get mad, and it's to be like, 'Wow, you're so wrong, you have no idea what you're talking about', but everybody has their opinion for a reason, and I think [it's important] having empathy and just hearing their point of view," he said.

Kaniga has begun using his Instagram account, which he'd previously used mainly for skateboarding pictures and videos, as a place to discuss these issues further. He has also put together a Google doc in which he shares some of the racial bias experiences he's has living in New Jersey and Texas, and some notes about institutional racism, U.S. history, and white privilege.

While it's a gift that Kaniga is inviting direct questions about his personal experiences with racism, not all Black Americans should be expected to do the same thing. Racism is painful, and for some, asking to share personal racism experiences is like asking to open a wound. Answering such questions isn't just an intellectual exercise; it's difficult emotional labor. And while white folks might find it helpful, it shouldn't be expected (especially for free).

Thankfully, there are many Black authors, speakers, activists, and social media educators who have put loads of information out for non-Black folks to learn from. Some, such as Doyin Richards, offer occasional "Ask Me Anything" sessions. Others, such as Ally Henny, share daily free education on their social media pages with the opportunity to pay for more. Currently, the NYT non-fiction best seller list is filled with books on racism by Black authors, so people can learn while also compensating people for their work.

Hopefully, the people of Dripping Springs appreciate what Mr. Kaniga is offering and take him up on the offer to have these uncomfortable conversations. "We have to be uncomfortable if we want change," he says. Indeed, when has change ever been comfortable?

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less
Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less