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Dripping Springs man welcomes residents to ask him anything about race

In the middle of downtown Dripping Springs stands 20-year-old Nifa Kaniga with an invitation to ask anything. (CBS Austin)
In the middle of downtown Dripping Springs stands 20-year-old Nifa Kaniga with an invitation to ask anything. (CBS Austin)
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20-year-old Nifa Kaniga has stood on the corner of Mercer Street and Ranch Road 12 in Dripping Springs for the last three days, holding a sign that reads "Ask Me Anything."

"I usually start from noon to maybe sunset around 7," said Kangia.

The UT Dallas student waits for anyone in the community who wants to talk about race, and who is not afraid to get uncomfortable.

"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."

As national Black Lives Matter protests sparked by the death of George Floyd continue to happen in major cities, Kaniga wanted to do something different to help more people understand the meaning behind the movement.

"I figured this may be a better way to just start locally, have something local," he said. "Because this is a very white, conservative town."

Kaniga has been living in Dripping Springs for over four years, and he says he has experienced racism and concerns about the police as a black man living in a predominantly white community.

"Just yesterday I had two of the local police officers come up, and I saw them at the intersection, and I had my eye on them the entire time. It's like, 'What's going to happen.' I know there's probably a low chance of something happening. But there's always that voice in the back of your mind," he said.

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Now, Kaniga wants to help people learn about what he and other people in the black community go through and give answers to the questions people still do not understand.

"Many people have asked me, 'What's up with all lives matter versus black lives matter'," he said. "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."

He knows not everyone will want to talk to him or agree with his viewpoint, but he says that is okay.

"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," said Kaniga.

Kaniga is surprised many in his community have already come to ask tough questions about race, and some residents have even joined him and helped form a demonstration downtown as he continues to talk to more people.

"It's 2020, we're supposed to be more open-minded about things," said Dripping Springs resident Tabitha Cantrell. "We're raising a new generation. I want my kids to want to love everybody, I don't see any reason not to."

Kangia believes if more people are willing to listen to different ideas, and participate in voting, he things the national movement for change will be able to create lasting policy change that protects and values the lives of communities of color.

"We have to be uncomfortable if we want change," he said.

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