Jeannie Yandel speaks with Devan Rogers and Yaninna Sharpley-Travis, two members of Youth Undoing Institutional Racism, about how they interpret the police shooting of an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri, and how they interact with local police.
On use of force by police
Sharpley-Travis: In this society how we place material things over lives is something that angers me. And so when I heard about Mike Brown I just thought about all the other things that have been going on lately, I’m just like, "Again? This is happening again?"
On discussing Ferguson with friends
Sharpley-Travis: No one was really wanting to have that discussion. A lot of people just don’t care. I was the same way a couple of years ago, like, "Oh another person got shot, whatever."
But then I actually started thinking critically about why this stuff is happening, and then I started caring. I think some people are at that point in their lives where they don’t care, but it’s just hard to talk to people who don’t care.
It makes me angry – the apathy that they show when they see this type of stuff.
On trusting the police
Rogers: I don’t trust them, but I also haven’t had any run-ins with them per se. I have a lot of family members who have had instances with the police.
Since I am lighter-skinned, I don’t have to worry about it as much, but I do hang out with a lot of people who aren’t as light as me, who are darker than me. I’m worried that maybe we’ll get stopped for just being too loud. I’m a pretty loud person.
On altering behavior around the police
Rogers: Every time I would see an officer, I would always be really aware of him or her, and I would always make sure I wasn’t being too loud if I was with my friends or I would make sure I wasn’t doing anything that looks suspicious – whatever suspicious looks like, you that’s a really gray area according to the police.
Sharpley-Travis: I typically see police when I’m driving. So if I see a police officer near my vehicle, I always turn down my music or I switch to a pop station rather than rap, because rap music is "thuggish" and violent.
And I always have my hands visible at "10 and 2," because sometimes when drive I’ll have one hand on the window or I’ll be driving with one hand. And I always make sure I have both hands up so if they were to look at my vehicle they would be able to see that I’m just driving.