FOR NINTH GRADER Tyreke Grayson of Cleveland, Texas, the shooting of Michael Brown was an incident that sounded hauntingly familiar. “[One evening], when I was [hanging out] with one of my friends, a cop pulled up, saw us, and pulled a gun out — no hesitation or anything,” he explains. “He thought we were doing something bad, but we were just walking to the park.” It wasn’t until after a group of neighbors walked by, noticed what was happening, and convinced the police of cer that Tyreke and his friend weren’t doing anything wrong that the of cer nally decided to leave. If those neighbors hadn’t walked by? “I probably would’ve been shot,” Tyreke admits.
It’s scary to know that racial pro ling still exists in 2015 — that ladies still clutch their purses when they pass a Black man on the street, that sales- people still follow you around the store as you shop, that people still make ridiculous assumptions about you simply based on the color of your skin, that people kill people who look like you and get away with it. “We’ve had too many of these cases involving African-American males — and sometimes females — who are dying at the hands of the police,” says Dr. JeffriAnne Wilder, associate professor of sociology at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville, Florida. “You know, the everyday biases that people hold toward each other that are sometimes conscious and subconscious … things play themselves out sometimes in daily interactions that can have deadly consequences.”
While Michael Brown wasn’t the first unarmed Black teen to be murdered at the hands of the police, this particular incident seemed to spark a revolution. Why? Well, nearly eight months have passed and people are still red up about what went down in Ferguson. “I think it’s different this time around because there was more evidence,” says Awura Barnie-Duah, an 18-year-old freshman at St. John’s University in Queens, New York. “People are bringing up the topic of how [Black people are viewed] in America and how police of cers are just shooting to kill instead of shooting to wound. These incidents are starting to become the norm, and people are starting to catch on to the fact that something is not right.”
Read the rest of my feature for Sesi magazine’s spring 2015 issue [here].