“The purpose of this episode is to let you know the pain of police violence doesn’t dissipate with time, it compounds with new experiences,” Our Future Now! Co-host Natalie Mebane says. “The pain and these stories are real.”
Mebane and Co-host Jonah Gottlieb are joined by Victory Nwabufo, co-founder of the #YourWorkersOurFamilies Campaign, and John Norton, vice President and co-Founder of the National Children’s Campaign (NCC). The trio share stories about black youth and police — interactions both they and loved ones have experienced with police. Mebane assures: not all police are violent or abusive, but, at some point, most people of color have encounters that aren’t positive.
Below is a guide to key points in the Black Youth and Police podcast:
- At 0 minutes 0 seconds: Mebane talks about how the episode is dedicated to black youth sharing their experiences with police. Several NCC members recount their experiences dealing with the police. She issues a warning that some of the stories might be disturbing to listeners. Mebane also points out that the episode isn’t about condemning all police officers, but about focusing on the ones who do questionable things and the systemic issues that create that dynamic. She wants people to work together to transform how policing is done so that everyone can feel safe.
- At 2 minutes 30 seconds: Mebane talks about learning for the first time that she had something to fear from the police was as a freshman at the University of Maryland in January 2004. She and her friends went to see the movie Tupac: Resurrection. Afterward, one of the boys chased one of the girls around a car before putting her inside and driving off with three other friends. Mebane wasn’t with them in the car, but heard all about what happened next.
- At 3 minutes 35 seconds: Mebane talks about how the police saw roughhousing on 18-year olds and suspected something was wrong. However, instead of putting on their siren or pulling the young students over, the police followed the students to the drive-thru of a nearby McDonald’s. Then the police officers emerged from their car with guns drawn, pulled the students out of the car, and place them on the pavement.
- At 4 minutes 45 seconds: Mebane talks about how one of the police officers questioned the black youth, a young woman, who has been involved in the playful roughhousing earlier alone inside the police car to make sure nothing was wrong. At the same time, another woman was on the pavement with the other boys as guns were still pointed at all their heads. The girl in the police car was confused as to why any of this was even happening since nothing was wrong. The police officer then proceeded to sexually harass her. Eventually, they were all let go, but the entire approach to the situation was traumatizing and way more extreme than it should have been.
- At 7 minutes 10 seconds: Nwabufo talks about how she was even reluctant to even talk about the police because of fears of retaliation, but realized that would be part of her story.
- At 8 minutes 15 seconds: Nwabufo talks about how her brother got caught up in the criminal justice system during his teenage years and being mad at him for going down that path in life, without understanding the systemic things that contributed to his problems – the school to prison pipeline. This is dynamic where black youth, who’ve encountered police, are put into the hands of the criminal justice system more than their white counterparts. It also is about looking at the need to punish a child for actions like stealing, instead of understanding the contributing factors that might have led to that action in the first place, such as living below the poverty line.
- At 10 minutes 10 seconds: Nwabufo talks about how she concluded that her family and even her future kids will be targets regardless of who they are because of their skin color. She describes playing outside as a kid and reflexively going to hide whenever the police drove by because of the fear that she and other black youth have of them. Even as a 21-year old those same fears exist because we live in a system of policing that is in many ways unsustainable in how they treat black people.
- At 12 minutes 25 seconds: Mebane talks about a party that her friends held that she missed during her junior in college. A neighbor called the police with a noise complaint about the party. When the police arrive to shut the party down, they decided to escalate matters in a dramatic way. Guns were drawn. One of the police officers then started pistol-whipping the student who lived in the apartment. Everyone who attended the party was shocked and ran out of the apartment. They were greeted by more police that pepper-sprayed them and started beating everyone with batons. Adding insult to injury, the student who got pistol-whipped then got charged with assaulting a police officer, who then also tried to get him expelled from school.
- At 15 minutes 5 seconds: Mebane talks about how these brutal encounters with the police are a form of terrorism, because you don’t have to personally go through the experience to be terrorized.
- At 15 minutes 50 seconds: Norton talks about how his background helped prepare him for dealing with the police since his mother is Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, who was involved in the Civil Rights Movement, and his father gave him very specific advice on how to handle any interactions with the police, which revolves around being as calm as humanly possible.
- At 16 minutes 25 seconds: Norton talks about being 16-year olds with three friends in a car that was driving near Howard University when the cops pulled them over. They weren’t speeding. There was no moving violation. Yet, everyone was told to get out of the car, frisked and then had their car searched. The driver was named Richard and he was agitated by the unnecessary stop. The situation threatened to get out of control because the police officer didn’t like being challenged, but his cousin calmed Richard down and the police let everyone go without a ticket or warning.
- At 17 minutes 25 seconds: Norton talks about being stopped by the police while driving for no apparent reason on many other occasions, which is just a form of police harassment. For example, once he was in a car near St. Augustine, Florida on a highway traveling to a family reunion with his father and uncle who were both over the age of 50. They got stopped for going a little bit above the speed limit. But even that decision was questionable considering that other cars were going much faster than they were. It made Norton realize that police harassment would never end no matter how old he got.
- At 18 minutes 10 second: Norton talks about being a freshman in college in Los Angeles in 1991 when the beating of Rodney Kings by police officers was captured on videotape. He assumed that would be an open and shut case of police brutality. Unfortunately, a year later the cops were acquitted, and the ensuing anger led to devastating riots in the city. Then nearly 30 years later things coming full circle in a way with the George Floyd murder police officers that was captured on a smartphone camera. It was such a shocking, brazen incident that everybody could now fully acknowledge how the police mistreat and even kill black men.
- At 19 minutes 30 seconds: Norton talks about how the tense relationship between the police and black men has historical roots that have only been exacerbated by the war on drugs. That was the reason why he and his friends were stopped when they were 16-years old, but the only thing the police officers found were their wallets.
- At 20 minutes 15 seconds: Mebane talks about going out on a date when she was 29-years old. They went out to eat and then drove back in his BMW. They were pulled over by the police. Mebane was somewhat panicked since she knew they did nothing wrong. He was calm because he was used to the harassment. The police decided to search the car, so Mebane and her date were told to get out of the car on a freezing night and sit on the curb that still had the remnants of snow from a few days before.
- At 22 minutes 10 seconds: Mebane talks about how she had just gotten her winter coat dry cleaned and didn’t want to sit on the dirty snow. Her date quickly complied, but she was reluctant to, especially since there was no reason for the stop. The police officers proceed to conduct an extensive search of the car and found nothing. The police officer’s excuse for the harassment was that one of the white lights above the license plate was out and it needed to get fixed immediately. Mebane’s date agreed to get it fixed. In the car he calmly explains to the still furious Mebane that they weren’t arrested, beaten or killed so she should calm down. Most importantly, he was glad they found something wrong because if not, to save face, they might have planted something in his car. Mebane recognized the lack of control that black men have over these situations.
The call for action for this episode? Listen with your heart.
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The Our Future Now Collaboration
Our Future Now, a National Children’s Campaign Podcast is co-hosted by Jonah Gottlieb and Natalie Mebane. Gottlieb and Mebane are also co-founders of NCC. Gottlieb, a high school senior from Petaluma, California, is also the captain of One Planet Living and the co-founder and president of Global Awareness. Mebane is the Associate Director of US Policy for 350, an international movement looking to end the use of fossil fuels while promoting renewable energy.
Our Future Now is a collaboration between Parentology, the National Children’s Campaign and Goal 17 Media.
The National Children’s Campaign (NCC) is a national nonprofit organization that amplifies the voices of America’s 74 million children and youth, making sure our nation’s political leaders prioritize issues –health, education, climate and environment, child welfare, gun violence, child immigration, LGBTQ+ rights, and youth civic engagement — that matter to those who are too young to vote.
Goal 17 Media is a media network producing podcasts, videos and documentaries that inspire individuals and contribute to the common good.