KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — The unrest in Ferguson, Mo. sparked by the shooting of an unarmed black man by a white police officer caused one Kalamazoo mother to teach her son how to interact with police.
Dr. Carla Campbell-Jackson had already taught her son Bradley Ross to treat people with dignity and respect. But after the Trayvon Martin case in Florida and the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, she is teaching him new lessons.
She taught him what to say and how to act if he’s ever stopped by police.
“I ask them, ‘Can I have permission to get my phone?’ Or if I do it right away they might think I’m getting a weapon,” Bradley Ross recited.
He’s also supposed to tell them he goes to a Baptist church and a private school, he said.
“Even though ideally at the age of 8, I should not have to have these conversations with my son, it’s in our best interest to do so,” Campbell-Johnson said.
Brown’s death has strained racial tensions in Ferguson. The population there is predominately black, while its police force is overwhelmingly white.
Kalamazoo has had its own problems regarding race. A recent study showed that black drivers there were more likely to be pulled over than white drivers, and that blacks were more likely to be searched and handcuffed than whites even though they were less likely to have contraband. Since then, the Kalamazoo Department Public of Safety has instituted new procedures in an effort to decrease the disparity.
Over the weekend, Campbell-Jackson and her son visited Ferguson. She is originally from the area and her sister works next door to what’s being called “ground zero” — the Ferguson convenience store that Brown allegedly stole from before he was shot.
There have been protests in that area and a few blocks away since Brown was shot on Aug. 9. There has been property damage and looting when some protesters turned violent. Nearly every night, civilians have clashed with officers clad in riot gear.
The most shocking for Campbell-Jackson was seeing police officers with German Shepherds. She says it reminded her of images from the civil rights movement in the 1960s.
“The spotlight is on Ferguson right now,” she said. “This gives us an opportunity to start a meaningful dialogue. The more we ignore it, it allows the problem to fester.”
Bradley Ross says he wants to go back to Ferguson to donate school supplies and clothes.