Youth council reacts to racial equity in GR


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Nearly a month after five unarmed black teens were held at gunpoint by Grand Rapids police and just days after a scathing traffic report shows black people are nearly twice as likely to be stopped by police, youth spoke out about racial equity in Grand Rapids.

The Grand Rapids Mayor’s Youth Council with Our Community’s Children hosted KidSpeak 2017: Colorb-l-i-n-d at city hall Friday morning.

Students of all ages spoke passionately about Grand Rapid’s approach to racial equity and their own experiences growing up in the city.

“As a woman of color I tend to see everything. Like the way we are treated because of pigmentation which determines life or death… I couldn’t really tell you what pains me more or less — living in colored skin or getting second best,” one 12th-grader said.

Most of the students talked about appreciating our differences and questioning why we stereotype people or different areas of the city.

“[Friends are] afraid they’re going to get pulled over for no reason. It’s funny how they don’t want to come on my side of town because they lock their doors at stoplights. I don’t understand why it has to be like this. I don’t understand why it has to separate. We’re all just people,” another student said.

One elementary school student testified, “We’re all human. That is the only race that really matters… Does it really matter the color of skin you are? Not at all. So why do we judge people by this?”

They spoke in front of Grand Rapid’s decision makers, school leaders and lawmakers the same day GRPD released body camera footage showing young teens, the same age as students at the forum, being held at gunpoint in March.