Junior Reggie Burns faces police discrimination

Junior Reggie Burns transferred to West for the 2016 school year.

Sam Gaddis

Junior Reggie Burns transferred to West for the 2016 school year.

Walking home from a friend’s house, junior Reggie Burns heard the loud, air-piercing sound of a killing machine–a sound he hears on a regular basis: gunshots. Burns watched an off-duty police officer raise his firearm to an unarmed black man, and shoot multiple times. That man was Michael Brown.

“My friends and I had planned to peacefully protest the following Monday after Mike Brown got shot. We made signs, planned to walk around–we started to protest,” Burns said. “The police were there, dressed in full gear. They were calling us porch monkeys, threatening to shoot us. We had to go back inside school [Clyde C. Miller Career Academy].”

Burns said that they planned another peaceful protest soon after the first, but the same thing happened.

“Out here, it seems peaceful. But if you go to the city, you can’t leave your house without having your gun because every day, we fend for our lives,” Burns said. “We’re killing each other— we’re just in a bad affair right now.”

In Ballwin, there is a very low crime rate, allowing people to live their lives in peace. However, peace is not the norm throughout all of St. Louis.

They [white police officers] see us as gang members or criminals that want to rob and kill them, rather than asking us where we’re from.”

— Reggie Burns

“We can’t go to the store without being followed. A group of us can’t come from the basketball court without being questioned. We can’t have a hoodie on with our headphones in and our hands in our pockets without people thinking we’re up to something,” Burns said.

Because of the color of their skin, Burns said that his race is treated differently. He and his friends have even been called “dogs that need to be trained” by police, as they were walking home.

“They [white police officers] see us as gang members or criminals that want to rob and kill them, rather than asking us where we’re from,” Burns said.

Burns said that this is the ‘norm’ for him. It began for him around three years ago, when he said that he began to see more and more black teenagers dying.

“This just happened to me. I missed the bus and I had to walk home. I walked past this bus stop, and there were like, six St. Louis police officers just sitting outside,” Burns said. “I walked past them, and they stopped me for questioning about a gang fight. I told them the truth, and they called me names, just automatically thinking I had something to do with it.”

According to Vice, in 2015, African Americans were killed 3.28 times more often than Caucasians, and 2.28 times more often than all other races combined.

“I think that we should all come together and break the cycle,” Burns said. “People can’t just keep using the excuse ‘that’s not my problem.’ We all need to stop sitting around and do something about it. I want to stop the killing. I want to live to see my 18th birthday.”