For several months, KTVU's Paul Chambers has brought you stories about how communities of color and law enforcement have met in East Bay barbershops. Their hope is to bring both sides together to better understand one another. Wednesday, the conversations left the barbershops and went into the classroom after De La Salle High School teacher Mike Aquino invited Chambers to speak to his criminal justice classes to talk about the forums and what he's learning.
"When I saw that KTVU and you in particular were doing conversations around policing and the community it tied in very much to the conversations we're having about race," says Aquino.
Many in the class either have family members or want to be in law enforcement. The class has covered issues from officer- involved shootings to implicit bias; the same topics they've watched during our barbershop town halls.
The conversation was an open dialogue, with nothing being off limits as the students asked Chambers questions. You've lived in different communities in the United States culture wise. Have you seen or experience racism, says De La Salle Senior Logan Nonies.
As an African American man, yes, I've felt the racism everywhere I go, every city. It doesn't matter where I go. First time I ever have a gun pulled on me is here in the Bay Area. The only time I've ever had a gun pulled on me is in the Bay Area, and the only person to every pull a gun on me is a law enforcement officer," says Chambers.
"You were saying if you were walking down the street in what you are wearing you'd be accepted, and if you were walking down the street in a hoodie you'd be kind of shady," says De La Salle Junior Eric Rodney.
“Wait, wait; stop right there. I just want you to think about what you just said. Why. because I wear a hoodie, I'm shady? The dude sitting next to you he's got a hoodie is he shady? I'm not attacking you please; please understand what I'm saying. It's those little things that people say automatically in your subconscious you not even thinking about what you're saying," says Chambers.
The majority of the students are Caucasian, and say they're inspired from what they're hearing, but since they weren't in attendance at either the Oakland or San Leandro discussions. They have a lot of questions of their own.
"Why did the Alameda County Sheriff Department initially not want white people at the town hall meeting," says De La Salle Senior Nick Papa.
"I don't want to put it on an entire department that didn't want the Caucasian officers there. Because there were some that did and some that didn't," says Chambers.
"When you're reporting on something that has to do with African Americans do you ever feel like people think you have a certain biases to it?” asked De La Salle Senior Lexi Anicama.
"Of course and it comes from both sides. I get African American people tell me, well you didn't say this and you didn't say that. So now I'm not black enough. Well looking at my skin I think I'm pretty black. But then you have people on the other side that say well you're being tough on that. Well I can't worry about everyone else. I can only give you the facts. This is what happened," says Chambers.
"Is it hard to keep your opinion out of your reporting when an issue affects you personally like the issues about African American's and police," says De La Salle Junior Joao De Aomeida.
"I can talk about my own personal experiences but also tell the story of what’s going on. But it’s always good to be honest and upfront and say hey this is coming from me," says Chambers.
Aquino and students say they appreciated the conversation we had. They will use future town halls in their classroom, in hopes of bridging the divide they have in their school and their community.
"I think it does help, but it’s just going to take time for more and more people to get involved and the bigger impact it’s going to have," says De La Salle Senior Josh Serafino.