Some white people are sharing their experiences with cops to highlight disparities

·4 min read

The showrunner for "Grey's Anatomy" and the co-founder of Reddit are among white people who have taken to social media in recent days to share stories about their encounters with law enforcement, seeking to shed light on disparities in how white and black people are treated.

Krista Vernoff, the showrunner for "Grey's Anatomy" and "Station 19," described on Twitter this week several run-ins she says she had with police growing up. Vernoff, a white woman, says that at 15 years old she was chased through a mall for having "thousands of dollars of stolen merchandise" on her. She says she was sentenced to six months probation but never handcuffed.

When I was 15, I was chased through a mall by police who were yelling “Stop thief!” I had thousands of dollars of stolen merchandise on me. I was caught, booked, sentenced to 6 months of probation, required to see a parole officer weekly. I was never even handcuffed. THREAD:

— Krista Vernoff (@KristaVernoff) June 15, 2020

The showrunner tweeted about the incident to her more than 50,000 followers, asking: "If I had been shot in the back by police after the shoplifting incident — in which I knowingly and willfully and soberly and in broad daylight RAN FROM THE COPS — would you say I deserved it?"

She drew a comparison to Rayshard Brooks, a black man who was killed by police in Atlanta last week after resisting arrest. "The system that lets me live and murders Rayshard Brooks is a broken system that must change. Stop defending it. Demand the change," Vernoff tweeted.

She asked other white people to think about the crimes they've committed. "(You don't call them crimes. You and your parents call them mistakes.) Think of all the mistakes you've made that you were allowed to survive," she wrote.

They were among a slew of tweets by Vernoff, in which she also describes a time she was pulled over for drunk driving. When asked to take a breathalyzer test, she says she pretended to have asthma. She "insisted" she couldn't blow hard enough for a reading, according to her account.

"The officer laughed then asked my friends to blow and when one of them came up sober enough to drive, he let me move to the passenger seat of my car and go home with just a verbal warning," Vernoff said.

She also said that when she was 20 she punched a man in front of a cop. "The cop pulled me aside and said, 'You don't punch people in front of cops,' then laughed and said that if I ever joined the police force he'd like to have me as a partner. I was sent into my apartment and told to stay there," she said.

Vernoff's thread received thousands of comments from people sharing their own experiences. Some stories were examples of white privilege, and others were examples of racial profiling.

Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian also took to social media this week, sharing an experience he said he had with police officers in 2005, just a few months before he graduated college and founded Reddit. Ohanian, who is married to tennis superstar Serena Williams, said Tuesday in an Instagram post.

The officer let Ohanian call friends to pick him up, according to his account. "While we were waiting, the cop said how lucky I was that I didn't have the keys in the ignition, even with the car off, because it would have been way worse for me," his post reads. "I thanked him (I think) and got home safe except for a bad hangover the next day."

"For years, those friends and I would tell that story + laugh about that night... It was just a stupid college story," the post continues.

Ohanian said because he is white, he "became an entrepreneur, not a statistic."

"I'm grateful for that police officer's tolerance with me + disgusted that it's so obviously not afforded (and never been) to everyone just because of their race," he wrote, including the #BecauseIWasWhite hashtag.

Other recent stories of police encounters have gone viral on social media. A professor's tweet posted earlier this month has between retweeted more than 600,000 times, with over 2 million likes.

"George Floyd and I were both arrested for allegedly spending a counterfeit $20 bill," tweeted Mark McCoy, an archaeologist and associate professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, who is white. "For George Floyd, a man my age, with two kids, it was a death sentence. For me, it is a story I sometimes tell at parties. That, my friends, is White privilege."

George Floyd and I were both arrested for allegedly spending a counterfeit $20 bill. For George Floyd, a man my age, with two kids, it was a death sentence. For me, it is a story I sometimes tell at parties. That, my friends, is White privilege.

— Mark D. McCoy (@m_d_mccoy) June 1, 2020

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