Friday, March 6, 2015

‘They Just Know You Up to No Good’

Ballou High School in Southeast Washington, D.C., is about five miles from the U.S. Capitol—a 10-minute drive. The neighborhood is mostly poor, guns are common and it’s hardly news when another youngster from the area is killed. In the past decade, assailants have murdered dozens of Ballou students or recent graduates. Yet the teenagers at the school, 98 percent of whom are black, largely view the police as the enemy.

At a time of national debate about police brutality, race, urban violence and wide disparities in opportunities for young people of different backgrounds, Politico Magazine organized a wide-ranging and revelatory conversation with eight Ballou students to hear their views on the challenges they face growing up. They spoke about why they distrust—even despise—the police, and about a code of silence that forbids them from “snitching” on criminals. They also discussed the juvenile justice and prison systems.

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