DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Turning pain, into power.
That’s how some local teens are moving forward after being threatened with a call to police at a North Dallas Sonic restaurant.
The teens insist they were targeted, because they were black.
“When my Mom says ‘be safe… or be careful’, now I know it’s not about her not wanting me to have fun,” says 17-year-old Milan Patton, a student at Plano East. “She’s letting me know that I can’t do everything that everyone else can do because of the color of my skin.”
To many, they are the sons and daughters of privilege — elite schools, powerful parents, comfortable lives. Going to the Sonic with friends a benign part of their teenage timeline: and then this.
“We were having a good time standing around talking,” says MJ Ward, a rising Senior at Greenhill. “This time we were asked to leave and were told the police were going to be called if we didn’t leave immediately.”
“My heart just like dropped,” adds Zoe Purdy, also 17. “I don’t know if I’m getting a good cop, or a bad cop… I don’t know how it’s going to play out. It’s just very scary.”
One of the teens contacted a parent and word began to spread. Local attorney Shonn Brown, whose son Evan was a part of the group, then drove to the Sonic and saw white teens gathered there with no consequence.
“He was just doing what he had done two nights ago, but with a different looking group of kids,” says Brown, “and got a different response.”
Brown says Sonic refused to release surveillance video of the incident, but she did view it and saw nothing to warrant the teens being asked to leave– a carhop approached, and the group immediately scattered.
“It isn’t fair that doing an every day task I can be profiled or have the police called on me,” says Evan Brown, a senior at Parish Episcopal School. “It just doesn’t seem right. I want to make it home. I don’t want to be the next hashtag.”
And his mother has a quick response for those who continue to insist, in spite of the facts, that the teens were doing something that warranted such treatment.READ MORE: Doug Dunbar Speaks One-On-One With Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker
“It’s frustrating, because it’s so vividly clear, but you just choose not to see it– and that’s frustrating. “
Sonic issued a statement over the weekend saying the company “sincerely apologizes to the teenagers involved,” admitting that the incident did not live up to the company’s standards. The statement went on to say that they oppose racism and intolerance of any kind and promised to “bolster training programs to include consistent unconscious bias training, with a focus on the African American experience…”
And while apologizes have their place. The teens involved say they want change.
“Everyone within this community and this area, they think we’re privileged, that we don’t go through the same thing,” says Elle Grinnell, 17, and a student at Dallas’ Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. “I think it opened their eyes as well and it can happen to people that they know as well.”
So Shonn Brown says she was “tired of being tired.” She took to Facebook to share what happened to the teens and then told well meaning friends that being “so sorry” wasn’t enough.
“I needed them to understand that life is different for my son, different for me,” says Brown. “It wasn’t enough to be a good person, I needed them to get on the front lines and show up and use their voices.”
And that’s exactly what they did– hundreds showed up for a weekend drive-thru demonstration at the Sonic to show their support for the teens.
“I almost started crying,” says Grinnell, “because everyone wanted to see change in the community, from just one incident that happened.”
“I walked out of there knowing I had a whole community… they had my back,” says Evan.MORE NEWS: Alaska, Texas Governors Sue Over National Guard Vaccine Rule
“Speaking up,” says Purdy, “and picking your battles can work for you.”