Bernie Hayes: “Never argue with the police because they could kill you”


The shooting of Michael Brown came as no surprise to Ferguson community member and Webster University professor Bernie Hayes. Hayes, who grew up in Chicago and has lived in San Francisco, said he has never seen a city as racially polarized as St. Louis.

“The police can be your best friends but you never argue with the police, because they can kill you,” Bernie Hayes has said to all of his classes at Webster University for the past 25 years.

Hayes lives in Florissant, Mo., only eight blocks away from Ferguson. Hayes has been a part of the community for more than four decades.

“It’s not hidden, [racist] don’t try to hide it. If they like you, they like you. If they don’t, they don’t, and they usually don’t like you for your color, sexual orientation or religion in some cases.”

Bernie Hayes speaking on the set of The Bernie Hayes Show. / photo by Natalie Martinez

Ferguson’s population is 26 percent white and 67 percent black. Of the 53 police officers in the Ferguson Police Department, only three officers are black. Out of every ten traffic stops, nine residents are minorities, eight being black and one white, according to the Racial Profiling Report of the Missouri Attorney General’s Office.

“Officers, male or female, are just people, they have prejudices too,” Hayes said. “They have the same ignorance as everybody else. They are just people, and sometimes that anger and those prejudices will come out, and you’re dead.”

Hayes is a media communications professor at Webster University. He has also hosted ‘The Bernie Hayes Show’ on local channel KCNL 24 since 2009. On Sunday Aug. 31, Hayes hosted a show about the shooting of Michael Brown. He discussed racism, specifically in St.Louis, with African-American leaders, including activist Percy Green.

Green became widely known as an activist when he climbed the ladder that scaled the Gateway Arch in 1964. Green protested the city for using federal money to build the monument without blacks getting a fair share of the contracts or the job. He demanded that the construction of the arch provide 1,000 jobs for African Americans.

Issues concerning wages and job opportunities for black workers were discussed during the Aug. 31 show. Green talked about the younger generations making more money than the older citizens in the black community. He said the majority of jobs ask for specific educational standards before employment.

“There is job training…here on the home front you need a PHD to get a job,” Green said.

Hayes said it was time for St.Louis to take a stand over the racial issues in the community. He explained that in 1968, when Martin Luther King was assassinated, St. Louis was the only city with a black community that didn’t erupt while other cities across the nation with black communities took part in civil disobedience.

Share this post

+ posts