NBA star DeMar DeRozan recently opened up again about how he and his friends were often harassed by police while growing up in his Compton, California, neighborhood, and he now says for a long while he thought all people, regardless of race, experienced the same thing.
DeRozan wrote about his experiences with racism and police brutality for a People magazine article that was released on Thursday, July 23. In it, he admitted to not understanding why the people in his life weren’t given opportunities that he felt they deserved.
“Growing up, I often wondered why it was so hard for my close family friends and relatives to land a job,” the San Antonio Spurs star wrote. “Many were simply trying to do the right thing after getting into trouble, so why wouldn’t anyone hire them? It wasn’t until years later as a teenager that the answer became evident to me through the way I was treated by law enforcement.”
“As a student at Compton High School, my friends and I were regular targets of the police,” added DeRozan. “They assumed we were gang members just because we were in a group, or did things just to mess with us. Once, a cousin of mine who did nothing wrong was arrested after the police said, ‘Well, somebody has to go to jail today.’ I still remember an older friend who was killed when the police shot him through the window of his car as he slept.”
DeRozan has joined other celebrities who’ve opened up about their experiences with racism. Those stories were told after George Floyd died at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer in May and a national dialogue about systemic racism began.
DeRozan joined a Black Lives Matter rally in Compton in June, where he joined fellow NBA player Russell Westbrook and rapper Kendrick Lamar. DeRozan wrote that being at the rally gave him a feeling of peace and joy unlike any he’s experienced since protests began.
But he felt anything but peace whenever he saw a police officer while growing up, and he said the mistreatment from them had a lasting mental effect on him.
DeRozan has been candid about struggling with depression in recent years, while also being an advocate for mental health. Many first learned of his condition in 2018 when he tweeted, “This depression get the best of me.”
In his People article, the veteran shooting guard said the police caused a lot of fear in him as he was growing up. But seeing how differently Black people were treated back then gave him the motivation to set up a wonderful life for himself.
DeRozan said that his friends, meanwhile, became rebellious against authority due to the mistreatment, and he fully understands why that was the case.
“The stories of harassment and brutality were endless, and with each one, we feared the police even more,” he wrote. “We did everything in our power to stay as far from them as possible. At the time, I thought people everywhere were going through the same things we did, that this type of behavior was typical for everyone. It’s scary to think about how normalized it was for us.
“In time, I realized this treatment couldn’t just be attributed to the police doing their jobs,” DeRozan continued. “It was something more. I better understood the struggles my loved ones faced when I was younger in America. Things were more difficult for us just because we were Black.”