COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – Wil Haygood is an award-winning author and accomplished journalist who has covered everything from the apartheid in South Africa to the beating of Rodney King in Los Angeles.
He has seen history unfold before his eyes, including the civil rights movement of the 1960s while growing up on Columbus’ north side.
Wil had a good relationship with police as a child, participating in activities like the Police Athletic League. As a teenager, he washed squad cars for money downtown and had a good relationship with police there. Still, the first lesson his grandfather taught him stayed top of mind.
“He said never come out of a store with a loaf of bread or a carton of milk and not have it in a bag,” recalls Haygood, “And I asked him why and he said because you will be stopped by the police and accused of stealing.”
As a young man in his 20’s, Wil and a friend experienced the prejudice his grandfather had warned him about.
“We were coming from some nightclub and all of a sudden, we were surrounded by swat team. And a shotgun was pointed at my head,” said Haygood.
Luckily, one of the officers recognized Wil and told his fellow officers to stand down.
“If you continue as a Black or Brown person in this country, to continue to have those types of interactions with the police, it doesn’t foster a sense of trust or goodwill,” said Haygood.
“We all know that there’s crime out there and they have a job to do. And the job can be tough. But there should be a human element in that and I think that’s why the country and the world is so outraged.”
Wil hopes to see the militarization of police across the nation come to an end and a return to more non-confrontational interactions. Through his reporting, he has seen the role that communication can play in restoring trust and thinks that could be the key to real change.