'Grey's' Showrunner Goes Viral Pointing Out Her White Privilege In Police Encounters

by Gina Vaynshteyn
'Grey's' Showrunner Goes Viral Pointing Out Her White Privilege In Police Encounters
Krista Vernoff/Twitter

Grey’s Anatomy showrunner Krista Vernoff opened up about multiple times she broke the law and yet, was never punished – and she has her white privilege to thank for that

In response to Rayshard Brooks’ death, Krista Vernoff, a Grey’s Anatomy‘s showrunner, took to Twitter yesterday to share past run-ins with the law to expose her own white privilege. In her thread, Vernoff opened up about multiple instances where she broke the law or defied police officers, and how the worst thing that ever happened to her was a verbal warning. Vernoff’s message was that the only difference between her and Brooks is that she’s a white woman — and that it’s hugely problematic that our current legal system favors those like her. Although she committed similar crimes as Brooks (over and over), she’s alive today, whereas Brooks is not.

After learning about what happened to Brooks —who was fatally shot by an officer after a struggle ensued when he was found sleeping in his parked car at a Wendy’s drive-thru, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation — Vernoff was inspired to share her own, similar experiences, and just how differently she was treated as a white woman.

“When I was 15, I was chased through a mall by police who were yelling ‘Stop thief!’ I had thousands of dollars of stolen merchandise on me. I was caught, booked, sentenced to 6 months of probation, required to see a parole officer weekly. I was never even handcuffed,” Vernoff wrote.

In the same thread, Vernoff recounts a time she was driving under the influence and got pulled over by a cop. Vernoff “pretended to have asthma and insisted I couldn’t blow hard enough to get a reading.” The officer’s response? “The officer laughed then asked my friends to blow and when one of them came up sober enough to drive, he let me move to the passenger seat of my car and go home with just a verbal warning,” Vernoff shared.

Vernoff shared another instance in which she actually assaulted someone who ended up wanting to press charges. The cop’s response was, “You don’t punch people in front of cops.” He laughed and said, “if I ever joined the police force he’d like to have me as a partner.”

As a white woman, Vernoff was was able to use her privilege to evade getting handcuffed or arrested — multiple times. Vernoff wrote, “If I had been shot in the back by police after the shoplifting incident – in which I knowingly and willfully and soberly and in broad daylight RAN FROM THE COPS – would you say I deserved it?” Throughout all of this, Vernoff has no criminal record whatsoever.

Vernoff urges her followers to fight for change and to push back against a legal system that intrinsically favors white people over Black people. “I’m asking the white people reading this to think about the crimes you’ve committed. (Note: You don’t call them crimes. You and your parents call them mistakes.) Think of all the mistakes you’ve made that you were allowed to survive,” Vernoff wrote.

“Defunding the police is not about ‘living in a lawless society.’ It’s about the fact that in this country, we’re not supposed to get shot by police for getting drunk,” she wrote.

“The system that lets me live and murders Rayshard Brooks is a broken system that must change. Stop defending it. Demand the change,” she added.

Vernoff, whose tweets have gone viral since she posted them on June 15, has elicited countless responses from others who are applauding her for her willingness to speak up and push for not only change but for others to re-examine their past “mistakes.” We should ask ourselves what the result of our “mistakes” would have looked like if we were Black.

Twitter user Chinyere Ezie responded to the thread writing, “I confess: this thread felt like humble bragging about white privilege at first, but it ended somewhere powerful. It’s time for us to admit that the ways we use the words ‘crime’ and ‘criminal’ have much less to do with forbidden conduct than the race of the person who did them.”

Another Twitter user responded by sharing, “I asked my 15 yr old to define white privilege. He said mom you know like when you yell at the cops for pulling you over.” They added, “And I said yup that really says it all.”

At the end of the day, it’s important for us to truly look within ourselves and be honest about our own privilege and how it’s protected us and not others in our current system. It’s hard sitting with those feelings and discomfort, but absolutely necessary in moving toward justice for everyone.