Yet again White people are calling the police because POC make them feel threatened while they actively don’t commit any crime at all. This time the threat was being too quiet and shy.
I previously wrote about the experiences of Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson, the two Black men arrested at a Philadelphia Starbucks for not ordering anything while they waited for a friend (the cops were called 2 minutes after they arrived). Today I’m writing about the experiences of Thomas Kanewakeron Gray and Lloyd Skanahwati Gray, two Kanien’keha:ka (Mohawk) brothers who were taking a tour around Colorado University as prospective students. Campus police were called on them by a White woman who found their quietness threatening.
Yes, you read that right.
It now seems that being quiet like Thomas and Lloyd … asking for a corporate phone number like Chikesia Clemons … sitting in your own car like Lyndo Jones … sitting on your own porch like Dejuan Yourse … moving into your own apartment like Darren Martin … waiting for a friend to arrive, etc, etc, etc can be added to the list of things you can’t do while being non-White.
Thomas and Lloyd had pre-registered online for the university tour and saved up the money to drive the 7 hours from their home in New Mexico. They arrived a bit late but caught up with the group, and it seems not being there from the beginning, arriving without parents (they’re 19 and 17 years old), being too shy to answer questions, and wearing dark clothes that had “strange symbols” on it was such a direct threat to one woman who was also on the tour that she felt she had to call the police when no actual crime had taken place. She felt that they didn’t look like they belonged at the university and were out of place … which begs the question, what does she think university students should look like?
Part of me finds this ridiculous to even write, but this is the reality here … that being a POC while doing something perfectly legal, perfectly acceptable for White people to do is criminalised.
Two young men, through no fault of their own, wound up frightened and humiliated because another campus visitor was concerned about their clothes and overall demeanor, which appears to have simply been shyness. The very idea that someone – anyone – might “look” like they don’t belong on a CSU Admissions tour is anathema. People of all races, gender identities, orientations, cultures, religions, heritages, and appearances belong here. As long as you want to earn a great education surrounded by people with the same goal who come from every part of our state, our country, and our world, then you belong here. And if you’re uncomfortable with a diverse and inclusive academic environment, then you probably have a better fit elsewhere. Dr. Tony Frank, CSU President
Aside from the fact that it’s outrageous that someone would call emergency services because two boys were being quiet and shy, it’s equally outrageous that dispatch would send officers in the first place. The woman who phoned clearly said the magic words … she “feels threatened” which pretty much guarantees a response. But I have to believe that dispatch can discern from a perceived threat with no actual criminal behaviour occurring, and an actual threat being made to someone.
This must have been an incredibly frightening experience for the two boys, which they handled really well because Native Americans are more likely than any other racial or ethnic group to be killed by law enforcement. A statistic that is not widely known or reported on by the media.
These two boys kept a cool head and behaved with maturity and grace when being questioned and patted down by the police, something that is in stark contrast to the White woman’s egregious reaction to her own damn racism.