Studying While Brown Racial profiling still exists at today's prestigious universities
Two white female students called the police on a dark-skinned, mixed race student named Bill. I am sure there are those people on campus who would think this is a normal reaction to what they saw happening in the parking lot near their, and his, dorm.
The two females saw a Honda Civic with both doors opened. Bill and his Asian friend were lying down with their bodies hanging out of the car, replacing a shift knob. This is a common occurrence in the neighborhood where Bill grew up. One might guess that this is an anomaly for wealthier students, who are not used to seeing working class people up close in their natural state of doing manual labor.
Just as Bill was already leaving and driving to see Lani just two blocks away, the campus police pulled him over. As it turned out, the two bewildered white girls called the police.
Campus Police: Keep your hands on the wheel. Where are you coming from? Bill: My dorm. [Bill shows his STANFORD ID; in the car’s windshield is a STANFORD parking permit. Two more police cars show up, and now all three have their spotlights aimed at Bill.] CP: Whose car is this? B: My parents. CP: Can I see your driver’s license and registration? [Both documents have the same address. Conclusion is easy: the car is not being stolen.] CP: Let me check things out. [Policeman takes the documents back to his patrol car. He is basically running a make, checking to see if the car is stolen or has any outstanding warrants.]
This is a common event for black, brown and other people of color: getting pulled over while driving black, brown, yellow or (insert non-white skin color here).
Let me apologize to Bill for giving him my bad traits. He is dark, even in the winter months. His hair is black and he has thick eyebrows and a very suspicious mustache. Bill is not a fancy dresser. He is usually in a white t-shirt, basketball shorts, sandals and if it is raining or cold, he wears an ugly light brown jacket. I gave it to him on Junior Parents’ Weekend. Of course, it was my work jacket, but I washed it for the trip to Stanford.
I know that the vast majority of people on Stanford’s campus are not this paranoid when they see the non-whites. I am also sure the Campus Police check every car they pull over and check if it is stolen or has warrants. But where has this behavior come from?
I have a recording of Harvard Law Professor Charles Ogltree speaking on the Stanford campus during Bill’s sophomore year. He talked about the day Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. Ogltree was a student at Stanford that year. When it was announced that King was dead as a result of an assassin’s bullet, students streamed into the dorm hallways cheering and clapping. Where Bill and his family grew up this was one of the saddest, horrific days of our lives and of this country’s history.
I am a 53-year old truck driver, and I believe that those cheering and clapping students are about my age. This means their children are Bills age and attending universities across the nation today. They are the closet racists of our time: against affirmative action, supporters of racial profiling, and ready to clap and cheer when other brown people die. But before I go let me say a few words for all of humankind to remember us by. These words have been the premise by which my children have been raised at home.
There are many other people I have fallen in love with along the road of life. Since love feels like a warm blanket on a cold night, I feel a need to share this warmth. When I see people that are cold, I want to cover them so they can feel safe, secure, and confident. Everyday I look around and I find people I can love. They come from many walks of life and many races, cultures. I am not ashamed of saying it out loud. I love a Jew as much as a Palestinian, a black as much as a white, brown, Latino, native-indigenous, Asian, Arab, and Indian, as much as any person on earth. I believe that throughout human history it is universal love that has kept us from utter destruction, annihilation and extermination. Love is the ultimate gift that will keep us strong, vibrant and resilient through the ages to come.
But sometimes, love is superseded by stereotypes from all of us through our indoctrination into society and hierarchy that is different than how we are brought up at home.
We can’t just blame two white girls for this insult to Bill and his family. His freshman year a young Mexican man gave him a ride back to campus from the Honda dealer. As they entered Stanford the young man asked, “So, where do you work here?”
Even a close friend and dorm mate admitted that when he first saw Bill shooting (not a gun, but a basketball) on an outside court, he wondered, “What is this guy doing here?”
The idea that dark-skinned people do not belong on the Stanford campus is deeply ingrained in all spectrums of society. I hope other students, friends, family and others will take note. We live in a society where white supremacy is still the dominant view. Collectively we need to correct this view about the suspicious behavior and inferiority of people who are not white.