Racial profiling and bias towards minority groups has plagued the fabric of our nation since its’ formation, but even centuries later, racist sentiment is alive and thriving in every aspect of our lives.
When two young Native American brothers embarked on a seven hour drive to attend a campus tour a at a university they both had their hearts set on, they thought they were one step closer to fulfill their lifelong dream, but one woman’s racist feelings would turn their dream into a living nightmare….
Music Is Their Passion
The two bothers, from the Mohawk Native American tribe, had lived most their lives in upstate New York, but had moved to Santa Cruz, New Mexico a decade earlier. Thomas, 19, a current student at the Norther New Mexico College, and his brother, Lloyd, 17, a senior in high school, had an impeccable bond since childhood. The brothers had always shared a common love for music, and eventually created their own heavy metal band.
Future In Music
The brothers spent most their free time studying contemporary and traditional music. They were both confident that their future careers would center around their love of music. Thomas and Lloyd had dreamt about studying music at Colorado University and were excited about its close proximity to the capital city, Denver, one of the hottest music scenes in the country, attracting music enthusiasts from all over the world.
A Chance To Follow Their Dreams
With Lloyd graduating high school in a few months, they both knew this would be the opportunity to follow their dreams. The brothers found out about a tour of the Colorado University campus, but they knew they would have to get their overprotective mother’s permission first. At first, their mother, Lorraine, insisted she was uncomfortable with the idea of them taking a long journey alone, but she it wouldn’t take long for her to change her mind…
A Journey Into A Sad Reality
When the brothers decided to save up their own money to pay for the trip and had registered in advance, Lorraine knew she could not dismiss their efforts. The brothers were over the moon with their mother’s sudden change of heart, and prepared to embark on a journey they visioned as their life calling. But, what started out as hopefulness would turn into sheer doom…
Not A Good Start
Excited, they got into their minivan, left Santa Cruz and headed straight towards their dream in Fort Collins, Colorado. But the brothers did not receive the warm welcome they were expecting. The brothers’ time in Fort Collins got off to a bad start. They got lost in the new city, eventually arriving 30 minutes late to a scheduled campus tour for prospective students Monday.
Continue The Tour
But, once at the school, an employee told the brothers to join the rest of the group. Since they arrived late, they hadn’t been a part of an initial group introduction. But the older teen still introduced himself and his brother to the guide during a stop in the library. But, someone else in the group would not be so welcoming to the pair….
They Stood Out
When a parent of a student noticed the brothers abruptly join the tour, she had become suspicious. Right away, the woman judged the boys’ appearances, disgusted by their shaggy hair and the way they were dressed. These boys looked different. They did not look like the rest of the potential students in the tour, who were majority white. These boys looked like they were up to no good. Did they do anything wrong? Did they pose a threat? No, they were simply not the cookie cutter image she had been used to…
Phone Call To Police
The woman became increasingly nervous from their presence. She stepped away from the rest of the group, and decided to call the police. They did nothing out of the ordinary nor did they pose a threat to anyone in the group. They are simply quiet and listening to the guide talk about the school of their dreams. Her suspicions were only aroused by their quiet demeanor and peculiar looks. Nothing else. According to the recording, the woman told a dispatcher that the teens arrived late in the tour and wouldn’t respond to questions about their names or what they wanted to study at the school….
They Are Strangers Brewing Up An Attack
“They are not, definitely not, a part of the tour,” said the woman, identified in a police report as a 45-year-old white woman from Colorado. “And their behavior is just really odd. And I’ve never called, ever, about anybody. But they joined our tour. They won’t give their names. And when I ask them what they were wanting to study, like everything they were saying, they were lying the whole time.” But, the boys insisted they were simply trying to listen and make up for lost time….
The woman also repeatedly told the dispatcher that her concern could be “completely paranoid” and apologized “if it’s nothing.” Other than saying the teens were wearing all black clothing with “dark stuff on it,” the caller did not physically describe them until questioned by the dispatcher. She said they were not white and looked Mexican. She also described their clothing as having a “weird symbolism or wording on it.”
Far From The Truth
But, the symbols would be far from anything violent or threatening. One of the brothers was wearing a T-shirt for a death metal band called Cattle Decapitation, a group that is staunchly against animal cruelty, a common Native American belief of Lloyds’. And when the boys seemed reluctant to be so forthcoming with the random woman in their group, they insist it is only because they are both extremely shy. But, when did it become a crime to be shy?
A Shocking Turn Of Events
Shortly after the phone call, in the midst of the tour, the boys were approach by campus police. Confused and utterly humiliated, the boys had no clue why they were told to leave the tour for questioning. Body camera footage from the incident shows an officer talking with the brothers by a stairwell in the school, asking questions about their visit..
The Arrival Of Police
The campus officers who arrived patted the brothers down. They immediately checked their pockets and explained that someone on the tour had called after the pair arrived late and did not respond to questions. Bewildered at the shocking turn of events, the brothers obliged, but they realized at that moment, they had become victims of racial bias…
They Still Wanted To Finish Tour
Police asked to see their IDs. Only one of the teens had his handy, and he showed it to an officer. The pair offered to show a confirmation email from CSU, and police waited while one of the teens’ produced the email. At this point, the tour had continued on without them, they wanted it all to be over with, and even with the woman’s accusations causing embarrassment, they were still looking forward to joining them again…
Blamed For The Incident
After using the CSU email to prove they were registered to be a part of the tour, the students were then blamed for the incident. The police officer told them that their “shy” personalities had aroused suspicion and insisted they should have been more forthcoming. “Sorry to take you away from the group,” one officer said. “Have a good rest of your day.” But, the rest of their day would turn out to be worse…
Nothing Could Be Done
The interaction lasted less than five minutes. The teens were not cited for any type of violation or detained further. When the brothers attempted to rejoin the tour, by then their guide, apparently unaware that the police had been summoned, had moved on. The teenagers returned to the admissions office and were told that nothing could be done to complete their tour. Frustrated and humiliated, they embarked on the long trip home to Santa Cruz.
Something Had Gone Wrong
When the boys returned home, their mother Lorraine, was perplexed at why they had come back much sooner than expected. As a mother, she knew something had gone wrong, really wrong. She could see in her sons’ face the utter disappointment and sadness. When Lorraine pressed them for answers, the details of the incident would break her heart. She realized that her boys had just become victims of racial profiling. She immediately contacted CSU, but the irreparable damage had already been done….
The school quickly apologized to the Gray family and issued a letter to the student body. The president, Dr. Frank said the school was trying to reach the brothers to reimburse them and offer to bring them back as V.I.P. guests. He also suggested that the school also needed to undertake broader changes aimed at inclusivity. This had not been the only incident…
This year, Colorado State University has reported finding multiple examples of racist graffiti and signs or fliers linked to extremist hate groups around campus. Last summer, a paper noose was found hanging in a residence hall. What the brothers experienced is not uncommon for many minorities, who report finding their very presence in some situations wrongly interpreted as a threat.
Will The Brothers Still Attend CSU?
The family has not decided whether to take the university up on its offer of a return trip and the brothers still have not decided whether to apply to Colorado State. “My main choice was Denver because of the music culture there,” Thomas said, adding that he hopes to get a doctorate in music to start his own school and become a music therapist. Lloyd, he said, plans to be a visual arts major. “I don’t want to let one person’s selfish or jerky ways get in my way for what I want to do with my life,” Lloyd said.