Native American Brothers Pulled From Campus Tour After ‘Nervous’ Mother Calls Police

Native American Brothers Pulled From Campus Tour After ‘Nervous’ Mother Calls Police

A pair of Native American brothers who had traveled seven hours to tour Colorado State University this week had their visit cut short after a parent on their tour reported them to the campus police.

The parent, a mother, became suspicious after they joined the tour in progress, telling a 911 dispatcher that their behavior and clothing stood out, according to audio from the call.

Body camera footage shows two police officers pulling the brothers aside as they descended a set of stairs. There, the officers briefly questioned the brothers, Thomas Kanewakeron Gray, 19, and Lloyd Skanahwati Gray, 17. The officers soon let the pair rejoin the tour, but by then their guide — apparently unaware that the police had been summoned — had moved on, the university said in a statement.

The teenagers returned to the admissions office and were told that nothing could be done to complete their tour, they said. Frustrated, they embarked on the long trip home to Santa Cruz, N.M.

“We drove seven hours to pretty much get the cops called on us,” Thomas said in an interview on Friday.

In a statement earlier in the week, the university expressed regret over the episode, calling it “sad and frustrating from nearly every angle.” On Friday, it released the 911 audio, body camera footage and a lengthy statement from Dr. Tony Frank, the university’s president.

“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,” he said. “The very idea that someone — anyone — might ‘look’ like they don’t belong on a C.S.U. admissions tour is anathema.”

In the statement, Dr. Frank wrote of his own privilege as “a white man in a position of authority” and spoke of a “battle with hate within our communities,” referring to several recent episodes at the university, in Fort Collins, Colo.

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.

In the statement, 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. The school also needed to undertake broader changes aimed at inclusivity, he said.

What the Gray brothers experienced is not uncommon for many minorities, who report finding their very presence in some situations wrongly interpreted as a threat. Last month, two black men were arrested while waiting for a meeting in a Philadelphia Starbucks, sparking widespread criticism of the coffee chain and the city police.

During the 911 call on Monday, the woman who called said the brothers were “definitely not” a part of the tour, describing their behavior as “odd” and their clothing as bearing “dark stuff.” She accused them of lying by not giving their names or honestly answering when she asked what they wanted to study.

Later, she appeared to express some doubt, saying that “it’s probably nothing” and that she felt “ridiculous.” But she could not shake her suspicion, she said.

“If it’s nothing, I’m sorry, but it actually made me like feel sick and I’ve never felt like that,” she said.

The shirt Thomas was wearing on the tour had an image for Cattle Decapitation, a death metal band that opposes animal cruelty, he said. Lloyd’s shirt featured the symbol of another death metal band, Archspire.

The brothers, who belong to the Mohawk tribe, moved to New Mexico from New York about a decade ago and were excited to check out the school because of its proximity to that state’s capital city, Thomas said.

“My main choice was Denver because of the music culture there,” he 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.

The family has not decided whether to take the university up on its offer of a return trip and he has not decided whether to apply to Colorado State, Thomas said.

“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,” he said.

On Friday, the brothers’ mother, Lorraine Kahneratokwas Gray, described her reaction to what had happened when they called her from campus.

“My immediate thought was they’re being profiled because they’re different,” she said on “Native America Calling,” a live call-in show. “They’re not safe there.”

Even before the trip began, Ms. Gray was nervous, as it was the farthest her sons had traveled alone. She said, however, that she was relieved once they sent her a photo of themselves on the tour.

“My thinking was, ‘Boy, now they’re safe,’” she said. “And boy, was I wrong about that.”

Follow Niraj Chokshi on Twitter: @NirajC.


ADVERTISEMENT


Source link : https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/05/us/native-american-brothers-colorado.html
Author :
Publish date : 2018-05-05 12:25:46
share on: