Update: After thinking about it, I realized that I couldn’t just let this slide by. I was an employee comfortable enough in my knowledge that I belonged where I was, and so was able to calmly provide what was requested. But the thought came to me that I could have been any Black student there on a day close to finals, tired and stressed because it’s the end of the semester. I’ve shared the event with people at work and have been gratified by the response from my bosses and other agencies on campus.
I wore a hoodie today. I don’t often wear one to work. I’ve got a stock of sweaters that make me look like a teacher. Meaning they’ve got leather patches on the elbows. But today, because it’s snowing, we live in a world where Sam Wilson is Captain America and I’ve got a super dope hoodie created by a black woman writer (shoutouts to Stephanie Williams and “But What If, though”), I wore a hoodie to work today. I also had my wallet on me. I don’t always. I frequently forget it in the glove compartment of my car. I’ll pull it out of the glove compartment and put it in the drink holder so that, if I were to get pulled over, the cop doesn’t see me reaching for something. I like to have it in plain sight. But, my point is, I often forget my wallet in my car. This will become relevant.
But today, I had to go to the bank. There’s one on campus, which is convenient, and so I walked down there in my “I’m the Captain Now” hoodie, listening to Black Leopard, Red Wolf as I strolled. My transaction with the cashier was pleasant. She remembered me from a previous interaction. I did my business, and headed back to my office. I walked through the library on campus. In another building, I waited for the elevator. Got to my floor, and started toward my destination. Now, I’m listening to an audiobook, but it’s not super loud, so, I think I hear somebody behind me, but I don’t turn to check because I’m on a college campus and there’s people talking and the book is good, so I just keep walking.
But then I hear the voice grow more insistent. I turn, and a cop is flagging me down. I’m immediately nervous, but I’m in public, on a college campus where I work, so I’m cool. Scared, but not freaking out.
He asks me, “Are you a student here.”
I reply, “No, I work here.”
He asks if I have ID. Now, as I said before, it’s a fair chance I wouldn’t. There’s a good chance on any given day that my ID is going to be in my car. But, luckily, I had business at the bank. I pull out my wallet and happily hand him the ID that signifies that I’m staff. He looks it over. Glances at the picture, looks at me, looks at the picture.
He asks, “Do you have a drivers license.”
I do. I give him that.
He takes it from me and calls in my name and birthday to dispatch. I haven’t been told why I’ve been stopped, and at this point I’m nervous enough and don’t want to rock the boat enough that I don’t ask.
While he’s waiting on whatever info he’s waiting on, he asks, “Have you seen anybody walking around?”
I’m on my way to my office, in an area I’m not always around, and it’s a college campus, so I’m not sure what info the cop is looking for, so I say, “No.”
And he then he says somebody in dark clothes, a hoodie, tall, might have a backpack. The cop is describing any number of students. I say, “No.”
“You sure?” he asks.
“Yes, I’m sure.”
At this point a faculty member that recognizes me, and comes over and vouches for me. The cop hands over both my IDs. Myself, the faculty member, and the cop start walking the way I was going.
The cop continues on his merry way. The faculty member tells me that a tall, thin, black man with thick locks, and a hoodie has been squatting around campus. Apparently going through fridges and maybe sleeping on campus has been a cause for concern. So the faculty member called the public safety office. Public safety sent somebody over. The cop found me.
I’m not sure why my staff ID wasn’t sufficient. Or why the cop needed two forms of ID. I’m not sure why they needed to call down to dispatch to check on my name and DOB after I’d provided an explanation for my presence and proof of employment. I know that I’ve been working here for 6 or 7 years now, and aside from the time Trump came to campus, I’ve never felt more out of place. I’m glad I had my ID, although with how the cop responded after I provided them, I’m not sure what the purpose was. Or what would have happened if I didn’t have them.
I thought about filing a complaint, but I really don’t want to become a target. I’ll probably tell my boss, but I’m afraid of hearing something along the lines of, “They were just doing due diligence.” or “Making sure to check everybody!” Basically afraid of hearing somebody okay the fact that I was profiled.