Racism blamed for brothers' treatment on US campus

DENVER (United States) • Two Native American brothers had saved up their money and pointed the family van north, driving seven hours from Santa Cruz, New Mexico, to Fort Collins, Colorado.

Thomas Kanewakeron Gray, 19, and his brother Lloyd Skanahwati Gray, 17, Native Americans from the Mohawk tribe, were heading to check out the campus of Colorado State University (CSU). CSU was their dream school, their mother would later say.

But the brothers did not receive the warm welcome they were expecting. "It is one of their first experiences out in the real world and they run into this cruel world," their mother, Ms Lorraine Kahneratokwas Gray, told the Denver Post this week. "That's why we have to speak out. My sons need to find the courage to speak out."

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 on Monday. Then as the group was moving through the campus gymnasium, campus police officers approached the pair of shaggy-haired teenagers, demanding to know what they were doing on campus, the Associated Press (AP) reported.

The brothers had reportedly unnerved another parent on the tour. The parent called the police to report the suspicious pair.

"Apparently, a parent on the tour called police because they were too quiet. That made them suspicious," their mother told the Denver Post.

"They were trying to listen. Why should it be a crime to listen and not engage in a conversation?"

The campus officers who arrived patted the brothers down. They were released only after showing an e-mail demonstrating they had signed up for the tour. But the campus group had already moved on.

The Gray brothers never finished the tour. Instead, they jumped back in their van and headed home.

The school quickly apologised to the Gray family and issued a letter to the student body.

"This incident is sad and frustrating from nearly every angle, particularly the experience of two students who were here to see if this was a good fit for them as an institution," the school wrote.

The Gray brothers feel their run-in at CSU fits a pattern of racial profiling in the United States.

"I think it's pretty discriminatory," Thomas, a student at Northern New Mexico College who had been thinking about transferring to CSU, told AP. "Me and my brother just stayed to ourselves the whole time. I guess that was scaring people - that we were just quiet."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 06, 2018, with the headline 'Racism blamed for brothers' treatment on US campus'. Print Edition | Subscribe