On April 30th, two Native American brothers, Mohawk, brothers attended a Colorado State University college campus tour. Because they were wearing heavy metal band t-shirts and kept to themselves, one of the woman in the tour group felt nervous and called 911. The boys were detained and missed the rest of the tour.
Deemed racial profiling, the incident has since received national attention.
The American Indian Graduate Center, the largest Native American scholarship provider in the nation with 50 years of service to Native scholars said in a press release that they are “saddened and disappointed by the recent Colorado State University incident and questioned, ‘Are schools doing all that is necessary to protect and affirm Native students, or are they merely accepting their tuition dollars?’”
Additionally, the Mohawk brothers, themselves in a heavy metal group called Snot Goblin, have gained mainstream attention for their musical tastes. People are expressing appreciation for their music videos as and the Heavy Metal Band Cattle Decapitation gave the brothers guest list access for life since one of them was wearing their t-shirt.
The initial story received went viral when the Associated Press’ Mary Hudetz first covered the story. According to Hudetz’ article, the brothers drove seven hours from New Mexico to the campus on April 30th. They got lost on the way and arrived 45 minutes late to the campus tour.
As the brothers told the Associated Press’ Mary Hudetz, they were quiet and kept to themselves, but a woman in the group called 911 and said the boys looked suspicious and said they were "definitely not" part of the tour. The brothers were detained, patted down, missed the rest of the tour and eventually drove home.
CSU Police Bodycam Footage
Heavy Metal To The Rescue
In addition to mainstream media attention, the news has reached other targeted-audience media outlets to include the Heavy Metal music site Metal Injection, who featured the young men’s story.
Because the two brothers were wearing t-shirts from metal bands Cattle Decapitation and Archspire, Cattle Decapitationposted the story on their Facebook page.
The band tagged the two brothers on the page, and offered them free guest list spots to their shows for life.
Thomas Gray has since commented on the post:
“Thank you everyone for the support. We love everyone. It's really hard to come up with a proper reaction to everyone's help. Its very overwhelming but nonetheless, I hope this teaches a lesson to everyone that is going through any sort of discrimination or racial acts. Keep yourself going. What happened was wrong in so many ways and we wish this on no one else.”
Snot Goblin Video
The School Apologizes - Posts the Police Body Cam Video and 911 Call Audio
The incident, largely criticized as racial profiling. Since that time, the Colorado State University President Tony Frank has since written a lengthy apology.
“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,” Frank wrote Friday. “The very idea that someone — anyone — might “look” like they don’t belong on a CSU Admissions tour is anathema. People of all races, gender, identities, orientations, cultures, religion, heritages, and appearances belong here.”
Anyone who is “uncomfortable with a diverse and inclusive academic environment” should find another campus “elsewhere,” Frank added.
Thomas Gray, a student at Northern New Mexico College, told the Associated Press, “I guess that was scaring people … that we were just quiet.”
The young men's’ mother, Lorraine Kahneratokwas Gray, said listening to her son recount the experience reminded her encounters with police that reach mainstream media. “I am lucky my sons are both still alive,” she said on Facebook.
In a Facebook message to Lorraine Gray, the tour guide said she did not believe the young men were suspicious and apologized for not realizing what had happened until after the incident had occurred.
Gray told The Washington Post -- who called the boys ‘shaggy-haired teens -- it was ridiculous that someone was suspicious of her sons because they were too quiet.
"They were trying to listen. Why should it be a crime to listen and not engage in a conversation?"
American Indian Graduate Center Responds
In a release, the American Indian Graduate Center says ‘they are deeply saddened” regarding the incident where the two young Native American brothers were stopped and questioned by university police while attending a campus tour, but offer their full support “to the young men and their mother and genuinely hope that they are receiving the appropriate remedy for their hardship.”
Their release fully states their commitment to students of color and 2 million in scholarships at CSU.
An incident such as this is not isolated. It is a direct reflection of the racism and discrimination experienced by Native American students and other students of color every day on campuses across the United States. Every day, our young Black and Brown scholars are questioned, doubted, and threatened simply for their racial and ethnic backgrounds. It is a frustrating reality that college campuses- where we send our children to live what are supposed to be the best years of their lives- are far from immune to the difficulties and trauma of racism.
As a resource for Native scholars, we want to communicate that Native students should not be subjected to higher scrutiny and suspicion for the simple act of existing. We want to challenge colleges across the country to consider how all of their policies affect students of color. Too often, racist views and actions- like the call that pointed out two innocent Native men on that campus tour- do not face repercussions and consequences while the affected parties must deal with the trauma and humiliation caused by such incidents. We hope that Colorado State University will take the lead in making sure that Native students are never again subjected to such a blatant disregard for their rights.
The American Indian Graduate Center takes seriously its role as a partner to Native students. We stand committed to pursuing equality in access and opportunity for our scholars across the nation. As we support our Native youth going into college, we hope that universities will work with us in ensuring the safety and well-being of our students. We have provided $2 million in scholarships for students at Colorado State University alone and this incident leads us to ask- are schools doing all that is necessary to protect and affirm Native students, or are they merely accepting their tuition dollars?
For more information on the American Indian Graduate Center visit https://www.aigcs.org
Follow Indian Country Today’s associate editor and senior correspondent, Vincent Schilling (Akwesasne Mohawk) on TwitterFollow @VinceSchilling