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2018-05-10 / Voices

Overreacting To Diversity


If you’re wondering just how far – and fast - the U.S. is sliding down that slippery slope back to the days of “No Blacks” and “No Indians” signage, you need only look at the most recent incident of paranoid, racist white people.

I’m referring, of course, to the case of two Native American teens who traveled from their New Mexico home to Fort Collins to visit Colorado State University.

Observed by a white woman while on a tour of the campus who considered their behavior “really odd”, felt “they’re definitely not part of the tour”, “they really stand out” and “they’re just creepy kids,” while their very presence “actually made me feel sick”, the pair soon found themselves confronted by university police.

Read the CNN report on this part of the incident and you’ll find the whitewashed version: “Officers responded and pulled the young men aside while the tour continued without them. When the police confirmed the brothers were part of the tour, they let them rejoin the group.”

Read coverage in The Guardian, a British Daily newspaper, and you find: “Video released by police showed the officers pulling them aside and asking them what was in their pockets while commanding them to keep their “hands out”.

Yeah – sad but true. Slight, but very telling differences in coverage. That’s why I frequently go to foreign media sources that don’t rely on U.S. corporations for their paycheck in order to get accurate coverage of controversial incidents like this.

Of course, the university apologized and life went on as before, nice and “normal” – except for those teens and their mother, who realized the situation could have turned out much differently considering the number of incidents where people of color have ended up injured or dead after being stopped by police for minimal infractions of the law, if any.

When combined with the flurry of similar events across the country: from black men arrested while waiting for a friend in a Philadelphia Starbucks, to a former White House staffer of color who found himself facing police responding to an “active burglary” call while moving into his New York City apartment, concern over where, when and how you may be confronted by police simply because your skin is a darker hue than those of “the Dominant Race” is growing.

But through it all the individuals who created the mayhem - in Fort Collins for these young Indigenous men or for the various black men across the country – get to walk away without shouldering any responsibility for their hysterics.

Yet, there is an avenue for recourse.

As I read about the Colorado State University incident and the needless 911 call to campus police, I was reminded of firm instructions given to me as a child in Brooklyn by my father – a seasoned member of the NYPD: “Don’t ever pull a false (fire) alarm. You put people’s lives at risk – the firemen who respond, the police who respond and anyone in their path.”

And there was a significant fine for anyone caught calling in a false fire alarm or pulling the handle on the corner fire box unnecessarily (yes, I’m that old).

So, here’s my thought – with the Colorado State University incident as an example, but with a response that can be used across the country for whitepeople who have a “kneejerk call-the-cops” reaction whenever they see someone of color.

Examine the Ft. Collins “Common Party Violations & Complaints” codes and you’ll find several that can be applied to the woman who made the unnecessary 911 call, including: Disturbing the Peace - $200 - No person shall disturb or aid in disturbing the peace of others by…offensive, disorderly conduct; Disorderly Conduct - $500 - any person knowingly or recklessly making a coarse and obviously offensive utterance, gesture or display in a public place; Harassment - $500; Interference with Public Officers - $500 - No person shall knowingly impair or hinder any police officer and False Reporting to Authorities - $750/6 months jail.

I’m sure that most cities across the country have similar codes or statutes that would apply in such circumstances.

The bottom line question is: Does anyone have the right to falsely accuse anyone else of being a threat to them, their group, or their community simply because the accusing individual feels that the accused is “odd”, creepy” or “really stands out”.

This country was founded not just with a sense of freedoms and rights, but with a sense of diversity.

If you don’t like it, go live in a mirror.

Jim Kent is a freelance writer and radio producer who lives in Hot Springs. He is a contributing columnist to the Lakota Country Times and former editor of The New Lakota Times. He can be heard on National Public Radio and National Native News Radio. Jim can be reached at

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