At first, Pamela Jenkins, Delaware State University Women’s lacrosse head coach, did not worry when Georgia sheriff’s deputies ran into her team’s bus.
His team, about 70 percent black and representing a historically black college with its roots in the 1890s, enjoyed traveling home after playing a tournament in Florida. They were doing nothing wrong. The team’s hired bus was not accelerating as it was traveling north on Interstate 95. It made sense when he heard the deputy tell the driver that he had a bus in the left lane and should have been on the right.
But it was not long before the mood changed in a way that seemed very familiar to me – a mood I can relate to as an African-American who once played college sports and played the same interstate in Georgia while competing in low-level professional tennis.
Suddenly Jenkins’s team was accused of possessing drugs on board. More deputies came. The addicted dog turned around. Jenkins, who is black, shared the athletes’s feelings: shock, fear, anger and frustration.
The video, which contradicted the sheriff’s report on the stop, shows a group of white lawmakers dragging luggage. One of them picked up the package and asked who it was. When the player replied that it was hers and did not know what was inside because it was a family gift, the MP met him with suspicion. Jenkins said the MP found nothing more than a jewelry box inside.
“I’m sitting there trying to stay calm, but at the moment, I’m very excited, scared and frustrated by what ‘s happening to us,” Jenkins said in a telephone interview about the April 20 incident. Sunday.
“Unfortunately,” he said, “these situations can get worse.” And then the worst can happen. So he set an example and kept the stress secret. His athletes followed.
Deputies could not find the drugs. The driver – who, not surprisingly, was black – did not receive a traffic quote. The officer came on board and said the team could go.
Think about what they went through.
Think of all the black athletes who cross America for competition, from youth basketball and soccer teams to college players. Some travel alone. With some teams. Some in small groups. If you think the fear of similar meetings is not a mix, think again.
I have my own stories. If you’ve been reading my columns for a while, you may know that I was once a serious tennis player, one of the few black national juniors in the 1980s – a starter on the top team at the University of California, Berkeley. . After college, I played a few years in small leagues of professional tennis, traveling to all parts of America and to good parts of the world.
Police named me after playing in one of the tournaments in the early 1990s when me and another black player reached the doubles final at a white club in Birmingham, Alla. To say we were an amazing sight. The members of the club – and the completely black field crew who cheered us on at every game – would be the mother of all insults. We lost, but we were happy. We made a statement based on what we did.
But when we get to our event after our rental car, which is scheduled for August, Ga. I remember his wide-brimmed hat and his invasive reading. What were we doing in this car? Where were we going? The next thing I knew, he was looking at our bags.
Why were we taken out and searched? My partner drove well within the traffic flow. We were just two young black boys on a shiny rent. Did not help us when the patrol asked us for identification and saw that we were from California.
Three decades have passed, so I do not remember all the details of what happened next, but somehow, the MP took my partner to a local, small town police station. About an hour later my partner walked out. As I recall, it did not take as much as a ticket. He was harmless, but he was shaken. I drove the rest of the way.
This was not the only time I was profiled during my short tenure in the profile tennis basement. The worst case scenario occurred in Europe in 1992, when I traveled from Paris to London after a game in France. At London Heathrow Airport, customs officers pulled me off the line and started asking me the hint questions.
I was severely and accusingly asked why I was playing tennis in Europe. Prove it, they said.
I stood helpless next to them as they looked after my tennis bags. They found clothes, a racket, and my magazine, which they read with a seemingly voyeuristic interest. Then they took me to a windowless room and left me without telling me when to return. I was not alone in that room. I was with about a dozen black travelers from African countries.
I sat for an hour, then two, then three. After eight hours of detention, the guard came in and let me go. He never apologized.
There is an invisible burden that blacks carry after such meetings. This is a garment. You are reading to yourself. “What happened? Did I do something wrong? ”You are struggling to understand what has just happened. “That officer, the security guard at the mall, was that customs agent really doing his job?” What if I was treated like that because of my skin color? ”
Uncertainty is your own terror.
We are left with doubt, anger and tears. We are well aware of the deep stuffing of emotions and moving forward. Or just try. .
And now, through no fault of their own, young Delaware State lacrosse players must cope with such pain.
After stopping, Jenkins said the journey home was unusually quiet and even dark. Shock does that.
The full force of the incident did not occur for days until the player wrote a story about it in the campus newspaper and information about the incident was spread.
“It was a re-trauma, a recurrence of everything,” Jenkins said. “And that’s when we realized, ‘Wow, that was really bad.’