Georgia Cops Give Jim Crow Welcome To Black Women’s Lacrosse Team From Delaware
Last month, after playing three games in Florida, the Delaware State University women’s lacrosse team was heading home through Georgia when police pulled over its bus. Liberty County sheriff’s deputies claimed the driver, who’s Black, had made a traffic violation, and told the women their luggage would be searched for narcotics, such as marijuana, heroin, methane, and ketamine.
Delaware State University is a historically Black school, and the players were also Black. Prior to the questionable search, a deputy informed them that recreational marijuana use is illegal in Georgia. That’s almost polite racial profiling.
“If there is something in there that is questionable, please tell me now,” the officer said in a video recorded by team member Sydney Anderson. “Because if we find it, guess what? We’re not going to be able to help you.”
Cops still say this shit, like they’re on “Law & Order." Look, no one with a brain, especially if you’re Black, should believe cops have any interest in helping you.
The officers said they’d rifle through the women’s belongings in search of "anything that you could put marijuana in,” such as smoking “devices” or scales for measuring portions like they’re all dealers. That seems perhaps deliberately vague, as you could put marijuana inside anything. It’s an adaptable drug.
The search lasted 20 minutes and involved a drug-sniffing dog. I’m not crazy about dogs in general, but narc dogs are probably my least favorite. Anderson later wrote in the campus publication, The Hornet Newspaper, "Everyone was confused as to why they were looking through the luggage, when there was no probable cause. The team members were in shock, as they witnessed the officers rambling through their bags. They brought the K-9 dog out to sniff their luggage. The cops began tossing underwear and other feminine products, in an attempt to locate narcotics.”
Two officers soon became six. Despite not immediately finding anything, they remained undaunted in their search. The cops explained to the horrified students that this was necessary — not just to stop the scourge of demon weed but to prevent child trafficking. Meanwhile, these are grown men abusing women barely out of their teens.
Pamella Jenkins, the school's head women’s lacrosse coach, said, “When I saw the police come on the bus and then accuse us of having narcotics, I was reminded that living as black women in America, you are scrutinized when just trying to live. Unfortunately this is our reality daily and when they go low we must go high. I’m proud of how our team stayed calm and especially proud of Mica Lambert for asking the officer a thought-provoking question. It’s been a stressful few days, but our team handled that tense situation with the utmost class and respect.”
The experience was especially traumatic for student Saniya Craft, who’s related to Elijah McClain, the young man Colorado cops killed in 2019.
"After seeing the police brutally murder my relative, I was petrified for what would happen to my teammates and I. As women of color, we are constantly facing adversity and this was an incident we had to overcome together.”
Liberty County Sheriff William Bowman insisted this week that the search wasn’t racially motivated. Apparently, Bowman’s deputies frequently stop commercial vehicles for minor traffic violations. Sometimes they even hit pay dirt and find drugs! The rest of the time, they're just violating people’s civil liberties, we guess. The bus driver in this incident was allegedly driving in the left lane, which is illegal in Georgia. There’s no direct line, though, from someone not paying attention to a state’s specific traffic laws and stocking the bus with weed and stolen babies. Bowman also said the officers didn’t know the passengers on the bus were Black. Bowman’s saying a lot of things he expects us to believe.
“At the time, or even the weeks following, we were not aware that this stop was received as a racial profiling,” Bowman said. “Although I do not believe any racial profiling took place based on the information I currently have, I welcome feedback from our community on ways that our law enforcement practices can be improved while still maintaining the law.”
Delaware State University President Tony Allen said in a statement Monday that he’s “incensed” over what the women experienced, and he’s investigating further with the university’s general counsel and athletic director. In a separate statement, Delaware’s Democratic senators Tom Carper and Chris Coons also released a statement calling the images and video of the stop “deeply disturbing.” They offered Allen their offices’ help and said they “strongly support” his decision to “go wherever the evidence leads."
Nothing illegal was found on the bus, by the way, but that’s really not the point. This needs to stop.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. Once, he wrote a novel called “Mahogany Slade,” which you should read or at least buy. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."