Black parks and recs director stopped by police for reading book outside
Louizandre Dauphin of Bathurst, New Brunswick snapped a selfie of his arched eyebrow for Facebook with red and blue police lights flashing behind him. The former high school English teacher had pulled over by the water to read a book by C.S. Lewis. All he wanted was a nice quiet place to read his book. But he had been stopped by police.
The officer said that they had received several calls from concerned citizens who said that they saw a “suspicious person” on the wharf. He left his teaching job and now serves as the city’s director of parks, recreation and tourism, which might be why he sought out the city’s wharf as a place to read. But his appreciation of nature isn’t why he thinks people called to complain, The Province reports. He thinks it is because he’s black.
“Before any more Canadians get too comfortable on their high horses, let me share with you what happened to me about an hour ago,” he began his description of the event on Instagram with the hashtag #DangerousNegro. “This week has not been easy for me. Amidst a number of personal and professional struggles, my mind has been occupied with the latest string of black males killed by the police over the last few days. So, instead of stewing in my apartment, I decided to take a drive to the Stonehaven Wharf and sit by the water on this cold, rainy July day and try to pacify my mind by reading the works of Timothy Keller and C.S. Lewis.”
Dauphin said that he was sitting by the ocean for a couple of hours and decided to drive back home. He sees the police car speed past him and then another one come up behind him. His immediate concern was he might have been speeding and not noticed, but a spot check revealed he was fine and didn’t think anything of it. That’s when the lights came on.
He said that the officer was “kind and respectful,” given the circumstances. “He smiles and says that a few citizens in Janeville called the police because of a suspicious black man in a white car was parked at the Wharf for a couple hours. My response, ‘Really? I was just reading a book.’ He smiles, shrugs and replies, ‘Well, you know, it’s a small town.’ And proceeds to ask me for my license. He verifies my information and sends me on my way.”
“So, a black male, sitting in his car, reading a book is suspicious activity. Good to know,” Dauphin concluded. “At this rate, I may never leave my home again.”
This isn’t the first time, however, the CBC reports. About five years ago, he was stopped by police in his own neighborhood, just a few doors down from his house. The officer asked him what he was doing there and for his ID. When the officer returned Dauphin asked him if he’d done anything wrong. The officer said “no” and let him go.
“It was just another reminder that you can be a suspect in your neighbourhood,” Dauphin said.
“I wish I could say I was surprised, but I’m not,” Hamilton city councillor Matthew Green said.
“The narratives and stereotypes put out there by the media and elsewhere create an irrational fear of young black males,” Dauphin urged. He hopes people understand that these issues aren’t just American ones, but they are what black people face in many countries. “We can’t be so quick to point fingers or feel we’re more exceptional than our American counterparts,” he said.
The experience “is just a reminder that no matter where we go in this country, there can be profiling or suspicion. We can’t be so quick to think of ourselves as any better than any other place in the world,” he concluded.