Let me put this into perspective: There is a full-time student who is a Community Advisor, works at the library, is a member of the executive board for two large organizations, a Kenyon Review Associate and a first-generation college student. This student, who is a black woman, a functioning member in her school’s social scene, a friend and whatever other identities she finds herself forgetting she has, has to worry about the Knox County Sheriff Deputy harassing students of color at his own discretion. Any time she sees the Deputy’s vehicle, she’s moments away from a panic attack, and he’s on her campus every day and night. She feels like she can’t breathe, and there are always tears waiting to be shed. She’s wary of being alone because of him, she doesn’t like driving her car because of him, and she feels like nothing. That student is me.
When there is a problem that is negatively affecting your physical safety and causing your health to decline, and the only thing you can do is keep talking about it, you feel powerless. These are the reminders that some will never view you as a human, will never see you as an equal and will never view you as someone that matters.
On this beloved Hill, I’ve been racially profiled, stopped twice by Deputy Kevin Williams, forced to give a statement to Deputy Kevin Williams and ticketed by Deputy Kevin Williams. I’ve been thoroughly terrified by Deputy Kevin Williams. I don’t feel safe on my campus. On this beloved Hill, I don’t feel like me. I don’t feel human. I feel less-than, invisible, miserable, tired. Yet I still have to function as a student, pretending as if my mental health isn’t in shambles because this man, who is aware that racist institutions will protect him, continues to harass me and students of my complexion.
I am tired of apologies. I am tired of justifications for Deputy Kevin William’s behavior. I am tired of being told that him stopping me has nothing to do with the race. We were not intimidated because of his size; my father is a 6-foot-2-inch, 250-pound black man, a similar build to Deputy Williams. Students of color are not afraid of any officer because of their appearance. We are afraid because they can target us, harass us and stop us without any repercussions. I am tired of being told ‘be careful’ or ‘don’t give him an excuse to speak to you’ because I was careful, I was cautious of my actions, but none of that mattered. Deputy Kevin Williams still stops me simply for existing, still stops students of color on this campus for no reason at all.
There are no words of solace to offer someone who feels helpless. It’s funny that at Kenyon we often discuss agency, but rarely acknowledge those on the Hill who struggle with exercising their agency because they feel as if their lives don’t belong to them or don’t matter.
I wrote this because I am tired of people writing it for me. I am grateful that people want to share my story and direct attention to it, but now I think it is time that students of color, especially black students, should write the stories that others read about us.
This letter was edited for length and clarity.