A black visiting writer felt racially profiled after being pulled over by a campus police officer.
Stanley Banks, an assistant professor of English at Avila University, and his wife, Janet Banks, visited Emporia State for a poetry reading on April 10, 2014.
“We felt so uncomfortable knowing that if we had had any anger or outrage in our questions or being indignant in some kind way, we felt it would have escalated into something that it shouldn’t have been,” Stanley Banks said.
Stanley Banks pulled out of the orange parking lot and drove south on Market Street, a one way street that is meant to be only driven north on, then turned right onto 12th Street.
“We passed the officer and I looked to the side and he made a huge U-turn and I’m like ‘Wow, who is he going after?’” Stanley Banks said. “Then he came behind us, and I’m like “Are we being pulled over?’”
The officer approached the car with his flashlight. Stanley Banks asked if he was being pulled over for pulling the wrong way out of the parking lot.
“He didn’t say anything he just said, ‘Give me your license’ real kind of tense,” Stanley Banks said. “We were trying to crack some dry jokes, trying to say something funny, trying to find something just to lighten the mood, but he wasn’t having it.”
Stanley Banks said during the 15 minutes they waited for the officer to process his drivers license he and his wife were nervous about what was going on and what could be taking so long.
The officer returned and informed Stanley Banks that he was pulled over because of the right turn and let them go without a ticket.
“I drove off, and I kind of got angry,” Stanley Banks said. “I was like ‘that was ridiculous.’”
Stanley Banks said his emotions went from being happy that everything was okay to being angry about the situation. The drive to the hotel in the Banks’ car was silent.
After returning home Stanley Banks wrote a poem titled “Racial Profiling on a visit to Emporia.” The poem was published on Jan. 9, 2015 on Soundcloud by WORD on KCUR.
“You have to think about one false move from us could have caused something much deeper than it was” Janet Banks said.
The incident didn’t ruin their trip to ESU. Stanley Banks said he enjoyed talking to the faculty and the students.
“We want to continue having a vibrant diverse visiting writer series and there is some concern that this incident might create a potential setback for us,” said Kevin Rabas, associate professor of English, modern languages and journalism. “The incident might draw attention to the possible campus adaptive challenge, including race and inclusivity.”
Banks did not file a complaint against the officer that he felt profiled by because he said it was the last thing on his mind.
If he had, Chris Hoover, director of ESU police and safety, said they would have had to send the complaint to the attorney generals office for review.
“If the police stop you, be friendly do what they say, don’t talk back—that was drilled into my head by my grandmother who I was raised by,” Stanley Banks said.