By Nashia Baker
Four years ago in her hometown of Memphis, Tennessee, University of Kansas law student Rhavean Anderson was stopped by police and racially profiled during a run. This is what it felt like.
It was about mid-day on Thanksgiving Eve of my freshman year, and as I got ready for my 7-mile run that my coach assigned for the holidays, I saw my mom cooking away to prep for Thanksgiving Day, and I knew I was finally home. It was the first time I’d been home since I joined the KU track team earlier that fall as a middle-distance runner, and it was a much needed break from school to visit my family in Memphis, where I was born and raised.
I let my mom know that I was headed towards the main street in town, stretched, popped my headphones in, and took off. I was about 2.5 miles into my run when I felt eyes stinging my back from a Memphis squad car, creeping up behind me. I didn’t pay it any mind until the police car sped past me and parked in the middle of my path ahead.
Two white police officers stepped out of the car, stopped me, and coldly asked, “Why are you out running?”
I looked at them, took my headphones out, and cautiously stated back, “I’m a track and field athlete. I’m out training.”
They continued by aggressively asking, “…You’re a college athlete? So where do you go?
I looked down at my outfit covered in crimson, blue, Adidas, and a large Jayhawk on my chest, and said back, “The University of Kansas…”
The questioning continued for about five minutes, but all I could think about was what I could be doing wrong. I was running in daylight, because everyone knows not to run in the dark in Memphis, and I was clearly jogging. But I didn’t want anything to escalate, so I kept answering to their satisfaction until they finally let me go.
As they drove off, I looked ahead, put my headphones back in, and got back to my run. When I got home and told my mom what happened, I could feel the anger welling up inside of me and I could see the confusion in her eyes.
Being a Jayhawk, a college student, an athlete, daughter, and more – those things won’t save me. But the color of my skin will not stop me.