Sheila Stubbs was canvassing a predominantly white neighborhood in her jurisdiction of Madison, Wisc., when the police showed up to question her. They asked how Stubbs knew what houses to approach, and for her materials, which she provided. Then police apologized, saying, “I’m sorry this happened to you.”
The 911 notes state the male caller thought Stubbs, her 71-year-old mother and 8-year-old daughter were “waiting for drugs at the local drug house”, and that he would “like them moved along.”
Stubbs said, in an interview, this week, that she had only knocked on five or six doors, and been in the state capitol’s neighborhood 20 minutes, before the incident in early August.
“It was just so degrading,” she said. “It was humiliating. It was insulting.”
“I belong where I choose to go,” Stubbs continued. “You don’t have to like me. You don’t even have to respect me. But I have a right to be places.”
The officer who apologized, Katherine Bland, recorded, in her report, an accurate description of the interaction with Stubbs, and ended it with a note that the two had exchanged numbers and discussed the need for improved race relations in the county. Stubbs said the interaction was positive, according to the Cap Times.
Janelle Bynum, a Black State Representative in Portland, Ore., had a similar experience while canvassing, though she was able to speak with the caller. But many #WhileBlack incidents do not end this way.
As #WhileBlack incidents reported continue to climb, 18 percent of people killed this year by police are Black (almost a third are people of color).
“When you specifically target people of color and call the police, sometimes, there’s different outcomes,” Stubbs said.
Last year, Madison’s police chief Mike Koval issued a “most-wanted list,” that listed mostly Black criminals, even though less than 8 percent of the population is Black. Koval reported most of the victims of crime were Black and this was an attempt to address the victims, but the community cautioned them not to turn the plan into racial profiling.
Stubbs’ district, the 77th, covers a full range of economic backgrounds, from the poorest neighborhoods — Allied Drive and Lake Point — to the wealthiest —Nakoma and Shorewood Hills. She has since won the election in Dane County and will run uncontested in November.
The only Black county board supervisor at the time of her canvassing, Stubbs will be the first Black elected in the state Legislature that represents the county in Wisconsin — which has the worst ranking in the country for racial equality.
The Center on Wisconsin Strategy compiled a report on diversity which showed the stark inequalities: Black unemployment rate is nearly three times higher than white unemployment, median income for a Black household is half of what a white household earns annually, and the rate of Black children living in poverty is four times that of white children.
Of the incident, Stubbs said she had to explain to her 8-year-old why the police stopped them. But she knows the city has a problem with racism. She told her daughter: “Mommy’s working hard to make this a better community.”
But, to the man who called the police that evening, she said: “Now, I am your representative.”
Join The Conversation below, or send us an email, tweet, Instagram, Facebook or LinkedIn reply and tell us: What is YOUR #WhileBlack story