As It Happens

Mohawk mother angry her teenage sons were 'racially profiled' during campus tour

Lorraine Gray's teenage sons drove from New Mexico to Colorado to tour their "dream school," only to have another parent on the tour call police because the boys were "quiet" and made her "feel sick."

A parent on the tour called 911 because the boys were 'quiet' and made her 'feel sick'

Kanewakeron Thomas Gray and Skanahwati Lloyd Gray were on a campus tour when someone called 911 to report them as a threat. (Lorraine Kahneratokwas Gray)

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Two Native American Mohawk teens were unable to finish a campus tour of Colorado State University after the mother of another potential student called 911 about them.

"They just really stand out," the mother said in her call to police.

"I'm saddened and angry about how some other parent could judge someone's child in that horrible way," Lorraine Kahneratokwas Gray told As it Happens host Carol Off. 

Her sons, Kanewakeron Thomas Gray, 19, and Skanahwati Lloyd Gray, 17, had driven from Santa Cruz, N.M., to the university to get a sense of the school.

Both musicians, the Gray brothers had chosen Colorado State because of Denver's heavy metal music scene and the school's music program.

"When they texted me from the campus and said 'We're here' and they sent me a picture of them on the tour, I breathed a sigh of relief. I said 'Oh good, now they're safe.'" 

Twenty minutes later, she received a call from Kanewakeron saying that someone called the police on him and his brother because they were "quiet."

"But I knew in my heart immediately what it was really about and why that person really called the police, and I feared for their safety," said Gray.

'Racially profiled'

At one point during the 911 call the operator asks the concerned mother if the boys are white males.

She responds, "I think they're Hispanic? One of them for sure. He said he's from Mexico." 

"There's the proof that she definitely was racially profiling them. She knew they were not white and that made her nervous," said Gray. "But she judged them on so many other levels besides race. By the way they were dressed, they were wearing [heavy metal] band shirts, so she was basically judging them on the music they enjoy."

In a statement released late last week, university president Tony Frank wrote that "the very idea that someone — anyone — might 'look' like they don't belong on a CSU admissions tour is anathema."

"There is no place for hate at Colorado State University, and we will not be silent when we see it."

Despite the statement, the Grays are unsure if Colorado State is the right fit for them after all.  

Proud mom

Along with the statement, Colorado State released body camera footage of the Gray teens' interaction with police.

Lorraine Kahneratokwas Gray with her son Skanahwati. (Submitted by Lorraine Kahneratokwas Gray)

Their mother has received lots of comments about how composed her sons appear in the video.

"As a Native mother I've been training my boys … about those things. It's sad in this day and age that you have to teach your young sons to be afraid of law enforcement," said Gray. 

"I never believed it would come to the time when they would be tested on it, and they passed with flying colours, and the world has seen it.… I am very proud."

Fellow metalheads offer support

As the Grays' story spread online, the heavy metal music community has come out strongly in support of the teens.

The San Diego-based death metal band Cattle Decapitation — the band that was featured on Kanewakeron's T-shirt on the day of the tour — offered the two young metalheads "free guest list spots to our shows for life."

On social media, some called for the community to purchase the Gray brothers' band Snot Goblin's music on their Bandcamp page.

At time of publication, their EP The Path Of The Shrunken Heads is currently the top selling collection on the platform.

A screenshot of the Bandcamp homepage shows Snot Goblin's debut EP as the top-selling item in any format on the site. (Bandcamp)

Written by Mac Cameron. Interview produced by Jeanne Armstrong.