Just like thousands and thousands of volunteers for the Beto O’Rourke campaign around TX, on election day I was out in my area, knocking on doors to Get-Out-The-Vote. My walking buddy got tired when we had only a couple more houses to go, down the next street, so she went to fetch the car as I went on to finish my list.
As I made my way down the road, toward the two houses at the end of the street, a man stops me and asks, in a menacing tone: “what are you doing here?” In my surprise, I didn’t answer immediately, trying to make sense of the question.
He repeated, louder “what are you doing here?” “I’m a volunteer with the Beto campaign sir, we are making sure that everyone goes out to vote.”, I said.
To that, he said: “I don’t believe you, I think you are here to rob houses!”
“No sir, I’m not, I’m here to talk to people about voting.” – I replied.
“I don’t believe you. I think you are here to see if the houses are empty and rob them. Prove it, show me your documents.” – he said again.
Then I tried to contain my outrage and reason with him “I’m a volunteer, I don’t need to show you a document to be allowed to walk on a public street. But I can show you our canvassing app.” Then I showed him the screen on my phone with the addresses and names on his street, then I clicked on the house number his car was parked in front off and asked “Here, this is your house, see? This is your voter information.” Still, he kept at it. “I don’t believe you; you are here to rob our houses; we had break-ins, and you are one of them; show me your documents, documents; documents;” I finally told him that if he believed I was a robber, then he should call the police, but I was done talking to him, and I was going to finish my list. I kept walking, and he followed me, still yelling.
That’s when the woman that went to get her car showed up, but briefly. As she arrived, I told her to get her phone out and start “filming the man who was calling the police just because I would not show him my documents.” (I admit I stubbornly wanted to finish the door knocking list on my phone’s canvassing app, and that’s why I asked her to use her phone). To my surprise, she yelled at me to get in the car, and before I could explain what was happening, the man turned to her, and she backed up her car, disappearing down the street like a thunderbolt.
“Great!” I thought to myself, “now he thinks my accomplice bolted away, afraid of the police!” I had to keep going. I rang the door of the next house and waited, the man kept talking. No answer on the door, I move to the next, he follows me: “why are you here in the middle of the day? Nobody is home, I want to see your documents.” I keep walking and reply: “It’s Election Day sir!” as I get to the last house, and ring the door. He is now back sitting in his car. I hear a car horn in the distance, and it’s my fleeting block-walking partner, she came back to pick me up, stayed down the block. I marked the last house in the app as ‘not home’ – list finished! – so I started recording as I walked to her car far down the street (link to the video on YouTube) – she was so scared she would not come anywhere near where he was.
After we got back, I contacted the police, and an officer came to file a report. At this point, I was told that there is nothing to be done. The Deputy said to me that Tim Williams, the man who stopped me in the middle of a public street to accuse me of being a robber, demanded to see my ‘documents,’ kept following and yelling at me for documents, did nothing against the law. According to the Deputy, these actions do not characterize harassment, discrimination nor racial profiling. Never mind the fact that I’m a 47-year-old woman weighing over 200 lbs – not exactly the profile of a cat-burglar. Which begs the question: what did that man expect me to prove by showing my documents?
The truth is that we all have an excellent idea of what that man was talking about when he was asking for my documents, and it felt like a punch to my stomach. If you’re not sure yet, let me give you a hint: my skin is darker than the average American – I am American nevertheless – I’m an Immigrant, born in Brazil and living in this Country, the one I chose and pledge to call my own, for 19 years. I suspect that Mr. Williams was not able to see me. I suspect that his mind was so far gone down the rabbit-hole that divides our country that he actually believed I was there to rob him. In his mind, I probably was fresh out of Honduras, after walking hundreds of miles, hitching a hike with his imaginary ‘caravan of criminals’, jumping over the border with the help of Beto’s campaign (yes, this was one of the absurd lies circulating over here among Cruz supporters), only to end up on his street as a cat-burglar.
It was one of the strangest, most ambiguous moments of my life. I felt scared for my safety, especially when my ride took off, yet I felt strong and determined as never before. In my mind, I could only think “This is the U.S. of f*ing A, I’ll be dammed if I let a bigot get in the way of my rights, I’m finishing my list!”. I felt angry and outraged, but at the same time, I felt some kind of concern for that man. He wasn’t much older than me, our kids could easily be at the same school or even be friends. Yet, there we were, and he was terrified of me too. How was that even possible? And boy, he really, really, wanted to see my documents! He also tried to convince me that I had to understand that his concerns with the break-ins were a reasonable enough justification for him singling me out and demanding my documentation as if it only made sense. I most definitely was not about to hand out my name and address to a stranger yelling at me in the middle of the street, even though I was quite curious to find out which specific part of one’s I.D. could prove or disprove their criminal intentions. Should I be worried that my Texas driver’s license does not have an official stamp from the Round Rock Police department stating **Not a Burglar**?
So here goes my honest request: if you, reading this article, happen to know Mr. Tim Williams, a man in his 50’s who lives in the Fern Bluff area of Round Rock, TX, would you kindly do me a favor? Would you please ask him what did he think my documents would prove, and then get back to me? Until then, I will have to assume that his twisted mind and his bigoted, discriminatory views lead him to draw two widely wrong and racist conclusions: that I was there illegally, and that all undocumented immigrants are criminals.
By the way, while you’re there, it might be a good idea to break to him the news that white, American born citizens also commit crimes. But please be gentle.