In August, Madison, WI state Assembly candidate Shelia Stubbs was confronted by police while canvassing voters in a majority white neighborhood, according to The Cap Times. A resident called the police on her as her 71-year-old mother and 8-year-old daughter waited in a car nearby.
It was one week before the Democratic primary election, which Stubbs would go on to win. She was speaking to a constituent on the street when the call was made.
“FULLY OCCUPIED SILVER 4 DR SEDAN NEWER MODEL - THINKS THEY ARE WAITING FOR DRUGS AT THE LOCAL DRUG HOUSE - WOULD LIKE THEM MOVED ALONG,” the police record of the call reads.
From The Cap Times:
But in the moments when she spotted the squad car next to her own vehicle, asked the officer what was wrong, explained what she was doing and tried to then explain to her daughter why any of it had happened, she was heartbroken and humiliated.
“It’s 2018,” Stubbs said in an interview. “It shouldn’t be strange that a black woman’s knocking on your door. I didn’t do anything to make myself stand out. I felt like they thought I didn’t belong there.”
She had only been in the neighborhood for about 20 minutes when she encountered the police. At that point, Stubbs had knocked on five or six doors.
“It was just so degrading,” she told The Cap Times. “It was humiliating. It was insulting.”
Stubbs didn’t name the neighborhood she was in when the call was made, but she told reporters it was predominately white. The person who called the police was described only as “a man.”
Her encounter with the officer ended well. “According to [officer Katherine] Bland’s report and Stubbs’ description, the two ended their conversation with Stubbs and her mother sharing their cell phone numbers with Bland with an offer to help the officer work to improve race relations in other Madison communities,” the Times writes. But Stubbs was still disturbed by the incident. “It’s just not OK,” she told the Times. “When you specifically target people of color and call the police, sometimes there’s different outcomes.”
Stubbs, who has served for 12 years on the Dane County Board of Supervisers, is running unopposed to represent Wisconsin’s 77th District. When she takes office, she will become the first black person elected to represent the county. During her run for the seat she was also the only black supervisor in the county. Stubbs is a progressive who supports many of the same planks that have pushed insurgents like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Andrew Gillum into the spotlight. Her platform includes criminal justice reform, universal health care, gun control, workers’ rights, abortion access, and environmental protection.
Stories of white people calling the cops on black Americans who are simply going about their business have filled the news recently. Stubbs isn’t even the only black candidate who has experienced this form of racism. Oregon state Rep. Janelle Bynum was also confronted by a police officer while out canvassing in a Portland suburb this July. A constituent called the cops “concerned that she was planning to rob homes because she was taking notes on her cell phone between houses,” the Times writes.
“I belong where I choose to go,” Stubbs told the Times. “You don’t have to like me. You don’t even have to respect me. But I have a right to be places.”
“I’ve worked so hard. This is something I’ve always wanted,” she added. “I wasn’t going to allow someone to take that, but it puts a hole in your heart, and it takes so long to mend it.”