Recent protests over the death of George Floyd have pulled back the curtain on issues related to race in Buffalo. WBFO’s Madison Ruffo spoke with one city resident about his own experiences with racism.
Garang Doar, who is Black, is only 23, but he has already been wrongfully detained by police four times in his life.
The first time, he wasn’t yet 18. He was in high school and was on his way to downtown Buffalo's Electric Tower to celebrate New Year’s Eve when a group of drunk people on a subway train yelled racial slurs at him and his cousin.
When he got off the train, he tried to inform some police officers about the incident.
“And instead of going after those people who had been drunk, they actually stopped us, questioned us, and thought that we were the instigators of the whole kind of argument,” Doar said.
The officers took him and his cousin back to their squad car and eventually let them go due to a lack of evidence.
The most recent incident was earlier this year.
Every night, Garang helps his mother out of her car and into their apartment on Buffalo’s West Side. On this particular night, he heard gunshots not far from their home and immediately thought about his mom. He knew he had to go down to help her, but he also knew the police would be responding soon. He went down anyway.
When they arrived, the officers saw Garang on his stoop.
“They stopped right in front of me and I knew that they're going to want to stop and ask me questions,” he said.
They asked him if he knew anything. He didn’t. They patted him down and found nothing.
“They had put me in the back of their squad car when I wouldn't kind of release my name or speak on the situation that had been happening,” Doar recounted.
After his mother came home and gave the officers his name, they then released him.
The profiling and racism that Garang has experienced is not limited to his interactions with the police. It happens in his day-to-day life, as well.
“Sometimes it honestly could be walking down the street and then having somebody cross the street and then having to wonder why I'm like, what's up with this? Or getting funny looks when going to a predominantly white restaurant or something,” he said.
It also happens with some of his closest friends.
“I've even had friends crack racist jokes and just like it's like the 10th, 20th time you've said it, now can we like move on to something else? There have been some pretty interesting ones like, 'oh my gosh, you're so dark you're like under the be.' 'You're so black, you're purple.' 'All the lights went out. Where's Garang? I can't see you.'"
Despite what he has endured, Garang is reluctant to speak up because he is afraid it will do him more harm than good. But these situations have taken their toll.
“That kind of messes with me mentally. I'm like, maybe I should have spoken up or maybe I could have done something to start a conversation with the person and kind of see why they say what they say or do what they do. Kind of having like second thoughts and like maybe I should have jumped in and said something," Doar said.
If he does decide to speak up, he says it wouldn’t be to police because he fears any wrong move could be his last move.
"Even though I know I'm probably not doing anything wrong, I still have to play by those rules. Because at any given moment, my life could be taken that second for even flinching.”