Papers Please is for Black Girls Too
Alexis Sumpter, a 15 year old Harlem resident, was handcuffed and detained at a NYC metro station by the NYPD for 90 minutes after she swiped her student metro card, on her way to the first day at her marketing internship. Two plainclothes police officers approached her and told her that “she looked older than her age to be using a student metro card.” Sumpter told them that she was 15 years old and that she didn’t have any ID because it was recently stolen.
“They called me liar, then they grabbed me by my arms and flung me up the stairs. I kept saying, I’m only 15 — why are you guys doing this?”
A third cop joined them and he pressed her face against the wall while the other two cops handcuffed her.
The police called her dad and he told them that Alexis is 15 years old.
But the police didn’t believe him.
The police called her mom and she came to the metro station to tell the cops that Alexis is 15 years old.
But the police didn’t believe her.
Alexis’ mom went home, retrieved Alexis’ birth certificate and brought it to the metro station.
Only then did the police believe that Alexis is 15 years old and released her.
So many issues come to mind while reading this story. “Papers please” by the NYPD in a Harlem metro station, like the “papers please”Arizona SB1070 law. A law that presented as targeting immigrants but invariably affecting all people of color in the US. The police don’t believe the truth of Alexis’ parents, only the papers.
The demand for identification in an era of increasingly strict voter ID laws, when blacks, Latin@s, young people and the elderly are least likely to have valid ID. The lack of valid voter ID leads to reduced ability to effect change via the political process.
The fragility of Black girlhood. 15 years old but seen as a grown woman by the police. The innocence of adolescence is far gone. Alexis no longer rides that train line, accommodating her life to the mistreatment & poor behavior of others.
Check the NY Daily News video to listen to Alexis tell her story.