Monday, December 04, 2006

The Wakefield Controversy

As I have explained in one of my previous blog postings that I was in Boston in late October of this year for a Microsoft technical class. I stayed in Wakefield, which is approximately 15 miles and 30 minutes from Boston. The reason I stayed here was because of the cheaper hotel rates and easy access to the train station. I took the commuter train daily into downtown Boston and back, thus avoiding the mad traffic jams on the road.

As an amateur photographer, I decided to capture the moments and looked for ideas to practice my photography skills. Here's where it gets interesting. On my second day of commute by train, I was pulled aside by the train conductor upon reaching North Station.
He asked, "Why are you taking pictures and why are you taking pictures of the train(s)?"
I answered, "I'm an amateur photographer and this is my hobby. I take pictures of almost everything."
He then asked, "Do you plan to do anything with them?" I was quite stunned by this question and was a little pissed but yet calm and collected.
I told him, "Off course not! You've got to be kidding me." He smiled and let me go.

Then, as I walked away from the conductor and I was about 15 feet from him, a lady with a cellphone camera yelled out, "Hey, you took pictures of me on the platform, and I'm gonna take pictures of you." So, I smiled and posed for her! :-)
Then, as I was walking away from her, she starts to inform me loudly that I made people quite nervous at the Wakefield train station. I told her a few things and decided to move away in order to avoid this crazy woman. She continued to take more pictures of me with her phone.

On my last day, class was done early and I decided to catch the earlier train back to Wakefield. I also wanted to get on the road early to avoid the after-work rush hour traffic. I wanted to get home as I missed my family and had enough of Beantown. I was sorting out my stuff in the trunk of my rental car when two men approached me. At first, I thought I was going to be mugged, but soon realized they were law enforcement officers when they addressed me by my name! One officer was a State Trooper and the other a Federal Agent with the ATF. I was absolutely stunned.

According to them, they had received some phone calls indicating that a suspicious guy was taking pictures of the train station, etc. They had to follow up on the reports and had many questions for me. I cooperated fully and answered what they needed to know. They also wanted to look at my camera, my belongings, and pictures on my laptop. Prior to speaking with me, they had already conducted a thorough background check on me. I was very surprised with what they knew. I have to say that these gentlemen were very professional, courteous, well mannered, and respectful of me. After about 30 minutes of questioning, I was on my way home. I was glad to see my wife and kids. The above pictures are some that made people freak out about me. Go figure!

This has been a very unique and interesting experience for me. I have never encountered a situation like this in my life, especially having spent over half of my life living in North America. I was racially profiled by members of the public, very evidently for how I looked and for my beautiful skin color. I'm proud to be brown but in a situation like this, it sucks to be one! I often make fun of myself, my skin color, the culture, the language, the food, etc, because this is one of my ways of coping with racism which I face daily in some form or another, and to let people know that it's okay to be colorful!

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