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The Haines family discusses growing up as a black person in Missoula

Posted at 12:01 PM, Jun 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-20 14:01:56-04

MISSOULA — Two weeks ago, at the Missoula County Courthouse, KPAX started covering the Black Lives Matter protests and movement. A lot of people have shared their stories but one person in particular showed that oftentimes there is a lot more than meets the eye.

Stephanie Haines is a central figure at the BLM rallies in downtown Missoula. People around the protests know who Haines is and her sign is unique. It talks about the racial dynamics of her family, a dynamic that is very unique in Montana.

"As the mother of a black man I fear for his safety. I have a black daughter who is of light skin and I don't fear for hers," she said on June 1.

Haines and her family wanted to tell their story so they could talk about some of the obstacles that have been set in front of them.

"Being the mother of two biracial children has not been an easy task," Haines told MTN News.

Her son, Isaiah Haines, would agree, saying, "Its not easy coming home watching your mom cry because how you were treated in school."

Isaiah is a darker complexion than his sister which gives them a whole new mess of problems to deal with. People constantly question their relationship which to the two is extremely offensive and annoying.

Jessenia Haines also says watching her brother and best friend having to face such adversity was difficult

"Its extremely rough on a day-to-day basis," Jessenia said. "My brother has always been my best friend. It is a struggle still to this day watching him having people be very disrespectful because he is a different color than me."

For Isaiah a recent encounter with police outside of Montana was just another instance of the struggles that have impacted the Haines family throughout the years.

While working for a roofing company out of state, Isaiah and his crew took their lunch.

"When we were coming back from lunch the police pulled us over because we were going this way and then we went this way in a matter of 30 minutes because we were going to lunch," Isaiah said.

Isaiah said that on their return to the job site, police put him in handcuffs because Haines explained they suspected him of having a gun.

"He walked up to the driver’s door, pointed through the driver at me and said you get out of the car. I was like 'excuse me?' And he said now, get out of the car, and I got out and he put my hands behind my back, handcuffed me and searched me for a gun and I was at work. I had a crayon in my pocket and he thought I had a knife and all my co-workers are white and they were terrified that I was about to lose my life," Isaiah said.

Isaiah says his white coworkers did not receive the same treatment.

"One of my white friends got arrested because he had a warrant but they didn't find that out until 35 minutes after harassing me," Isaiah said. When asked how they were arrested, he said, "Very calmly compared to me. They were like looks like you have a warrant out bud."

Isaiah is now raising two children of his own with his wife Rosella and their 6-year-old Genesis is already facing the same problems her dad grew up with.

Rosella says its heartbreaking that her daughter is already doing things like not bringing water bottles into stores.

“She’s like I can’t bring this in because they will think I’m stealing because I’m black." Rosella said.

For Genesis, she doesn't have a full understanding of why but she knows she doesn't want it to continue.

"I just wish everybody could get along and be friends." Genesis said

"When we are saying black lives matter we are saying care about us because we need you too," Isaiah added.

The Haines family says there are plenty of people in the community who love and support them and that they would like police reforms with more training for officers.