A Black man who endured racist slurs caught on video last week in New Jersey is serving in the U.S. Air Force and said Wednesday in an interview that the interaction has reinforced the need for more discussion about race in America.
Etchu Tanyoh Brandon Tambe, of Mount Laurel, who is Black, was seen in a video Friday arguing with a white man who uses racist epithets at him and other neighbors. The white man, Edward C. Mathews, was later arrested and faces harassment and disorderly conduct charges, according to police documents.
Tambe said he moved to the U.S. in 2017 from Cameroon after winning a visa lottery and decided to join the Air Force because was always interested in the military and the Air Force was challenging. He holds the rank of senior airman and works as an aerial porter, processing cargo and passengers, at McGuire Air Force Base, he said.
He became a citizen in 2019. In the video, Mathews is seen telling Tambe, “It's not Africa,” and telling him to learn the laws.
“For me this is already home. This is home for me,” Tambe said. “It strengthens my resolve to be in this country. There is a discussion that needs to keep happening. Do I want to make it better? Yes.”
Tambe called the interaction, captured during a nearly seven-minute video, “surreal” and said the impact of the slurs didn't “click right away.”
“I felt I was being treated as someone who is second-class, someone who is not a true American and pretty much my service to this country doesn’t matter,” he said.
Tambe said he had gone to the home of his and Mathews' neighbors because Mathews was bothering them. Tambe said he's gotten close to the couple and was trying to help them.
According to police charging documents, the confrontation happened after Mathews knocked on the couple's door demanding to see the husband, who is Black. His wife, who is white, called police, and Tambe met Mathews on the stoop and walkway to the neighbors' house.
That was the second call police got Friday about Mathews, according to the documents.
A Black woman in the neighborhood called police earlier saying Mathews was harassing her, approaching her front door and shouting racial slurs, according to prosecutors. She had previously told police she suspected Mathews of “criminal mischief” involving her car.
A doorbell camera captures Mathews bringing his dogs to her front yard, repeating a racial slur and thrusting his hips in a vulgar way after police responded and talked to him, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors called the conduct “vile and despicable." They also said they were investigating protesters who arrived outside Mathews' house after the video with Tambe began widely circulating and threw objects toward officers and Mathews during his arrest.
It's unclear who is representing Mathews in the legal proceedings. A message has been left with the public defender's office .
Mount Laurel is located 19 miles (30 kilometers) east of Philadelphia.