“People of color should be able to wait for a friend at a coffee shop in peace.” New York State Senator Jesse Hamilton made this statement as he proposed a new bill that will make unsolicited 911 calls against Black people a hate crime.
Hamilton himself was a victim of harassment on August 10, while a white woman called the police on him as he campaigned in the district he represents. In an interview, Hamilton states that after the police “patiently explained” to the Trump supporter that he had done nothing illegal, they left the scene.
Days later, Hamilton announced that he would introduce the 911 Anti-Discrimination Bill – legislation that would make these types of calls null and void.
Being Black shouldn’t be a crime, however, time and time again we see instances across the United States of the police being called for no valid reason:
In April, a white woman and employee called the police on two Black men waiting for a friend in a Philadelphia Starbucks. They were arrested.
In May, a white woman calls the police on Black people in Oakland because they were barbequing.
The police were called on a thirteen year old boy selling hot dogs to earn money for school clothes. The white woman stated that he didn’t have a permit. Later, the police helped him gain the proper permits.
At Yale University, a white woman calls the police on Lolade Siyonbola, a graduate student, when she fell asleep in her dorm’s common area. She was interrogated by campus officers.
Actor Ving Rhames was held at gunpoint in his own home after a white woman reported “a large black man” had broken in.
See the common thread in these stories? The list goes on and on. All of the accused were not violent, but apparently seen as disturbing the peace, whether it was through conducting business, enjoying themselves, or simply breathing.
When questioned, the response is always that it has nothing to do with race. Yet, they proceed to calling on police intervention in these extremely minor affairs. The result is that these white women are putting Black lives at risk.
As Black people, we know that a simple traffic stop or misunderstanding in a store can escalate quickly and lead to death. White women have managed to weaponize their discomfort in otherwise peaceful situations. They have a definite role in enforcing racial segregation and find normalcy in over-exaggerating their fears whether or not they even understand their motivations for doing so.
Luckily with cellphone technology, these sinister behaviors have been revealed for the world to see. At least now we are forced to have a conversation about what is going on and what to do about it.
If we are ever going to meaningfully address racial injustice in this country, we must unpack the power of this fear and understand how it is inextricably linked to discrimination, police brutality and other forms of racial terrorism.