Dear white women, please stop calling the cops on black people

Black-and-white, 1950s-style image of a scared, blonde, white woman on the phone

“Hello, 911? There’s a black man standing in front of my store, and I need you to send the police right away. … Yes, I am a racist. Please hurry.” (Photo credit Everett Collection/Shutterstock)


Dear white women,

From one white woman to another: Please stop calling the cops on people of color.

Do not call the cops on them because they’re in your coffee shop and you don’t want them there.

On April 12, [Rashon] Nelson and [Donte] Robinson arrived 10 minutes early for a business meeting at a Starbucks in the Center City neighborhood of Philadelphia and wound up leaving the location in handcuffs. Upon arriving, Nelson asked whether he could use the restroom, and was told by a white manager that the restrooms were only for paying customers.

“And I just left it at that,” Nelson told “Good Morning America” last month.

After Nelson returned to the table where Robinson was sitting, the manager approached them to ask whether she could help get them drinks or water.

Two minutes later, she called the police to report “two gentlemen in my cafe that are refusing to make a purchase or leave.” Officers arrived a few minutes later. Robinson recalled thinking that “they can’t be here for us.”

Nelson told “Good Morning America” that the police told him and Robinson that they had to leave without any discussion. They were then arrested, and Robinson said they were not read any rights or told why they were being arrested.

If they aren’t doing anything wrong, and they’re doing the same thing all the white people are doing, don’t call the cops on them.

Do not call the cops on them because they’re on your golf course and you don’t want them there.

Five African American women say a golf course in Pennsylvania called the cops on them because they were golfing too slow.

[…]

Ojo told police the women were golfing slow because they were “rusty.” But she didn’t think they were holding up other golfers.

One man in the group of golfers behind Ojo’s backed up the assertion.

The man, Jerry Higgens. told police he thought it was unusual the women’s group had five golfers instead of the standard four. But, he said, their speed “did not slow his group down in any way.”

[…]

But Steve Chronister, who co-owns the course, told police the women weren’t meeting the time guidelines, and delaying tee times for other golfers.

He called 911 twice.

If they aren’t being aggressive or threatening or violent, and all they’re doing is the same thing all the white people are doing, don’t call the cops on them.

Do not call the cops on them because they’re in your store and you don’t want them there.

Mekhi Lee, Eric Rogers and Dirone Taylor were shopping at the Nordstrom Rack on Thursday when they noticed store employees closely eyeing them and following them through the aisles. Lee has just completed his freshman year of college and was with his longtime friends, Taylor and Rogers, who were shopping for prom.

[St. Louis NAACP President Adolphus] Pruitt said that one of the men wanted to try on a shirt, so he removed his hat to do so. The store employees kept following the men, Pruitt said, so they decided to leave.

Shortly after, the man who had tried on the shirt realized he left his hat in the store, so the three of them went back. That’s when they were approached by an elderly white woman who had also been shopping.

“Now they’re confronted by an elderly white woman in the store who says to them, ‘Would your parents and grandparents be proud of what you’re doing?’ ” Pruitt said. The woman also referred to them as “a bunch of bums,” according to Pruitt.

[…]

While the men were paying for their items, they heard staff employees say they were calling the police. Pruitt said the men left the store and waited for the police to arrive.

When they did, the officers said they had been alerted to three black men who were shoplifting. The men showed the police their receipts and let them search their bags, Pruitt said.

If they aren’t actually shoplifting, and they aren’t interfering with fellow shoppers, and they aren’t doing anything harmful to the merchandise, don’t call the cops on them.

Do not call the cops on them because they’re in your gym and you don’t want them there.

In the Facebook post, [Tshyrad] Oates said he signed in under the four-day guest pass to work out with a friend, a current member who was already at the gym. About 30 minutes later, the employee who signed Oates in told him he had to leave or pay, Oates wrote.

Oates wrote that he reminded the employee that he had already signed in with her, using the guest pass.

Unaware that a manager had signed in Oates’ workout partner, the employee said Oates’ workout partner was the one who didn’t pay, Oates wrote. Oates’ workout partner told the employee that he was an active member but his gym tag was in his locker, Oates wrote.

As Oates and his friend continued working out, two police officers arrived and questioned the two men about their memberships, Oates wrote.

Oates explained to them about his guest pass, and his workout partner rescanned his gym tag, according the Facebook post.

They resumed working out and 10 minutes later a manager told the two men to leave, according to Oates.

Oates said they told the manager they didn’t do anything wrong.

He said other police officers soon arrived and also asked the two men to leave.

If they’ve checked in and paid, and reminded you that they paid, and they say they’re a member, and for the love of God all they’re doing is working out, don’t call the cops on them.

Do not call the cops on them because they’re shy.

For the two Native American brothers, Colorado State University was their dream school.

But when they showed up for a campus tour, a parent of another prospective student called the police on them because they apparently made her “nervous,” the school said.

Friday, the university’s police released the audio of the 911 call in which the parent reports 19-year-old Thomas Kanewakeron Gray and 17-year-old Lloyd Skanahwati Gray. She says their behavior is odd and that they’re wearing “black clothing.” The school also released footage of officers pulling the teens out of the group to question them.

[…]

When the police confirmed the brothers were part of the tour, they let them rejoin the group. But by that time, the tour had moved on, the school said.

If their only sins are dressing like a teenager, being reluctant to talk to a total stranger when she starts asking them pointed questions, and giving answers that you perceive as lies just ’cause, don’t call the cops on them.

Do not call the cops on them because they didn’t wave back at you when you waved at them.

At first, Kelly Fyffe-Marshall’s stay in Rialto, California, was ending pretty normally. She and her four friends — three of them black women — checked out of their Airbnb rental and dragged their luggage to their vehicle.

Then things got weird.

Seven police cars showed up. The neighborhood was seemingly locked down.

Then things got scary.

The police told Fyffe-Marshall and her friends to put their hands in the air, and then informed them a helicopter was tracking them.

[…]

Fyffe-Marshall, a filmmaker, detailed her experience in a Facebook post that caught fire this past weekend.

“A neighbor across the street saw 3 black people packing luggage into their car and assumed we were stealing from the house. She then called the police,” Fyffe-Marshall wrote. “At first we joked about the misunderstanding and took photos and videos along the way. About 20 minutes into this misunderstanding it escalated almost instantly.”

If all they’re doing is loading suitcases into their car — seriously, if all they did was not wave at your entitled ass — don’t call the cops on them.

Police encounters for people of color aren’t the same as they are for white people. They’re not just an inconvenience. They aren’t just something they roll their eyes about and get over.

The police aren’t your personal security guards. They aren’t there to get people to leave, or to get them to settle down and behave, or to scare them straight. They aren’t there to check up on people you find scary on account of them being extremely tan. They aren’t there to indulge your racist wiggins. The police are there to arrest people. If you call the cops on a black person, you’re calling for someone to arrest them, whether you intend to or not. (I’m looking at you, Starbucks manager.) You don’t call the cops on a black person in pursuit of an “amicable [fucking] result.”

If your victim is lucky, all they’ll be is traumatized by the encounter. Maybe, like Kelly Fyffe-Marshall, they’ll be forced to stand in the street with police cars surrounding them and police helicopters overhead. Maybe, like Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson, they’ll spend time in jail before being released when it’s concluded that they did nothing whatsoever wrong. Maybe they’ll sit in jail until they lose their job. Maybe they’ll end up wrongfully convicted of a crime. Maybe they’ll end up dead.

You’re nervous or uncomfortable or “sick to your stomach.” They’re afraid for their life or, potentially, actually dead.

You know when little Jaxxon was acting up and you marched him up to a police officer and told him that if he didn’t start behaving, the officer was going to arrest him? This is not like that. This is someone who could end up hurt, arrested, or dead because you don’t think a black person could afford to live in your neighborhood or shop at your store, or you don’t think a shy Native American kid in a heavy metal sweatshirt belongs on your campus tour. Suck it up. There’s stuff that’s more important than your discomfort — for instance, human lives, and human dignity.

If you feel call-the-cops threatened by two men sitting while not drinking coffee, or three women putting suitcases in a car, that is your problem. Don’t make it theirs. Because if it’s theirs, it will be a hell of a lot worse.

Required Reading

Jenn M. Jackson, Calling the Police on Black People Can Put Them in Danger

Karen Attiah, “Calling the police on black people isn’t a Starbucks problem. It’s an America problem.”

Monique Judge, “Starbucks Witness: Implicit Bias Exists and White People Need to Speak Up When They See It”


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6 comments for “Dear white women, please stop calling the cops on black people

  1. sharon cullars
    May 9, 2018 at 2:12 pm

    from a woman of color, thank you.

    • R. Dunn
      May 13, 2018 at 8:25 pm

      I concur. I feel like some white people(those agravated by seeing the happiness or mere contentment in their fellow man aka black people) are in their own heads the boy/girl who cried wolf. They continue making up such non factual stories that it’s as if they must practice or maybe they are merely waiting on the time they can shine and/or put on the best oscar-like acting to gain attention. They think that one day their fantasies of black people slipping up will finally come up as they were indeed screwing up (this time). But little do they know..actually scratch that, it’s known..ALL OVER THE WORLD that police being called on black people can break down to being a calm event to immediately equally certain death upon that individual. It’s hurtful and down right scary having to know that just walking around in your own damn skin is not even enough, it’s straight up uncomfortable for particular white people to see you breathe, happy, and free. I begin to wonder if this is the same fear that African slaves..even back to civil rights held back in the day and it’s all coming to a head again. My question is: why do certain peoples (I’ve got friends in ALL races and so it’s not a dig to those good ones, just these vile particulars. They know who they are..and SCREW my grammatical errors lol), but why..why on earth is it that they can’t be satisfied unless we (black or other respective poc) are shackled beneath them like their ancestors had our race for some many years? I guess they’d like to wait for other groups to slip up and then what? They act like we need to be 6 feet deep or somewhere pleading for our lives and crumbling. We didn’t willingly come here, we were here by FORCE. I dont care how history buffs spin it, we were not here for the fun of it franlky speaking. We all must atone for our b.s. in this world within whatever your faith tells you is next from here, I hope they can explain to God or now to their black loving sons or daughters and mixed raced beautiful grandbabies WHY they hate who mommy or daddy loves so much? This coming from a brown sugar lady with african, cherokee, swed, and scotch irish blood in running thru her veins. I love all races and never met any that I didn’t get along with (maybe 1 or 2 and that prolly was an off day or they were in shitty mood, I ain’t Jesus lol.) But I find myself slightly irked walking into places with a majority of white people as I think in the back of my mind…could my number be up today? Im not scared, but seriously…it’s crosses your mind. You used to could say that as a joke and now in today’s society it’s very real, if you don’t make Mrs/Mr such (especially some old timey..I’m still stuck in using such terms as COLORED, THEM PEOPLE, or my favorite which is still used today THE BLACKS) and such happy, off you go to be_____fill in the blank (beaten, harassed, killed). Think Rosewood the movie (actually plenty of movies to point out for reference)…umm yea, imma let you marinate on that. Sorry for my extended rant, you know I still run into some people seriously saying the blacks..not old people and stating how that’s what THEY preferred to be called the BLACKS or NEGRO as if it seemed hello prideful (sorry, but my mind just hearing it I think Oh, yes such massa smh..gtfo) Silly ass racist people, the Spanish/Latin community already had the damn word negro and it means black, you never created a new word jackasses, just stealing shit as usual and claiming fake rights to things. Now, I’m done…

      • R. Dunn
        May 13, 2018 at 8:34 pm

        When you got people in other countries fearing for your race and shit is quite evident to them about the US’ said “racial issues” you gotta think damn America…wtf? My Brazilian friend asked me, what is the N word and he’s Italian and Portuguese. He says (which I hadn’t asked him and was VERY unexpected) I’m sorry for what my ancestors dud to yours and I told him, you don’t need to apologize, but I said you got people here who believe that their ancestors didn’t do anything let alone had a hand in the issues with slavery and thereon…I said they don’t feel the need to even feel a damn thing, so why should you apologize to me? America does not care, just wants to give a watered down version of history so they feel better. Sorry I took it a bit deeper aside from the topic. We as a people are nothing if we can’t even reflect and grow from our history. Slavery is merely not just BLACKS history or white…beyond America. It’s on a global scale, but America chooses to sugar coat and yet we boast to be the greatest and civilized and other b.s. we can’t even get over certain white people who can’t stand seeing African American people just live. Mic drop…over and out

      • R. Dunn
        May 13, 2018 at 8:41 pm

        Black not blacks history and I meant to say thank you to the lovely lady who wrote this article, you’re awesome ma’am. Not a lot of people in your race will agree with it, but got dammit I’m glad as hell you thought it and decided to write. People see shut happen and too many wanna stay close lipped, cus it ain’t their people, their business or their fight. But one day..one day it will at some point affect them…smh folk better wake up.

  2. Charles Carter
    May 10, 2018 at 3:09 pm

    I think some questions have arisen regarding the accuracy of the IAT itself, but I’m aware of several examples of implicit prejudice in myself (I’m a white man). I had a vehicle broken into several years ago. When employees at the business where I was parked said a white kid had been seen cruising the lot, I was surprised even though I’d not given it any thought. Those and other occasions I’m aware of are benign in that I didn’t act on them, but I’d guess I’m only aware of a fraction of those. Such thinking is counter to my beliefs, but it happens. I can only try to be more aware.
    And I only recently heard the idea that these issues affect the health of African Americans. Being naturally a skeptic, especially about causal relationships, any citations to back that idea up?
    Really excellent post, probably won’t reach those who need it most on this site. Thanks

  3. Angie unduplicated
    May 13, 2018 at 10:07 pm

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1470581/

    Phenomenology of effects of racism/discrimination/stigma is referred to as “weathering”.

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