“A white person voices suspicions about an innocuous person of color. Police are summoned. And the encounter is posted on social media, sparking outrage about racial profiling.”
This is the first sentence of a CNN article written on an incident that occurred at Yale University this past May, but there is no denying the disturbing fact that this could very well be a reference to any of the number of similar situations that seem to be recently popping up across America.
This includes but is not limited to; the two black men arrested at Starbucks for not buying anything, the white woman who called the cops on an 8-year-old black girl for selling water and yes, even the white manager of an apartment complex who dialed the police on a black man wearing socks in the pool. What do all of these stories have in common, besides the theme of absurd prejudice that so clearly binds them? The additional motif of fear, I’d say.
The modus operandi of our current presidential administration has been to pump the American public with constant anxiety. It is reinforced that the unknown can be scary and that visible differences can be a potential threat to our personal comfort and safety. Of course, this is an age-old tactic used by the people in power to stay in power. Such fear divides and distracts the public so that prejudiced, old, white women seem like the real monsters of the country instead of the bogeymen who pass laws that allow children to be snatched from their families.
That is not to say, however, that the white people who choose to act on these anxieties are not in the wrong. There really is no justification for calling the authorities on a woman in CVS for the attempted use of what may or may not be an expired coupon. The most upsetting aspect of this incident is that the video recorded by victim Camilla Hudson shows the white employee visibly shaking as he dials 911, indicating what appears to be genuine distress.
“You have an alarming tendency of white people starting to use 911 as their kind of customer service line when they have any friction with a black person,” says Jody Armour, Professor of law at the University of Southern California. Arguably the white people who do call the police in situations like this do so also because they know they can. The woman who dialed on the 8-year-old did manage to get her to stop selling the water so it’s not as if these calls are not working. For this, I would love to blame Trump but there is a larger, more elaborate history of systematic racism at fault.
To say that there are flaws in our country’s law enforcement systems and policies would be almost redundant at this point but that doesn’t make it inaccurate.
There are plenty of highly intelligent historians and academics who believe that this country was actually founded as a racist society and therefore, pretty much all governing aspects of American life echo these sentiments. I’d have to say that I agree, as it did take us hundreds of years to understand and then admit that savvy political strategy does not justify the slaughter of an entire group of people and the enslavement of another.
Knowing this, it almost feels as if there is no hope of a less racist America unless the systems put in place begin to change. Right?