Calling the Cops to Threaten Black People Will Soon Be a Criminal Offense
Black Lives Matter.
As America reopens, people are returning to their daily activities, which include shopping, strolling through the park, and of course, racism. The past two weeks have seen a spate of attacks on Black people, including the murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd by the police, the murder of Ahmaud Arbery by a former cop, and the Christian Cooper/Amy Cooper incident in Central Park.
The “Central Park Karen” incident has gone viral as a textbook example of a white woman using the threat of the police against a black man for simply asking her to leash her dog and obey park rules. In the video, it is crystal clear what Amy Cooper is doing with her phone call: she is deliberately endangering the life of Christian Cooper via the police.
I keep thinking about that shift in the register of Amy Cooper’s voice, to make it sound like she was actively being attacked while on the phone. How she knew exactly what that inflection would signal to the person on the other end of the line. It was a lie. It’s so egregious.
— Clint Smith (@ClintSmithIII) May 26, 2020
Amy Cooper is yet another version of the same hideous story told over and over again. From the murder of Emmett Till to BBQ Becky (and countless other examples), white people, specifically white women, have a history of weaponizing the police against Black people.
In response, many lawmakers are working to pass legislation that would criminalize calling the cops on Black people for simply existing. Both Oregon and Washington have already passed laws that criminalize calling the police when no crime has been committed, with a focus on calls that target “protected classes” for police harassment.
Washington’s bill raises false police reporting from a misdemeanor to a felony if the subject of the call is murdered by the police. Oregon’s bill allows victims of these false calls to sue for emotional distress. State Rep. Janelle Bynum (D), together with two fellow Black Oregonian lawmakers, proposed the bill after she was a victim of that very threat, when a white person called the cops on her while she was campaigning door to door.
New York State Assemblyman Felix W. Ortiz (D-Brooklyn) presented a bill that would add a “hate-crime enhancement” to the already illegal act of making a false police report. The enhancement would cause the caller to receive a more punitive sentence should their call result in injury or death of the victim. Ortiz, who previously tried to pass a version of the bill in 2018, said the measure “is to create and bring awareness to people that this is something that is unacceptable.”
New Jersey and Minnesota (where people are protesting in response to George Floyd’s murder) are exploring similar bills. But while these bills will hopefully deter white people from deploying racism via 911, they do nothing to stem the rampant police brutality and systemic racism eating away at our country. Racial bias is already a challenge to prove, and the police are rarely (if ever) held accountable for their actions.
The bottom line is that while these bills are a step in the right direction, none of these problems will be solved unless white people take up the call that Black Lives Matter. Until white people start having the tough conversations about systemic racism and the history of discrimination in this country, these issues will remain.
(via Washington Post, image: Christian Cooper)
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