Did you hear about the white student at Yale who called the police on a black classmate for napping in a dorm common room? It’s almost as shocking as finding out that the same woman did the same damn thing to another black person enrolled at the Ivy League university when he was trying to find his study group. Or learning that she’d written about racism as a “silly” social construct and slaves who actually preferred being property over emancipation.
Don’t worry, though, she’s an isolated case! It’s not like white Americans call 911 when they notice people of color moving into an apartment, working out at the gym, waiting to meet a friend for coffee, renting an Airbnb, golfing, shopping for prom clothes, or touring a college. Nope, perfectly good country here!
Or — and I’m just spitballing here — the United States was built on the foundation of white supremacy, its white citizens live in denial of the systemic injustice this guarantees, and these very whites have reached, with the tacit approval of a birther president who dispatches cruel pseudo-military goons to ethnically cleanse the population, a fever pitch of xenophobia to mirror the age in which the Ku Klux Klan was most successful. They have been emboldened to police non-white bodies according to their tenuous, if not intangible, notions of who “belongs” or is “supposed to be” in academic, retail, leisure, dining, or residential spaces. Existing in a public area is also frowned upon.
Now might be the moment in this piece to request, in the vaguest of terms, a national reckoning, hard conversations, and a serious reexamination of values. We do need those things — but they will be ongoing concerns. In the meantime, I want policies that show immediate results. I’m partial to New York Times reporter Astead Herndon’s suggestion that we shut America down for a day, as Starbucks cafés did for bias training after the company’s shameful Philadelphia incident. With all due respect, however, that seems like a last resort. My own proposal is relatively modest in scope: White people should not be allowed to call 911. For a month.
Think about it: a clearly defined period (let’s say a month) in which it is illegal for any Caucasian to summon cops to a specific location. Oh, we’d figure out some way to ensure that ambulances and firefighters arrive wherever they’re needed — just no police. When a child proves they cannot be trusted with a privilege, you take it away, and white people are behaving like irresponsible fucking children. If you observe a black family grilling food in the park on a sunny afternoon, and your first instinct is to dial 911, and you furthermore have two spare hours to stand around and make sure they go to jail for “trespassing”(?), you’re not just a racist shithead, you’re a drain on emergency services. Lord knows cops have their own issues of bigotry to contend with, but even they are pleading with you to stop reporting your own goddamn neighbors as “suspicious.”
When white people aren’t punching in 911 on their iPhones because they were triggered by someone’s pigmentation, they’re calling up to report problems with Facebook, demand beer, and ask for the score of the Patriots game. They need a long timeout to consider why they’re so eager to involve law enforcement in every aspect of life and shared community, as well as why non-whites aren’t. (Hint: the presence of armed authorities is more dangerous for one of those demographics — the one that faces a disproportionate level of deadly police violence.) I can tell you exactly what would have happened had none of the 911 calls I’ve listed thus far had been placed: absolutely nothing. Imagine a society that simply denied these idiots the option of snitching.
Here’s another thought: police are out there patrolling the streets regardless of your unhelpful tips. They are already racially profiling individuals they deem to be “out of place.” Were there the slightest pretext to arrest or cite whomever has made you “uncomfortable” with their presence, you can rest easy knowing that they’ll likely get cuffed or ticketed by the next beat cop to pass by. You’re bringing officers into situations where they aren’t needed just to feel that their powers are yours, too — that they will always be on your side, grateful for your support, and eager to hear your grievances. You want to help them oppress and punish and be thanked in kind for your vigilance.
Check this out, though: You can mind your business. It costs $0.00 to leave strangers alone. Instead of invoking the might of a deeply flawed police state over a purely theoretical offense the way the Pentagon authorizes a drone strike on a third-world village, you could do… anything else. That way you won’t go viral for being a colossal asshole, and people of color may continue to sleep, study, eat, shop, and exercise in peace, with zero effect on your safety or wellbeing. You might realize you enjoy not making a federal case out of every brush with diversity. Spinning an encounter that you initiated as some harrowing ordeal so you can play the victim? That can’t be fun. I want to believe you’re taking these points to heart and will independently adjust your ultra-narc attitude, but for now, to pause the stream of recent indignities, I really think it would be best to revoke your access to police dispatchers. Just for a month. Or till the end of the year. Then, if that goes well, we keep the ban on for the rest of the decade.
Hate this idea? I don’t care. Go ahead and call the cops about it.