The news has lately been covering something that happens with horrible frequency a lot lately—white people calling the police on black people for things like sitting in a Starbucks, going to the gym, being at their college, and even strolling with their baby in the park. It's been happening for a long time, but right now news outlets are covering it with far more frequency.
A man named Michael Hayes posted a video he took of himself being harassed while doing his job as a real estate investor in Memphis. On May 5, he was inspecting a house in need of repairs when a white woman demanded to know what he was doing in the area.
He writes in the YouTube caption, "So I was inspecting a house that I have under contract, when the next door neighbor decides to come out and harass me. I show her my investor sign that I place in every yard before I inspect and had all documentation including contract and signed statement from the owner allowing me to enter the house. She proceeds to call the police on me anyway and asks why I don't just get out of 'her' neighborhood."
The video has gone viral, because after the police show up, they act pretty unexpectedly. Police often side with the white person in these stories, and are willing to arrest black men and women unnecessarily. In this case, the officers sided with Hayes and tell the woman that if she continues to harass him, she will be arrested.
“If you have any problems with her, what I want you to do is call me back over here,” one says to Hayes. “She will go to jail for that.”
“Hurry up, do it and get out!” the woman then yells at Hayes.
“He can take all day,” the officer tells her. The police stayed while Hayes conducted his business at his request, likely because he was afraid of how this woman would escalate the situation.
People who have heard Hayes story are sharing it as an example of how officers should react to these kinds of calls:
Protect people from racism, instead of enforcing it, which is what Broken Windows policing is often accused of doing. People of color are harassed and arrested by law enforcement over petty crimes as a way to oppress them, crimes white people would not receive any punishment for:
Some believe this woman was certain she could cause trouble for Hayes, and that was why she called the officers, not because she was really afraid of him:
Some imagined what it would be like if they flipped the tables:
Calling the police will always be a weapon that white people can use against black people and other people of color, and they justify it as their right:
This case was a rare one that worked out, in the sense that he got support from the officers instead of facing violence from them. But it definitely didn't work out in the sense that he was able to go about his job in safety without persecution.
But sharing his story is important, because it serves as an example of who is in the wrong in these situations.