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:
THIS is how officers should respond when called on black people for no reason. This woman is a racist liar, and the officers were not having it. Finally.— Brad Walsh (@BradWalsh) May 16, 2018
“White Woman Calls Cops on Black Real Estate Investor Inspecting House Next Door” https://t.co/frao17qtgq pic.twitter.com/X5umL34Kjb
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:
A white woman called police on a black real estate investor. Police showed up and actually protected him, saying she’ll be arrested if she keeps harassing him. A reminder that police could choose to protect people from racism instead of enforcing it. https://t.co/gsuT7wtKUA— Samuel Sinyangwe (@samswey) May 16, 2018
Police could tell racist callers that they don’t need police, they need to stop being racist. They could even show up and protect people from the racists. They could actually protect and serve the people who need protection.— Samuel Sinyangwe (@samswey) May 16, 2018
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:
White women know the current state of the relationship between black people and the police. And they essentially are forcing black people to have interactions with them for nothing.— Travon Free (@Travon) May 16, 2018
it's the modern day equivalent of white women accusing black people of doing literally anything which lead to their brutal lynching. It's irresponsible and dangerous and there should be consequences for calling the police for people not commiting a crime.— Travon Free (@Travon) May 16, 2018
I disagree... In my humble opinion, I think it’s worse than that. That crazy, racist woman yelling from her porch would be harassment.— Tony Michael (@TonyMichael) May 17, 2018
I think she (and many like her) are actually using the police as a weapon, knowing that police often shoot first and ask questions later.
Totally see your point because I thought: This woman was scared & suspicious but approached him for questioning?🙄 So, on some level, she feels safe! And even with cops as witnesses, she held onto her biases. That woman just wants to hate on black people so she can feel superior.— NeedsMusts (@NeedsMusts) May 17, 2018
Some imagined what it would be like if they flipped the tables:
I’m going to start calling the police on white males aged 17-60 based on my suspicion of them possibly being a mass shooter. Then cops will start fining people for false alarms and perhaps this bullshit will stop. But then again, they’ll probably only fine POC :/— America Has No POTUS (@_MirandaRites_) May 16, 2018
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:
Because there's a history of the connection b/w white entitlement to the Black body, public space, and the police that wasn't possible to unpack in this article, I'd like to get into it here.— Andray (@andraydomise) May 16, 2018
When white people make frivolous calls to the police, they are laundering violence: https://t.co/X6r1Lb4J29
In the Oakland BBQ video Jennifer Schulte repeatedly cites city ordinances about charcoal grills and nonsense claims about "millions of dollars" for cleanup and children being injured. She's deputized herself to break up a Black family's gatheringhttps://t.co/Q9WJz72Xrx— Andray (@andraydomise) May 16, 2018
In fact, even after being told to mind her Caucasian business by the officer, she shouts at the man (a real estate investor contracted to work on a house) "Hurry up, do it, and get out," as if she has authority over a complete stranger's time & mobilityhttps://t.co/ckRe1yFFqn— Andray (@andraydomise) May 16, 2018
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.