2018: The Year Of The Personal Racism Concierges
Bigots have long used cops as their personal racism concierges. 2018 was the year that black people started fighting back with the one-two punch of an iPhone and social media. Racists are getting dragged publicly and often losing their jobs because they questioned our right to exist in public spaces or even our own apartments. The only real upside to these stories is that I was paid to write about most of them.
Waiting Around While Black
Back in April, the manager of a Philadelphia Starbucks took issue with some black guys waiting until a friend arrived before ordering (SOMETHING WHITE PEOPLE DO ALL THE TIME), so she called the local police, and the entire cast of LAW & ORDER: CSI (Coffee Service Investigation) showed up to escort the men in handcuffs from the premises, where they spent the rest of the day in custody before being released at 2 a.m. when someone realized no actual crime had been committed.
Melissa DePino used her white lady powers for good and videotaped the encounter, which she shared on Twitter. Justifiable outrage ensued. There were protests. Starbucks shut down for a couple hours to hold "don't be a racist asshole" trainings. The specific racist asshole from this incident was freed to be racist somewhere else. The company also declared that it wouldn't have you hauled out in cuffs if you used the bathroom before ordering. This was considered a prelude to chaos by garbage racists like Megyn Kelly, who by the way ain't got no job.
A North Carolina family that had stopped for a no-doubt dreadful meal at Subway in July had the cops called on them because they were suspiciously using the bathroom prior to leaving for a lengthy car ride. Water cups might have been filled with soda. Put out an APB.
The racist busybody who launched a thousand memes in May. This totally unidentified woman called the cops on a black family at Lake Merritt in Oakland, California, because they were using a charcoal grill instead of a non-charcoal grill per the park rules she'd memorized on long, lonely nights.
Kenzie Smith, one of the folks BBQ Becky reported to authorities for crimes against charcoal, was inspired to run for Oakland City Council. He didn't win but he still had a better year than Jennifer Schulte (whoops!).
This June, local pot dealer Alison Ettel earned the sobriquet
"Permit Patty" after she called the cops on a black girl selling water outside her own San Francisco apartment building. Ettel claimed the girl didn't have a valid permit for
being a black selling water. She later admitted that the girl was just "too darn loud." She lost her job at her BS white folks weed dispensary and later whined on TV about how her life now sucked just because she'd harassed a small child trying to raise money to go to Disneyland.
Politicking While Black
At least two black candidates for elected office had spontaneous interactions with law enforcement after they attempted to meet and greet future constituents who in turn called the cops on them. This happened in September to Wisconsin state Rep. Shelia Stubbs, as well as to Oregon state Rep. Janelle Bynum in July. Canvassing voters is not the safest occupation for black people. Cops have often been sicced on black citizens attempting to deal civics in gated communities. Dr. Amanda Kemp, a political activist, was confronted by a woman wielding gardening shears because she was canvassing (with permission) in a wealthy Lancaster, Pennsylvania, neighborhood. This is why I vote by mail.
Airbnbing While Black
Early in May, three black women checked out of their Airbnb rental in Rialto, California, and were greeted by seven police cars. State law requires two cop cars per black woman, so the seventh was overkill. The ladies were traveling with a white woman, a precaution I always take, but the racist neighbor only reported three suspicious black women. What did they do that was so concerning that half the police department showed up? The women apparently did not "wave" or "smile" or even consider a brief musical number for the caller's "jump Jim Crow" entertainment.
"They have a right not to smile," said attorney Jasmine Rand at a Thursday morning news conference in New York. "We don't want to live in an America where black people are forced to smile at white people to preserve their lives."
The garbage Airbnb host actually defended her racist neighbor. All they had to do, after all, was just "wave" or maybe offer up a quick soft shoe -- nothing too choreographed. She would've appreciated the effort.
By the way, Airbnb sucks.
Going To Your Apartment While Black
D'Arreion Toles was returning home to his St. Louis, Missouri, condo in October when he encountered Hilary Brooke Mueller, who demanded he prove to her that he lived in the apartment she herself did not own. She followed him onto the elevator and called the cops to keep him company. He released his inner Spike Lee and recorded the ridiculous interaction. Mueller's employer promptly fired her.
Mueller used her newfound free time to also go on TV and whine about facing consequences for her racist actions. She said it was "heartbreaking" to have people correctly call her a racist. They also interviewed another white woman from the building who claimed she'd have done the same thing Mueller did because she was mugged once, so you know ... black people. Can we just preemptively fire her, as well?
All Sorts of Racist Crap In Portland
Hippie and overrated doughnut utopia Portland, Oregon, was also the scene of racist asshatery. Quite a shock for a state that literally forbade black people from living, working, or owning property there in its state constitution. Late in October, a woman brought it upon herself to report a black man's parking job. The brother's car was blocking the crosswalk by a few inches. This is like living in that "Star Trek: The Next Generation" episode where you get killed for running on the grass.
Portland really rang out 2018 in racist style when employees at a local Doubletree evicted a black guest the weekend before Christmas like common Scrooges. Security guard "Earl" confronted Jermaine Massey in the lobby while he was on the phone with his mother and accused him of loitering. Really? Isn't loitering pretty much all that goes down in hotel lobbies? The only purposeful activity usually involves sex work.
"Earl" called Massey a "threat to security" and informed him that the police were on their way to escort hm off the property. Amazingly -- well, not really -- the police did just that, despite Massey having committed no crime and being a legitimate guest in the hotel. I'm really tired of the police acting as though they are mindless enforcers of corporate entities. It would be nice if the police would stand up once in a while for the citizen whose civil rights are being violated. They aren't the bouncers at Club Racist.
Doubletree Portland eventually fired the security guard and hotel manager who "mistreated" Massey. The hotel insisted the behavior was "inconsistent" with their standards and values. They will also work with "diversity experts" to help train future staff on advanced non-racist hospitality management.
Call me cynical, but I suspect that there aren't enough "diversity experts" in the world to keep me from racking up more "frequent bigot miles" for Yr. Wonkette in 2019. Happy New Year!
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He's on the board of the Portland Playhouse theater and writes for the immersive theater Cafe Nordo in Seattle. Tickets are on sale now for his latest Nordo collaboration, "Curiouser and Curiouser," an adaptation of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass." It promises to feel like an actual evening with SER (for good or for ill).