Calling All White People, Part 26: Minding one’s own business

Calling All White People, Part 26

(A periodic attempt to mobilize white people for something other than supporting just other melanin-deficient folks and maintaining a status quo of a nation geared toward whiteness as the baseline and the norm)

By An Average White Guy

TODAY’S EPISODE: Instead of calling the police, you could call MYOB instead  

[To find other installments of “Calling All White People,” click here]

I would like to assume that I don’t need to tell you there have been a lot of stories over the past several months about white people calling the police on Black people for doing very normal things (or even when committing infractions, they are not harming anyone or are doing nothing more wrong than the un-harassed white people around them). But I should assume nothing. Too many of us white folks have the privilege of “unplugging” for our mental health (which too often is abused until it becomes “burying our heads in the sand” or “ignoring the decline of civilization and the impending apocalypse”).

But, rather than give you an exhaustive list here, how about this nice piece from The Root (which has links to some of the stories as well as a pointed and witty commentary on the issue) or this story that just happened the other day about a Black man getting the cop-call treatment for wearing socks in a pool or this story which has a lot of links like The Root commentary does, with some overlap but also some other similar stories.

All caught up? OK, even if you didn’t read the pieces but at least skimmed to see how many links there are to stories of police being called to deal with normal activities of life committed by people of color, can you see the problem? I mean, one problem is that those links still don’t represent all the stories that have graced social media feeds in the past couple months, much less all the stories that didn’t get any traction online or in print and broadcast media. But doesn’t it seem like that’s a lot of stories for a pretty short period of time?

It’s not as if white people haven’t had a history of calling the police on Black people (or other people of color) for generations. They have. But lately, in the age of Trump—when people who bottled up and hid their racism before have now decided to let it all hang out—police have been weaponized more than ever. And they were already weaponized enough, as the law enforcement system we have today is in many ways simply an evolution of the institution of capturing escaped slaves. Which goes a long way to explaining why we have more than 22 percent of the world’s prison population, though we have less than 5 percent of the world’s population—and those prisons are disproportionally filled with people of color.

But while police have often historically been weapons of the state (whether to terrorize and harass certain groups or collect income for the state) rather than enforcers of justice—and have often been more about maintaining white supremacy and maintaining white comfort than anything else—things have clearly gone up a notch or two or twenty now.

What we have is a whole lot of white people—collectively losing their minds over the perception that they are somehow about to lose out to people of color by (*gasp!*) having to actually maybe share the pie fairly instead of hogging all the pieces and leaving the crumbs—who are striking back maliciously. They are trying to exercise a feeling of power or superiority over people of color and they are doing so by sending the police to do the dirty work. Bad enough when white people “only” threaten or intimidate people of color face to face (and do so with police refusing to intervene on behalf of the non-white victim, as happened here recently), but a growing number of them aren’t even bold enough for that. They are too fearful of retaliation or exposure that they send the police in instead. Often for things that aren’t crimes or even violations of actual rules.

Given how many stories we have from the past several years, along with video evidence and statistics going back decades, that show how much more likely police are to use force (deadly or otherwise) against people of color compared to white people, this is basically an act of violence. It is a form of assault that puts people of color at great risk. And even when no physical harm comes to those people of color from such acts, it harms them psychologically, emotionally and socially—not to mention being a waste of taxpayer money by sending police to handle things police ought not to be handling.

All those words for me to say something simple to you: Leave the police out of it.

Yes, you too—even if you’re a regular and supportive reader of BGIM Media. Liberal white people do this too. Probably not nearly as often, but still they do it. Maybe because they are afraid of looking racist by personally complaining to or hashing out a problem with a person of color—so they do a racist thing by calling the police instead, without even considering the inherent racism of it. Or they have a legitimate beef with a person of color that might involve some kind of violation of something, but instead of reporting it to the landlord to handle or filing as small claims court case or something else, they feel like the police can come in and sort things out. But police aren’t good at de-escalating situations or negotiations or “sorting things out” peacefully and fairly. They are designed and trained to give people citations or arrest them or to direct traffic during accidents. They aren’t primarily problem solvers. They were never meant to be. They clean up for society and often they are trained to see certain types of people as the “messes” to be cleaned up, based mostly on skin color.

Rather than bringing the police into a situation involving a Black person you might want to consider a little something called MYOB rather than 911. No, not “make your own beer”—Mind Your Own Business.

Do I mean that you shouldn’t call the police if a Black person is committing a violent crime right in front of you? No. Do I mean that you don’t serve an eviction notice on a tenant you need to kick out because they’re a person of color and your state or city requires law enforcement folks to serve such notices? No. I acknowledge there are times and places when calling the police is necessary and they may be called on people of color. But there are so many times it isn’t necessary. Or at least it’s no more necessary than it would be for the white people doing the same things around you all the time.

And that’s what I’m aiming to get through to you about MYOB: You need to consider whether you are calling the police because you need to or whether you are doing it because the person you are concerned about isn’t white.

For that matter, confronting a person of color yourself over some real or perceived infraction—would you even consider doing so if the person were white? I suspect, if you are to be honest with yourself, you will find that any time you’ve done that, or been tempted to, or consider doing it in the future, you will be hard-pressed to find times you did the same to white people as often or as vigorously.

If you saw a white person at the pool in your private community whom you did not recognize, would you demand identification? If you saw a white family barbecuing in a park and it wasn’t technically a BBQ zone, would you call the police on them? Think of the myriad times you’ve seen sketchy white people and neither said a thing to them nor called police. The many times white people have exhibited potentially violent behaviors and you turned your back on the situation because you didn’t want to get involved or didn’t want to escalate the situation. How many white people have you seen crawl into the window of a house and not called the police, because it’s broad daylight and you figured (probably rightly so) that the person got locked out and just wants back into their own place? How many white people have you watched loiter with no concerns, even as you fidget because a Black man is hanging around an area? How many times have you been irritated at Black people being boisterous in public while letting any number of ethnic white groups who are also traditionally (or stereotypically) known for the same kind of public energy completely off the hook in your mind?

I ask two things of you above all:

  • At the very least, apply the same standards to everyone, regardless of color, when you complain, confront and/or call the police
  • And if you do call the police on a person of color, be prepared to be an accessory to a lynching

Sorry if that last one sounded harsh. Sorry if it sounds like maybe I’m saying you should be less inclined to call police on Black people and other people of color than you are with white people. Because I am saying that. You need to think not just twice but three or four times before you call police on a Black person unless you are prepared to be responsible for that person’s death.

Simple as that. I don’t advocate tucking your head down and ignoring misdeeds. But I believe in MYOB. If you’ve been minding your business with white people, mind it with the non-white ones as well. If you’re gonna insist on not going the MYOB route with Black people (and continue using police against Black folks as a reflexive action as has become the hot new trend), I expect you to be just as vigorous and dedicated against the white people. Just bear in mind if you take me up on that latter challenge because you’re one of the relatively small number of asshole racists who read BGIM Media, you’re gonna be one busy so-and-so because the white people vastly outnumber the Black people, and with the sense of entitlement so many white folks have—and the small and large misdeeds they routinely commit because of white entitlement—you’ll be lucky if you can find the time to hold down a job or take care of your own life while you’re calling the cops on them.

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