In the past three weeks, there have been a number of news reports covering the 911 calls made by white people against innocent black people, alleging they were engaging in suspicious behaviour. The activities the white callers deemed suspicious ranged from sitting in a Starbucks, eating at a Waffle House, renting an Airbnb, and sleeping in a student lounge.
These incidents not only highlight the extreme racial tensions in the United States, but the lack of accountability by white people who place these unnecessary calls. The lack of accountability on the white citizens involved, however, places all of the blame and responsibility on the responding police.
We must ask ourselves the question, if a white person were sleeping in a student lounge, or sitting in a Starbucks waiting for a friend to join them, would the police be called? Ultimately, if a crime is not being committed, there is absolutely no reason for a police officer to be called to a scene. As such, 911 responders, police officers, and countless other resources are being wasted, and taken away from those experiencing real, life-threatening emergencies. With the exception of slight media backlash, there is nothing preventing people from continuing to make these calls.
I believe people at large are becoming more aware of the realities of living in the United States as a black individual – that black people are too often killed in situations where a white person would have the opportunity to merely walk away. I believe the increase in calls to the police are therefore incredibly calculated.
I cannot imagine being so entitled, that in a situation where I felt uncomfortable, I would first call the police, before speaking to the person who made me uncomfortable, or simply removing myself from the situation.
While these incidents have all occurred south of the border, it is important we realize that the attitudes that cause such events are not isolated to the people of the United States. Just last week, a woman from Lethbridge was caught in a now viral video, berating a group of men who dared to speak in a different language, telling them to “go back to their country.”
In the wake of such turbulent times, it is vital we address our biases. Your comfort is not more important than another human being’s right to life. Weaponizing your fear, be it via the police or your own hands, is unacceptable. There should be further measures to prevent citizens from making unnecessary police calls against people of colour. It should go without saying, but given the times: let us never forget to treat our fellow human beings with kindness, respect and dignity.
Jennifer Hamilton is a local student and writer.