Kenzie Smith was firing up a grill at a park in Oakland. He was enjoying the art of barbecuing, something his family at done, in the same park, for generations. Drama unfolded when Jennifer Schulte, a white woman, call the cops on Smith who is black.
Schulte’s complaint? Using charcoal in an undesignated area in the park.
While the drama didn’t end in violence, many other altercations between racist whites and innocent blacks do.
The Oakland incident didn’t trigger any arrests and Smith wasn’t fined. The matter underscore the truth that many whites are incapable of understanding racism — and their complicity in it.
From white persons calling 911 on blacks for everything from enjoying a family BBQ in a public park, to a little girl selling lemonade outside of her store and a woman calling the cops on a Mexican construction crew, it seems the country has gone off-kilter.
Under a proposed law in New York, the Oakland woman who called 911 to report the barbecue, the Starbucks manager who called the police on two customers and the Yale student who reported a fellow student for napping would be charged and prosecuted had they called in New York State.
The Pattern Must Stop
These stories and more have gone viral and have become the catalyst for one New York legislator’s proposal.
New York State Senator Jesse Hamilton is working to make it a hate crime on call 911 on innocent black individuals. It’s an issue Hamilton has had personal experience with. Hamilton, who is black, once watched as a Trump supporter called the cops on him when when he was campaigning.
Hamilton represents the Brownsville, Crown Heights and Flatbush neighborhoods of Brooklyn.
“That should be a hate crime,” said Arkady Bukh, a noted New York criminal defense lawyer. “This pattern of calling law enforcement on people going about their own business has to stop.”
Hamilton’s bill will strengthen the existing legislation which outlaws false reports by categorizing racially-motivated 911 calls as a hate crime.
If Hamilton’s bill passes, law enforcement will make the determination if a 911 call was made with a racial basis or not. Bukh is concerned about leaving the decision up to New York cops.
“We’re putting the responsibility in the hands of a predatory institution,” Bukh said. “I don’t feel comfortable with that.”
The law would not punish people who mistakenly call 911 about someone who seems legitimately threatening.
People like Schulte need to be held accountable. Hamilton’s bill for white accountability through penalties is not misguided and racist behavior can be mitigated by forcing the guilty to pay for their ignorance.
Financial penalties are not perfect, but can be a solid pre-emptive measure.
The Smith/Schulte incident in Oakland shows racism continues to run rampant while whites are clueless about how it operates.