Stop Dialing 911 on Black People

By Alexis Miller

It is time for white people to stop calling the police on black people. Especially on black women.

On August 7 in Madison, Wisconsin, the city in which I currently attend college, a black woman by the name of Sheila Stubbs was canvassing in a predominantly white neighborhood for the upcoming primary election in which she was running for Wisconsin State Assembly in the 77th District. Her mother and daughter tagged along, waiting in the car as Stubbs spoke to her future constituents.

As she was speaking with a potential voter, a cop car pulled up behind her car.

Confused, she went to talk to the officer and learned that a man had dialed 911 claiming that Stubbs was a drug dealer, wanting her and her family “to move along.” Although she was wearing a name tag and immediately showed the officer her campaign materials and explained what she was doing, the officer did not believe her until she provided her “walk list” of all of the houses she had visited.

After apologizing, the officer suggested that Stubbs keep canvassing, but all she wanted to do was go home:

“It was just the humiliation. I felt so degraded, but I had to keep a certain persona. And I just wanted to go.”

While this incident occurred back in August, Stubbs came forward with her story in mid-September. She ended up winning her primary race and without a Republican opposition, she will become the first African-American woman to represent the district.

Stubb’s story is unfortunately an all too common one. The same scenario happened back in July to Representative Janelle Bynum while she was canvassing in Oregon, and in fact, has happened enough to black women that the hashtag #CampaigningWhileBlack exists. And this problem isn’t isolated to black women running for office. It has happened to black women napping; to black women golfing; to black women renting out an Airbnb.

It has happened throughout history.

These incidents are reminders that white people continue to believe they have the right to every space and feel threatened by the presence of people of color. Moreover, turning immediately to the police for such benign actions is not only ridiculous and unnecessary, but creates a dangerous and potentially fatal situation.

Moral of the story: mind your business and let black women live.

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