Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Thursday, September 20, 2018

Opinion: White women need to talk about race

After repeatedly calling police on unassuming African-Americans, white women need to step up

Opinion: White women need to talk about race

This was the summer of the #PermitPattys. White women spent their summer time calling the cops on African-Americans having lunch or running a lemonade stand – not breaking the law. At Yale University and Smith College, white people called the police on students for doing … absolutely nothing. For just existing in a space that they consider as white. For looking, in the words of a Smith employee, “out of place.” Or maybe the reason is better put by Oumou Kanoute, the student the Smith employee called the police on: “All I did was be black.”

The most simple lesson that white people apparently need to learn is to mind our own business. In the post-terror attack era, the words “if you see something say something” have become a cardinal rule. Unfortunately, people racially profile and say something even if they didn’t see anything at all.

At AU, we haven’t been immune to white people taking it upon themselves to dictate what Black people can and can’t do. Most notably, in 2016, library staff member Scott O’Beirne had a physical altercation with an African-American student who was protesting the election of Donald Trump by burning the American flag. O’Beirne may have been angry about the way that student was protesting, but he did not have a right to interfere with her freedom of speech. His mindset is similar to the white woman manager of an apartment complex pool who asked a black male resident to leave. She could not believe that he belonged there, and so she tried to take that right away from him.

Another simple lesson from these incidents: black people belong everywhere in the United States: in the classroom as a student or a teacher, at the pool and running a lemonade stand. They don’t deserve to be bothered or questioned. People of color can have fun at events like any white person; there is nothing inherently wrong with how they behave in public. It is systemic racism that has told us that a large group of non-whites having fun or getting rowdy is potentially dangerous. It is systemic racism that says a large group of white boys getting rowdy, unlike their non-white counterparts, is just guys having fun. Everyone is allowed to have fun and exist.

In many of these cases, the caller has been a white woman. In all of them, it has been a white person. Anyone who thinks the role white women are playing in these racist acts is new hasn’t paid attention in history class. It was a white woman who lied about an interaction with 14-year-old Emmett Till that led to his brutal murder, and that’s just one of the most infamous examples. Black people in America still have reason to fear police, and white women still think it’s okay to call police on them.

The fact is, white women often enforce systemic racism, and it is long past time that women talk to each other about it. One of the most staggering statistics after Trump was elected was how many white women voted for him – 52 percent nationwide. A man who admitted to grabbing women’s crotches was deemed acceptable by a majority of white women, and no one seems to want to accept the role of race in those votes.

White women have to talk to each other about racism. We have to have conversations with our friends, cousins and mothers about the misguided role they play in policing black and brown bodies. The conversations might be uncomfortable, but they are necessary. Talk about why you or your mother get nervous when a black man walks by on the street. Call out your cousin for saying that “all black girls are the same.”

We all have bias. Ignoring this bias doesn’t help anyone. Now is the time for white women to challenge each other to learn more about the people of color around us, learn more about how troubling it is to immediately call the police on someone we think is “out of place.” It’s time for us to learn how to mind our own business. People of color exist and more than deserve to take up space in our society. It’s past due to let them.

Samantha McAllister is a sophomore in the School of International Service and a columnist at The Eagle.

smcallister@theeagleonline.com


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