Lately people like #PermitPatty and #BBQBecky have been making headlines for calling the police on black people doing normal, everyday things. Knowing the history of People Of Color (POC) interactions with the police, these unnecessary calls to 911 aren’t a misunderstanding. We must call these situations as what they are: racists playing up their fears of POC and utilizing the police as a means of inciting terror.

Viral Racism

Given the current social media climate we’re in, it is understandable that many black people dread run-ins with the police, even when innocent due to the fear of becoming victims to police misunderstandings (which we know can be fatal). Through social media and (unfortunately) real-life examples, black people know that not all run-ins end well. This is why it is extremely unnerving to see these instances of white people calling the police on black people doing simple things like barbecuing or selling water. It is also unfortunate how common calling the police on black people (for no real reason) is becoming.

Many times during these viral confrontations between white people and black people, it seems that Black Americans are simply minding their business and just living their lives. The Permit Pattys and BBQ Beckys in these videos will then react in disproportion by whipping out their phones and calling the police on these unsuspecting black people. Once backlash ensues, they lie to cover up their racist overreaction. For example, in the situation regarding the 8-year-old girl selling water, Alison Ethel went as far as to lie and say she didn’t actually call the police when there is recorded evidence of her call for public consumption.

The Problem At Hand

As these stories continue to multiply, must we ask why? We already know the who. Many of the callers are white women. They often are the ones sicking the police on black people, then turn around and play the victim by shedding tears once the police arrive. Also, much like the two aforementioned instances, these police calls happened in neighborhoods affected by gentrification, in which white residents move in and police the POC who have been there peacefully their whole lives.


The white people calling the police on black citizens for doing harmless, everyday things such as mowing lawns, selling water, barbecuing, etc. know what they are doing. They are intentionally putting the black people they encounter in harm’s way because they are racist. These incidents are issues of racism because none of these black people were breaking the law. They were simply existing.

It becomes more and more apparent through these incidents that the white people making these 911 calls understand the dynamics between POC and the police. For example, when Jennifer Schultz, aka #BBQBecky, was calling the police and was confronted by another white woman (who was using her privilege for good), she stuttered through her explanation as to why she was calling the police. She made up laws that did not exist to justify calling the police. When they arrived on the scene, she did what she knew how – she cried and played victim.

The usage of the police against peaceful black citizens while painting oneself as innocent and not the aggressor in a situation that you caused are tactics that are constantly repeated in incidents like these, meant to criminalize black people who are doing nothing wrong.

Moving Forward

Knowing what we know in the age of information, there is no excuse for feigning ignorance to what happens when one wrongly calls the police on black people. Fortunately, the people affected in many of the viral stories were not harmed.

There needs to be stricter penalties for those who frivolously call the police claiming a crime is occurring when there is no crime. There should be an enforcement of punishments and/or fines in place to make people stop and think before dialing 911 just to harm someone. The person should even be arrested if the police arrive and the situation was fabricated to appear to be an emergency. This may be a way to hinder those who call the cops on black folks doing absolutely nothing wrong.

Black people are allowed to exist in their spaces. Calling the cops on them for simply existing while being black shows that white people understand the aversion POC have to the police, and use the police as a means of inciting fear and authority over a group of minorities.


Image Attribute: Pixabay