The words “I’m white and I’m hot” were repeated over and over by a white woman dubbed #SouthparkSusan who called the cops on two black women waiting for roadside assistance in the parking lot of their apartment complex in Charlotte, North Carolina last year.
The woman’s name was Susan Westwood. She was inebriated and bragged about her perceived beauty and income, refusing to believe that two black women could live in the Camden Fairview apartment complex where a 2-bedroom/2-bathroom unit goes for less than $1,400-a-month.
“I live here,” Westwood says, right before questioning how much the sisters pay in rent and shoving her phone in their faces. They were Westwood’s neighbors.
“I’m still going to make $125,000 Monday morning. Who are you?” she continued as Leisa and Mary Garris recorded their own video, remaining remarkably calm despite the taunting.
Westwood lost her six-figure income job a week after the Garris’ video went viral.
A week later, she was arrested for misusing the 911 system where she falsely accused the two black women of breaking into homes and begging for money.
Last month, Westwood pleaded guilty for misusing the 911 system and two counts of simple assault in court. She was ordered to pay court fines and given one year of unsupervised probation.
However, things could have turned out very differently had the black women not been recording and had not uploaded the video to the internet where it quickly went viral becoming the latest in a string of similar incidents that took place in the summer of 2018.
The United States has a long history of racism toward non-whites that continues to linger today much of it based on fear. These racial tensions can be glaringly obvious when the lives of people of color are put in danger because of bias-motivated 911 calls.
So far this summer, there has only been one viral video incident of a white person calling police on a black person so maybe last year’s viral videos are serving as a deterrent.
The latest incident took place on the Fourth of July when a white YouTube executive called police on a black engineer in San Francisco who was waiting for a friend.
The YouTube executive, Christopher Cukor, was leaving his apartment building with his son when Wesly Michel caught the open door to enter so he could wait for his friend, a resident of the complex, inside.
Cukor requested that Wesly use the apartment’s callbox to call his friend to prove his intentions are pure. Wesly refused and Cukor called the cops.
“Daddy, don’t. It’s the better. I agree with him,” Cukor’s son begged, crying for his father to leave the man alone, saying he “doesn’t like this.”
Cukor has since apologized and explained his side of the story in a post for Medium.
“I was coming into this situation with my unique history,” Cukor wrote as he went on to explain the time his father was murdered by a trespasser in 2013. Cukor’s family sued the city of Berkeley and blamed the police for not responding to his father’s 911 calls about a mentally ill man on his property.
“For my child’s safety, my safety and that of the building, I felt it was necessary to get help in this situation,” he said.
Michel came into this situation with his own history.
“I remember this exactly happening when I used to live in my own condo and then people used to call the police all the time,” Michel said.
Neither YouTube, where Cukor works, nor Google who owns the video-sharing platform, has made a statement about the incident.
Both men had their reasons for their defensive behavior, except Michel’s reasons were not unique. For many black people, as you will read in this article, white people calling the police on them for simply existing is a part of their daily life. The only reason it came to light last year was because technology and social media.
Last month, Oregon state senators passed a bill that would allow victims of racially-motivated calls to sue the caller. The bill was inspired by an incident in which cops were called on the state’s representative, Janelle Bynum, for suspicious behavior. Bynum was campaigning for her re-election.
A city in Michigan has also proposed a similar law. Grand Rapids is considering enacting a city ordinance that fines 911 callers who racially-profile “people of color participating in their lives.”
While every person has the right to call 911 for help, there were several incidents last year of white people abusing this privilege. Stories and videos surfaced of white people making frivolous 911 calls because black people were grilling in a public park, swimming in a public pool, shopping for prom clothes and working out in a gym as a member just to name a few.
The impulsive habit of white people calling the police on black people for living their lives is nothing new. What is new is the technology capturing these incidents and the social media platforms spreading these videos for the world to see.
In 2018, there were more than a dozen of these incidents that went viral with their own hashtag, becoming national news and leading to a backlash against the caller.
Reggae legend Bob Marley’s granddaughter was accused of burglary last year. As Donisha Prendergast and her friends were checking out of their AirBnB, a neighbor called the police on them. According to Kelly Fyffe-Marshall’s facebook post, the group was greeted with seven police cars and a helicopter.
During a press conference, the Rialto Police Department claim they did not know their city had AirBnB and treated the group with “dignity and respect.” That perspective was not shared. Prendergast, Fyffe-Marshall and Komi-Oluwa Olafimihan plan to sue the department for racially profiling the group.
Starbucks came under fire in April 2018 after a white store manager called the cops on two black men sitting at a table.
Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson arrived at the coffee shop a few minutes ahead of their business meeting.
According to an interview with Good Morning America, Nelson asked to use the bathroom upon arrival but was told restrooms were only for paying customers. He sat back down with Robinson when the same manager that denied him the bathroom asked to take their drink order.
Minutes later, cops escort the Nelson and Robinson out for trespassing after the manager called 911 to report two men refusing to make a purchase or leave the establishment.
Nelson and Robinson reached a symbolic $1 settlement with the city of Philadelphia and asked them to instead fund a $200,000 entrepreneurial grant program for high school students.
A black mother’s pool day with her son on the Fourth of July last year was interrupted when a white resident questioned whether she was allowed to use their private community pool or not.
Jasmine Edwards took to Facebook to express how appauling the incident was stating, “This is a classic case of racial profiling in my half a million $$ neighborhood pool.” The pool was gated with an entry that required a keycard – a keycard Edwards obviously used to enter the pool.
According to Edwards, she and her son were the only black people in the pool and the only ones questioned whether they actually lived in the affluent Winston-Salem, North Carolina neighborhood.
Adam Bloom asked Edwards for her address and ID to prove she belonged there, but ultimately the cops were called who sided with the mom.
Bloom resigned from both his Glenridge Homeowners Association pool chair and board member positions the next day. His former employer, Sonoco, made it clear on Facebook that Bloom “does not reflect the core values of our Company, and the employee involved is no longer employed by the Company in any respect.”
Last May, a family barbeque was derailed by the white woman dubbed #BBQBecky. The reason? The family was using a charcoal grill in a non-charcoal grill designated area of a public park.
In the released 911 call, Jennifer Schulte is heard expressing her concern of the dangers of charcoal grilling and easily describes the culprits as African-American. After calling 911 a second time while she waited “for a police to come for over two hours,” Schulte’s hesitates telling the dispatcher her own race saying “it doesn’t matter.”
Oakland Police eventually arrived and no one was arrested. The family’s cookout was allowed to continue and inspired an even bigger event a month later called “BBQing While Black.”
Hundreds came together for a day filled with food, Hip-Hop and solidarity. As for Schulte, police evaluated her for a psychiatric hold and Stanford University ensured she is not a faculty member of theirs, as presumed from her now deleted LinkedIn page.
A New Jersey LA Fitness manager threatened to have two black men’s memberships cancelled if they did not leave the gym without providing a reason last April. This was after proving to another employee by rescanning into the gym that the men were rightfully there but right before five officers arrived to ask them to leave.
Baffled, the man recording the incident is heard wondering why officers are there, but the cops don’t know either. The first employee in the video is seen rescanning one of the man’s membership card, verifying he is an active member.
The second employee shown is still not satisfied and asks them to leave, getting angry he is being recorded. A cop can be heard telling the manager that recording is not a crime.
According to the Associated Press, the executive vice-president of operations stated that her staff “unnecessarily escalated the situation and called the police rather than work through it” and a spokeswoman for the gym confirmed the three employees involved in the harassment have been fired.
A white Hispanic man named George Zimmerman, then a neighborhood watch captain, called the police to report a suspicious person in 2012. The suspicious person was a son visiting his father. Martin was walking back from a 7-Eleven through a neighborhood with a pack of Skittles and iced tea. Despite being told not to leave his car, Zimmerman did. Moments later, he shot Martin to death. A jury found Zimmerman not guilty of murder or manslaughter a year later.
That happened seven years ago, yet the outrage it sparked is still felt today. High school valedictorian Rooha Haghar’s speech was abruptly stopped after she mentioned the names of Martin and Tamir Rice, a boy fatally shot by former police officer Timothy Loehmann.
Loehmann responded to a 911 call about “a guy with a gun.” The gun was a BB gun 12-year-old Rice was playing with. According to HuffPost, surveillance video shows Loehmann shooting Rice “within two seconds of exiting his patrol vehicle.”
The Constitution protects people of every race from being racially profiled by granting equal protection under the law and outlawing unreasonable searches and seizures. While Oregon and Grand Rapids, Michigan have taken a step further to ensure people of color are no longer targets for this type of discrimination, only time will tell if their efforts are of avail.
For now, racially-motivated 911 calls continue to be common. In an effort to correct her behavior, Susan “I’m white and I’m hot” Westwood, or as the internet prefers #SouthparkSusan, was sentenced to participate in White People Caucus meetings.
The organization, known as O.A.R. or Organizing Against Racism, offers two separate caucus’. One for people of color to recognize and heal from “internalized racial inferiority” and another for white people to “examine and deconstruct their internalized racial superiority.”
Whether attending these meetings help Westwood resolve her issues with black people remains to be seen, however the idea of every person, regardless of race, having honest conversations about internalized discrimination and institutionalized racism will lead to a nation filled with community, not tension; celebration, not tolerance.