This article was published on July 27th, 2020
In 2020, the name Karen has had a rough go of it, and if a certain legislative proposal is approved, the negative connotations will continue for the foreseeable future. ‘Karen’ is the epitome of female white privilege – the ability to cloak one’s white self in privilege while feigning innocence or concern. San Francisco Supervisor Shamann Walton has recently introduced a proposal to city leaders that would make it illegal to fabricate a 911 report based on someone’s race, ethnicity, religious affiliation, gender, or sexual orientation. CAREN – Caution Against Racially Exploitative Non-Emergencies Act – may be just the type of bill that gets the attention of the general public and reduces potential incidents in the future.
CAREN is but one of a several similar proposals that are popping up all around the country by local political leaders that are seeking to reduce the number of racially motivated phone calls to police departments. Not only are the majority of these calls unnecessary, but they cost tax payers millions of dollars each year. Some cities have already approved ordinances similar to the CAREN bill.
In Grand Rapids, Michigan, the city commission approved a statue that bans racial profiling in 911 calls. Also, in Oregon last year, the Senate passed a bill allowing people to file a lawsuit if they have had law enforcement called on them as a result of discrimination. Supporters of these bills opine that these new laws have made crime reporting more fair and accurate, thereby saving time and money to the city. Says Walton:
“It’s a phenomenon that’s been going on for a while. We can go back to Emmett Till to see how false reporting can lead to death for Black people. My ultimate goal is to make sure we have ordinances like this on the books across the country, and to make sure that people don’t do this because, again, this is not a joke, it’s not a game, people have literally been killed by police officers because of arbitrary calls to law enforcement.”
Others in the state of California note that the bill is about common sense and determining whether a situation is worth contacting law enforcement for. With one of the largest minority populations in the United States, millions of Californians could be protected from being targets of hate and protected from the weaponization of law enforcement against communities of color. The CAREN Act has a 30-day hold after being introduced but would next likely be heard by a Board of Supervisors committee and then go into effect 30 days after the mayor would sign the ordinance.
At the end of the day, the CAREN law is about stopping discriminatory practices and the weaponization of 911 services. As California takes the initiative in hate crimes, the rest of America is watching note of its potential impact.