Former 911 dispatcher dishes on racist white callers, how ‘BBQ Becky’ is not an anomaly
In a first person essay for Vox, former 911 dispatcher Rachael Herron recently wrote about her experiences with racist white people calling the police on Black people in overwhelmingly white neighborhoods. In the wake of white women calling the police on Black people for little or nothing in Oakland, at Yale and in a Philadelphia Starbucks, this personal essay illuminates what happens when these types of calls happen, and the problems it creates.
Herron elaborates: “Am I saying police officers aren’t racist — that they question black citizens more aggressively than white citizens because responding to most complaints is obligatory? Heck no. Many are. We live in a country still mired in institutional racism, including its policing. I’m not in the business anymore, and the relationship between police departments and communities of color was one of the reasons I left to write full time. ”
Herron also details an instance where a coworker she names as Bonnie received a call from a white man who was upset that there were Black people parked on the street. The man then asked if Bonnie was Black and she responded yes. That’s when the man decided to file a complaint against Bonnie. She was investigated and advised by her superiors to “be more circumspect.” According to Herron, that incident is what drove Bonnie out of being a 911 dispatcher and she eventually became a therapist on San Quentin’s death row, which she says is easier than being a 911 dispatcher.
In Claudia Rankine’s landmark poetry/prose hybrid book Citizen, she argues says that Black people are dying because white people refuse to police their imaginations. This explains one caller Herron describes who feared that a group of Black teens was about to commit armed robbery of a 7-11 simply because they had on hoodies.
White people elected a Donald Trump as their president knowing full well that his appeals to “law and order” were often dog whistles for those who did not want Black people won or around their property. Herron is not an anomaly, and neither is Bonnie. These kinds of calls happen everyday, in every city.