San Francisco Board of Supervisors member Shamann Walton introduced municipal legislation on Tuesday called the “CAREN Act,” which would outlaw racist 911 calls but uses a term some regard as a racial slur against white women.
CAREN is an acronym for “Caution Against Racially Exploitative Non-Emergencies,” and Walton explained that his ordinance was inspired by recent incidents nationwide in which police were called on black people in racial incidents.
The term “Karen,” however, is itself racist in certain contexts. The Urban Dictionary defines “Karen” as “[t]he stereotypical name associated with rude, obnoxious and insufferable middle aged white women.”
Walton added another resolution supporting Assembly Bill 1550, introduced by Assemblyman Rob Banta (D-Oakland), which bars “discriminatory emergency calls” and would allow such calls to be considered hate crimes.
In explaining his resolution, Walton said: (via San Francisco Board of Supervisors):
The CAREN Act is in reponse to the rising incidence of people harassing and calling 911 on black people and people of color doing daily activities all over the country.
Let it be known that this has always happened, but with smart phones and social media, we are seeing it recorded and subsequently broadcasted on the news.
Last year, there were many incidents of individuals calling the police on black people and people of color, from Barbecue Becky to Permit Patty to a group of young leaders from Project Level right here in San Francisco getting profiled at Forever 21 — and that’s just here in the Bay Area.
In the last month-and-a-half, [in] the Bay Area alone, an individual called the police on a black man who was dancing and exercising on the street in Alameda, and a couple called the police on a Filipino man stenciling “Black Lives Matter,” in chalk, in front of his own home in Pacific Heights. Nationally, a woman called the police on a black man who was birdwatching in Central Park, while accusing him of harassing her. And know about George Floyd, who was killed in Minneapolis after someone called the police on him, accusing him of using counterfeit money at a store where he purchased cigarettes.
These are only a few examples that have been publicized recently, but there are countless others that do not get news coverage or are not even recorder.
The existing California law makes false police reports a misdemeanor or a felony offense, punishable by up to six months in jail, but there are currently no consequences by law for people who make fraudulent emergency calls based on race.
Black indigenous people of color often suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of law enforcement violating their rights to everyday normal activities based on fraudulent 911 calls by an individual’s racial bias and racism.
The CAREN Act will make it illegal for people to contact law enforcement solely to discriminate on the basis of a person’s race, ethnicity, religious affiliation, gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity, and other protected classes, and allow individuals harmed by fraudulent emergency calls based on their race, ethnicity, religious affiliation, gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity to pursue civil remedies through civil court and hold the person making the call accountable for their behavior.
911 calls and emergency reports are not customer service lines for racist behavior, and using these for fraudulent reports based on the perceived threatsof someone’s race takes away emergency resources from actual emergencies.
This isn’t to discourage people from using emergency lines to report actual emergencies in good faith, but rather protect communities of color who are often targeted and victims of fraudulent emergency calls.
Under the CAREN Act, individuals who make fraudulent 911 calls can be sued by those who were harmed for damages for up to $1,000.
Fraudulent emergency calls against people of color are a form of racial violence and should not be tolerated.
The next resolution is closely related to the CAREN Act.
It is a resolution in support of Oakland Assemblymember Rob Bonte’s AB 1550, which would create a civil liability and criminal offense for people making false emergency 911 calls based on race, religion, outward appearance, or inclusion in a protected class.
Both the CAREN Act and AB 1550 are part of a larger nationwide movement to address racial bias and implement consequences for weaponizing emergency resources with racist intentions.
“Barbecue Betty” refers to an incident in which a white woman called the police on a black family using a charcoal grill in the park in Oakland; and “Permit Patty” refers to a woman who called the police on a girl selling bottles of water on the sidewalk outside her office in San Francisco.
San Francisco has lost more than half its African American population in the last 50 years, a phenomenon that inspired a recent film, The Last Black Man in San Francisco.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). His new book, RED NOVEMBER, is available for pre-order. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.