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Introduction of San Francisco’s ‘CAREN Act’ could stop racist false reporting

Introduction of San Francisco’s ‘CAREN Act’ could stop racist false reporting

Introduction of San Francisco’s ‘CAREN Act’ could stop racist false reporting
July 25
12:00 2020

On July 7, Shamann Walton, a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, introduced the Caution Against Racially Exploitative Non-Emergencies Act or the CAREN Act” at the San Francisco Board of Supervisors meeting. In a tweet announcing this decision, Walton said that racist 911 calls are unacceptable, which is why he is suggesting this act. In the state of California, giving a false police report is a crime but there is no punishment for those calling in false reports simply based on a person’s race, ethnicity or religion. The “CAREN Act” would aim to change that. 

Discriminatory 911 phone calls are not a new phenomenon in the U.S., however, there has recently been am uptick in attention brought to a particular group of people engaging in this type of behavior on social media. 

These individuals have been labeled with the name, “Karen.” A “Karen” is usually described as a middle-aged white woman, who’s attitude and entitlement is problematic yet plays the victim in public settings by exaggerating and or falsifying circumstances, while using their white privilege as a means to do so. 

Oftentimes we see “Karen’s” using the police to help further their purpose or agenda toward innocent people they encounter who also happen to be people of color. 

One well-known example of this happened on May 25 of this year when Amy Cooper, a white woman, called the police on Christain Cooper, a Black man, at Central Park in New York City. She untruthfully and maliciously told the police that she and her dog were being threatened by Cooper, and made it a point to explicitly describe him as a Black man to the 911 operator.

Although Cooper was charged with filing a false report in this specific situation, this is not something that people like her normally are held legally accountable for, but it’s time they are. The incident went viral on social media and reached a lot of people which is why it probably was taken as seriously as it was. 

There is no doubt a sense of pride, gratification, entitlement and intrusiveness that “Karen’s” possess which fuel their choices. 

Another instance of a woman labeled a “Karen” that took place in June was in San Francisco, the city in which the “Caren Act” is being proposed. The incident involved Lisa Alexander and her husband who had called the police on a Filipino man named James Juanillo for writing Black Lives Matter on the side of his house. While walking by his house they accused him of doing something illegal and said that what he had done was on private property because they assumed it wasn’t his home.  

After reaching out multiple times for comment Alexander finally sent a statement to CBS San Francisco where she apologized for her actions toward Juanillo and wrote she should have minded her own business.  “I am taking a hard look at the meaning behind white privilege and am committed to growing from this experience,” Alexander said. 

When thinking about what happened in this instance with Alexander, it makes you wonder what really bothered her. Was it the fact that she assumed Juanillo was writing on a property that she thought wasn’t his, the fact that what he wrote said Black Lives Matter, or could it have been both? Regardless, it was inappropriate.  

Some have found an issue with the name of the act, but it’s important that it is as specific as it because the crime being committed is specific too. People like Cooper and Alexander need to have consequences for their actions. Passing the “ CAREN Act” may not deter “Karen’s” right away in San Francisco or make people living elsewhere more cautious of this conduct, but maybe it will stop them from caring too much in the near future. 

Featured Illustration: Austin Banzon

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Alexandria Northington

Alexandria Northington

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