It happened again — and the pattern of racism in public spaces continues.
Here’s the troubling, consistent behavior: There are some white people who are looking for a reason – any reason – to call the police on innocent Black people in parks, on streets and in coffee shops across America.
But this most recent incident is perhaps the most appalling: A white woman in San Francisco apparently called the police on an 8-year-old girl for selling bottles of water in her neighborhood, across the street from AT&T Stadium where the Giants were playing baseball.
Is selling water outside a baseball stadium now a crime? And is this the kind of incident that police should be called to intervene?
A video shows Alison Ettel apparently calling the police on the little girl for selling water “illegally.” Ettel approached the kid and asked her if she had a permit to sell water.
The video was posted by the girl’s mother, Erin Austin, and the video has gone viral. Social media followers have dubbed the woman, Alison Ettel, “Permit Patty.” A racially diverse online coalition is pushing back against Ettel.
The girl was selling bottles of water for a reason: Austin said she recently lost her job and that her 8-year-old daughter was selling bottles of water to raise money for a trip to Disneyland.
Ettel didn’t know – and apparently didn’t care. She told The Huffington Post that she “snapped” after listening to the 8-year-old’s mother “screaming.”
“They were screaming about what they were selling,” Ettel told the HuffPost. “It was literally nonstop. It was every two seconds, ‘Come and buy my water.’ It was continuous and it wasn’t a soft voice, it was screaming.”
“I had been putting up with this for hours, and I just snapped,” Ettel said.
So it’s come to this: Ettel became so enraged by the sounds of a little girl and her mother selling water at a baseball game that she felt the situation required law enforcement involvement?
Why not close the windows? Ettel said she had the windows of her office open. When the HuffPost asked why she did not close the windows, Ettel said it was too hot. So Ettel doesn’t have air conditioning in her office?
Ettel told the HuffPost that she didn’t call the police because the girl was Black.
“This has no racial component to it,” Ettel told the HuffPost. She also claims she only “pretended” to call the police.
“This woman don’t want a little girl to sell some water, she’s calling the police on an 8-year-old girl,” the child’s mother says on the video.
Ettel is seen on the phone and then runs when she learns she is being recorded.
“Don’t hide, the whole world gonna see you, boo,” the woman filming says.
“Yeah, and um, illegally selling water without a permit?” Ettel says into the phone.
“On my property,” the mother responds.
“It’s not your property,” Ettel says.
“I have no problem with enterprising young women. I want to support that little girl. It was all the mother and just about being quiet,” Etell told the HuffPost.
Etell is the latest white person to call the police on innocent and unsuspecting Black people.
In April, a white woman in Oakland, California, nicknamed “BBQ Becky” called the police on a Black family who she accused of grilling in a public park illegally. The video of the incident went viral.
And last month, I wrote a column I called strolling while Black.
Donald Sherman, an African-American lawyer and father, was pushing a stroller carrying his baby, Caleb, at Kingman and Heritage Islands Park near the Anacostia River in Washington, D.C. a white woman who was jogging past Sherman – for reasons that are still mind-boggling – called the police to report “a suspicious man walking the bike path with a baby.”
Weeks after two Black men were arrested in Starbucks for planning a business meeting and three Black women were harassed unnecessarily for checking into an Airbnb, Sherman was questioned by a law enforcement officer just because he wanted his baby to get some fresh air.
]The CEO of Starbucks addressed the racist situation immediately: He shut down 800 Starbucks stores for one day to implement mandatory company-wide racial diversity training seminars. He did the right thing. But how do you change the racial mindsets of people like Ettel?
In a recent incident that some called “Golfing While Black,” a Pennsylvania golf club owner called police on five African-American female members after the club’s co-owner said that the women were playing too slowly.
The Black women have a different version of events: They said they were discriminated against. No charges were filed and the golf club management apologized to the women.
“It’s a shame the police were called to resolve a conflict that could have been handled through a conversation, talking to each other as human beings,” Jay Karen, CEO of The National Golf Course Owners Association, told me. “These kinds of conflicts should not happen on golf courses and they shouldn’t happen at Starbucks.”
In the meantime, Ettel told reporters that said she is now getting threats online and she feels “discriminated against.”
“It was stupid,” Ettel told the HuffPost. “I completely regret that I handled that so poorly. It was completely stress-related, and I should have never confronted her. That was a mistake, a complete mistake. Please don’t make me sound horrible.”
I don’t think Ettel needs help from others to make her sound horrible: She’s doing a fine job all by herself.
What do you think?
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