You’d think learning that Sarah Braasch—the woman who called the police on Yale graduate student Lolade Siyonbola for #NappingWhileBlack—is a philosophy Ph.D. candidate who’s studied gender and law would add something to this story. A surprise, perhaps, that a person who has undoubtedly encountered lessons on unconscious bias and systemic oppression would be so transparently racist. Or maybe even a shock that someone so educated could do something so, well, stupid.
But nah. Hearing about her academic background is no different from discovering that her hair is brown or that her favorite movie is Die Hard With a Vengeance. It adds no context, provides no insight and doesn’t even begin to nudge the needle in either direction. We know, already, that racism—anti-blackness, specifically—follows white people wherever they happen to be, as if anti-blackness uses Waze to locate and track them. Yale, Yellowstone National Park, the year 2018—it doesn’t matter. For white people, being racist is Liam Neeson in Taken:
I don’t know who you are. I don’t know what you want. If you are looking for ransom, I can tell you I don’t have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills, skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you let my daughter go now, that’ll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don’t, I will look for you, I will find you.
That said, I strongly doubt that Braasch felt a genuine fear for her life. Just how I don’t believe that the white woman who called the police on the men in that Philly Starbucks did, or even that the white woman who harassed the men in Oakland, Calif., for #CookingOutWhileBlack did. Instead, they all felt uncomfortable. And not necessarily a discomfort that comes with mortal fear, but the way you might feel uncomfortable or annoyed if your Spotify playlist keeps crashing or if your new MacBook Pro can’t connect to your home Wi-Fi. For them—and for (too many) white people, in general—the police serve a similar function.
They’re annoyed that a product they purchased (America) or a subscription they signed up for (whiteness) isn’t working quite how they envisioned it. Perhaps there’s spyware (black people) that’s bothering them or an error message (black people doing something) they can’t get rid of. So they call customer service (cops) to fix the problem (us).
Unfortunately, white people don’t just believe that the police are their personal AppleCare for black people. It’s the truth. That seems to be their primary function: to remove black people from spaces where a white person doesn’t believe we’re supposed to be. Which I guess means that the only solution is to keep crashing the system. And by “keep crashing the system” I mean “buy a Chromebook.”