A Harmful Call

By: Alicia Howell

CW: police brutality, racism, anti-Blackness, death, trauma, 911

Illustration by Mithsuca Berry  (Rookie Mag)

Illustration by Mithsuca Berry (Rookie Mag)

Unless a person has been living under a rock; they have seen or heard about all the random
African-American people sightings that prompt numerous non-people of color to call the police.
I believe that I have seen at least one new video or post on social media per week about the
police being called on an African-American for sleeping, sitting, eating, swimming, and
breathing. The way the cops are called on African-Americans, one might have thought the city of
Atlantis magically appeared in the Atlantic Ocean and African-Americans arrived on land
yesterday. Non-people of color pick up the phone and call the police like they would call the
wild life reserve when a Bald Eagle falls from the sky. The difference between Bald Eagles and
African-Americans is that African-Americans aren’t contained to just North America, they are
all over the world and have been for some time. The similarities between Bald Eagles and
African-Americans is that they are both close to extinction. When a non-person of color picks up
the phone to call the police on an African-American, what that says is that their comfort is more
important than the life of an African-American.

I am an African-American woman with social anxiety. There are times that I must give myself a
pep talk just to drop my children off at school. When I grocery shop, I just want to get what I
need and go home, I don’t want to be accosted by police just because someone feels as though I
pose a threat. The thought of having the police called on me makes it harder for me to grow. I
personally push myself to travel, interact with new people and at times be uncomfortable in my
surroundings. I am fully capable of removing myself from settings where I feel too
uncomfortable; however, not everyone is able to or aware that they need to remove themselves.
African-Americans with mental health issues are more likely to be seriously injured when police
are called because their ethnicity posed a threat first.

A person’s comfort shouldn’t be worth another person’s life. I wish I could say that I had a
solution for this new trend, but I don’t. However; I do have words of wisdom; one of the
guidelines (also called the precepts) in mindfulness practice is not to harm another living
creature. African-Americans are part of the human race, we are not mountain lions or rabid pact
animals that someone needs to call animal control for. Calling the police on us is harmful. It
produces fear in us that grows into generational trauma. Many of us and our family members
have been on the end of water hoses and police dogs because we wanted to sit at a lunch counter and be counted as equal. Many of our family members lost their lives during the civil rights movement and it hurts (harms) us to see that things have not changed. That call to the police could end someone’s life and even if the person making the call didn’t pull the trigger, their call set things in motion. Be understanding and compassionate to know that an unnecessary phone call is harmful and does nothing to ease the discomfort that is felt.

Stefanie Kaufman