Racist calls to police will now be condemned in San Francisco -
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It will soon no longer be possible to call the police on racist grounds in San Francisco, California.
The city's supervisory board unanimously passed the Caren Act, which makes it illegal to call the police, for a racially motivated complaint.
After a second vote scheduled for this week, the law will allow anyone who has felt discriminated against following an appeal to the authorities to file a civil complaint against the person who made the call.
This law is part of a context of awareness raising on racial issues in the United States, in a country still shaken by the assassination of George Floyd by the Minneapolis police.
It also comes as cities like San Francisco reassess how their police departments interact with racialized people, disproportionately targeted by law enforcement.
“We don't want what happened to Emmett Till in 1955, or the long history of false accusations against black men and boys in this country […] to happen again.
I really want to stress that 911 is not a customer service line meant to serve the racist behavior of others, ”said Shamann Walton, a member of the San Francisco supervisory board behind the law.
He was referring to Emmett Till, a young black teenager of 14, tortured to death in 1955 following the accusations of a white woman, who confessed to having lied.
A name chosen with care
Not restricted to racial discrimination, the law also applies to discrimination based on sex, age, religion, disability ... But it is above all its name, Caren Act, which marks the spirits.
It's a reference to the "Karen" meme: on the Web, a Karen is a middle-aged white woman who feels like she is owed everything and that everything is permitted, especially when she is it is about complaining about people of color.
Here is the definition, adapted to 2020, that the
New York Times
in an article devoted to the phenomenon: “A Karen wanders in restaurants and stores, often without a mask during this period of coronavirus, spitting out her venom and calling the authorities to denounce other people, generally of color, which often puts them in danger ”…
Oh, when Karens take a walk with their dogs off leash in the famous Bramble in NY's Central Park, where it is clearly posted on signs that dogs MUST be leashed at all times, and someone like my brother (an avid birder) politely asks her to put her dog on the leash.
- Melody Cooper (@melodyMcooper) May 25, 2020
An expression of the common language
It may seem strange to a French reader unaccustomed to the term, but it is very common in the United States that the escapades of a "Karen" are widely commented on on social networks.
Recently in May, a video showing a white woman in New York City calling police after a black bird lover politely asked her to tie up his dog went viral on Twitter.
In the video, she calls for help, miming distress, and asks that the police be sent to her because she feels "threatened" by the ornithologist, who just asked her to respect the rule in force. in the park.
She has since been prosecuted for slanderous denunciation.
San Francisco is no exception.
Last June, a white couple were criticized on social media after a widely publicized video was released in which they were seen interviewing a Filipino-American man stenciling “Black Lives Matter” on his own fence , in front of his house.
They then called the police.
The Karen strike back
A few voices were nevertheless raised to criticize the name of the law, considered sexist.
The San Francisco council has received eight complaints, most of which come from people called Karen, using different spellings.
They denounced a "term of rejection of middle-aged white women", even finding it downright racist.
“Yes, my name is Karen and I regularly condemn injustices.
So could we try to find another acronym that doesn't denigrate a whole bunch of people called Karen / Caryn / Caren?
One of them asked.
These complaints were swept away by the San Francisco supervisory board, which considers that the "Caren Act" does not refer to any particular individual.
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