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Social Media Is Exposing America’s Racial Profiling Problem

Please welcome #PermitPatty to the meme hall of fame.

The latest instance of white people having serious problems with black people just going about their business comes in the form of #PermitPatty, who, according to what she told the Huffington Post only “pretended” to call authorities on an 8-year old girl selling water on the sidewalk. But social media wasn’t buying it.

The 15-second video quickly went viral via Twitter, after being posted by someone who said they were the girl’s cousin. Ettel claimed to be calling authorities because the girl selling water didn’t have a permit to do so.

#PermitPatty’s actual name is Alison Ettel, an Oakland woman who runs TreatWell, a start-up that makes marijuana-based products for people and pets. Since the video’s posting, six retailers have cut ties with Ettel and her company, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. According to NBC, Ettel has since stepped down as CEO of TreatWell.

This is the second instance of a racial profiling incident gone viral happening in Oakland. Not long ago, #BBQBecky called the cops on a black family for using a charcoal grill in a park.

social media

Ettel also told Huffington Post that her outburst was “stress-related,” and had no racial motivation behind it whatsoever. The problem then becomes why was she going to call authorities? There were many other much more productive ways to handle the situation, (number one just leaving the girl alone), but Ettel took it upon herself to escalate what should have been a non-issue.

In cases like these, social media (namely Twitter) become a kind of jury, doling out virality that in the case of Ettel, is having real-life consequences. Before the internet and social media, there wasn’t the kind accountability system for instances of this nature, but that certainly doesn’t mean they didn’t occur.

White people in America clearly have ingrained racial bias, that before now, wasn’t always part of the national conversation. Social media has created a platform for those who perpetrate this type of behavior to be called out, and those who are considering doing something like this in the future to think twice.

Is #PermitPatty a horrible, vile person? I don’t know her personally, but probably not. That being said, her and others’ quickness to call authorities in cases of black people doing very normal, and frankly, boring things points to a much larger problem in this country that the internet may actually be helping to address.

Huffington Post put out a video compiling just some of the recent instances where, as the title of the video explains the “Cops Keep Getting Called on Black People for Being Black.” In it, a black firefighter who was in uniform and had a firetruck had the police called on him, two black men were arrested in a Starbucks while they were waiting to meet someone for a business meeting, black women were reported while golfing, a former Obama staffer had the cops called on him when a neighbor thought he was breaking into an apartment when really he was moving into his own apartment… The list goes on.

Those are just a few of the countless instances that happen all the time. Not all of them go viral, but it doesn’t mean they aren’t happening. White people in America have an entrenched racial profiling problem that social media is finally shining a light on.

In an age where everyone carries a phone that has a camera and internet connection, the #PermitPatty’s and #BBQBecky’s of the world can no longer get away with racial profiling. Though these instances going viral certainly doesn’t fix the problem, it can hopefully help discourage the next white person from calling the police on black people for being black. Don’t be a #PermitPatty or a #BBQBecky.

Featured image via Bored Panda.


Also published on Medium.

Bobbie Armstrong is a former child and current broke college student from...