Recently, there have been a plethora of videos featuring people named Karens. Many of their interactions with others – usually Black people – often stem from anger, entitlement or disenfranchisement.
These encounters have been highlighted by activists, social media users and others who are dismayed by the persistent racial inequality in American society. Furthermore, US authorities continue to incarcerate Black Americans at an alarmingly high rate.
Proposal 1: San Francisco’s Caution Against Racially Exploitative Non-Emergencies Act
As the number of viral videos featuring white people threatening to call police because someone is Black or another race has increased, there have been calls for laws which will target racially motivated 911 calls.
San Francisco has taken the first step to prevent this from occurring with an ordinance called the “Caution Against Racially Exploitative Non-Emergencies Act,” or CAREN for short. Under this law, victims of racist 911 calls can sue those responsible and face up to $5000 in fines and possible jail time if found guilty.
On Tuesday night, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously passed an ordinance that brings it closer to becoming law. If passed by Mayor London Breed, it will then be sent for signature by the governor.
This proposal is similar to Assembly Bill 1550, sponsored by state Assemblymember Rob Bonta (D-Oakland), which will punish those responsible for making discriminatory 911 calls. This legislation draws inspiration from a popular social media meme which has become synonymous with racist 911 calls by labelling people “Karen.”
Video evidence has surfaced of white people calling the police on people of color for seemingly nonracially neutral acts like selling water bottles or barbecuing. These calls have become a major concern for the city, with its mayor noting that this issue extends beyond just the Bay Area but across America as well.
Walton introduced her proposal in July after witnessing numerous racially charged incidents. She noted a June instance where a white couple called police on James Juanillo for stenciling “Black Lives Matter” in chalk on his property in San Francisco’s Pacific Heights neighborhood.
Though the law’s name plays on the online term “Karen,” some have questioned if it is sexist or intentionally divisive. Walton insisted that while it doesn’t refer to an individual by name, it serves as a warning against making racist calls to 911 services.
Proposal 2: New York City’s Anti-Racist Act
New York City has a longstanding racial discriminatory history that dates back decades. It has been known for its anti-Black racism and criminalizing poverty by targeting People of Color for arrests, convictions, and sentences that often end in incarceration.
As New Yorkers informed the Commission, these patterns of racial bias are not just about race; they also take into account other factors like disability, gender identity and ethnicity as well as religion and source of income. Furthermore, structural racism plays a role here – that is, how society encourages discrimination through systemic inequities that reinforce each other.
Speakers stressed the importance of holding City agencies and other entities accountable for their actions, regardless of any wrongdoing they may have committed. Unfortunately, city authorities often fail to take necessary measures to prevent discrimination or respond appropriately when faced with it; even when they do take steps, enforcement practices fail to safeguard BIPOC communities as well as other vulnerable populations.
Speakers highlighted how discrimination is often concealed within the rules or criteria used by City agencies when assessing applicants and providers. Although these decisions may appear “race-neutral,” they actually serve to prevent people of color from accessing services or even getting hired.
Another way racism is embedded in our city’s governance structure is in how we make decisions about neighborhood development and city growth. Speakers called on the Commission to require City agencies to incorporate racial equity impact analyses into their decision-making processes, as well as consider ways their decisions can benefit communities of color.
Some speakers noted that the City’s existing anti-discrimination laws do not shield people of color from racial discrimination. Instead, these regulations rarely protect individuals without proof of intentional discrimination.
Unfortunately, laws often lack the resources or authority to be effectively enforced against institutions in New York City. Some speakers urged the Commission to create new antidiscrimination agencies with authority and resources so that they can take action against discriminatory City policies and practices.
Proposal 3: California’s Anti-Racist Act
Governor Gavin Newsom of California is taking bold measures to combat racism in the criminal legal system. He has passed the Anti-Racist Act (AB 2542) which prevents the state from seeking or securing convictions or imposing sentences based on race, ethnicity or national origin.
AB 256 extends the law to all Californians who have been adversely affected by systemic racism that permeates our justice system. The racial bias act seeks to address this devastating impact of systemic racism, especially for those incarcerated.
Before AB 2542, it was nearly impossible for people who challenged charges or sentencing based on race to prove that the defendant was biased. This was largely due to a 30-year legal precedent set by the U.S. Supreme Court in McClesky v Kemp.
The McClesky decision also denied plaintiffs the right to appeal a conviction or sentence based on statistical disparities, even when there had been intentional discrimination. The Racial Bias Act addresses this effect by providing people with legal protections if their case involved race, ethnicity or nationality as a factor.
The CRJA is an important step in the right direction, but it is only part of the solution. To truly address police brutality in California, state leaders need to invest in its schools and create a dedicated program for combatting it.
Reparations for black people, who have been disproportionately affected by centuries-old racist legal and social framework, are an urgent priority in the state. To address this problem, legislators have created a task force that studies slavery and looks into providing reparations.
One of the aims of the state’s reparations task force is to compile a database of properties taken from black families. Bradford explained this information would enable them to better comprehend various issues such as property rights and land theft.
Another goal is to inform Californians about the state’s racially abusive history, which includes slavery, Jim Crow laws, lynchings, redlining, segregation and other forms of discrimination. Doing this will enable citizens to make informed decisions about how best to respond.
Thirdly, the CRJA seeks to prevent courts from setting an extremely high bar for proving discrimination when challenging a racially biased charge or sentence. This issue has arisen due to recent rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court that defendants must prove their charges or sentences were intended to target them specifically.
Proposal 4: Connecticut’s Anti-Racist Act
The Connecticut state legislature is taking steps to pass an anti-racial law. If passed, police officers would no longer be permitted to stop and detain people based solely on race, color or ethnicity of the driver. Furthermore, departments must collect data regarding traffic stops and submit reports about them by January 2022.
The law could prevent officers from targeting drivers based on race, potentially improving public safety. But some educators and students are worried that its language is too vague and could lead to discrimination.
However, some districts in the state are taking proactive measures to combat racism in their schools. These actions include creating diversity, equity and inclusion councils; redefining their goals to focus on these areas; reviewing policies to ensure they don’t discriminate; and planning professional development sessions for staff members so they can better address issues like racism.
At the Capitol Region Education Council district in Fairfield, Superintendent Tim Sullivan said he’s also investigating school procedures such as when students are placed in advanced classes. He has noticed that those of color often get put with wealthier and whiter peers.
He stressed the importance of making sure the policy is clearly communicated, and is working closely with staff to address racism in the district.
He’s also engaged in creating an anti-racist curriculum for high school students. To this end, he’s collecting input from educators within the district and outside organizations. Eventually, he plans to form a committee that will create and oversee this curriculum’s implementation.
Meanwhile, he’s developing a program for teachers to introduce critical race theory to their pupils. Through it, he hopes they will gain greater insight into the role racism plays in society and how best to combat it within their classrooms.
In addition to these far-reaching measures, the Connecticut legislature is also working on a Voting Rights Act that would give those who experience discrimination at polls legal recourse in court. This act is modelled after the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965 which was created to safeguard Black people’s right to vote.