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Why White People Call the Police on Black People in Public Spaces

NPR’s Ari Shapiro talks to Jason Johnson, professor of politics and journalism at Morgan State University and politics editor at The Root about a series of recent incidents of white people calling police on black people in public spaces.


A Philadelphia Starbucks, a Yale dormitory, a St. Louis clothing store – these are just a few of the places black people have recently been challenged, arrested or asked to leave even though they did not commit any crime. Jason Johnson is politics editor at The Root, and he’s a professor of politics and journalism at Morgan State University. He’s been writing about why white Americans call the police on black people who haven’t done anything wrong. Welcome to the program.

JASON JOHNSON: Glad to be here, Ari.

SHAPIRO: Are these sorts of things happening more often? Or do you think we’re just more aware of them?

JOHNSON: I think this has always been happening. What’s been different is that over the last couple of years there has been sort of a larger number of white Americans who are empathetic and sympathetic to this kind of harassment. And therefore, mainstream press outlets are actually covering it because there’s an audience that wants to know now.

SHAPIRO: The specific details of these incidents vary. But describe what they all have in common.

JOHNSON: Oh, what they all have in common is a white person calling the cops on black people for doing nothing. You have a lot of white Americans who basically feel that anyone who is not white is sort of there for their entertainment. So if I don’t want them there, I control the space and their bodies. And I’ll use the police to do it.

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Faithfully Magazine is a fresh, bold and exciting news and culture publication that covers issues, conversations and events impacting Christian communities of color.


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