It’s almost like a weird, seemingly racist Madlibs word game at this point. <White person> calls police on <black person> for doing <thing that is totally legal>.
There was Pool Patrol Paula, ID Adam, and to be honest, a lot of other examples you can easily do a Google search to read about. These are people who have all harassed people of color for… People of coloring? They were simply existing, without breaking any laws or bothering anyone, but someone thought (assumed?) they were up to no good and decided to get the police involved.
Joining their ranks now is ‘Pool Patrol Patty’ (it’s not her real name, but everybody can appreciate amusing alliteration), a white woman who happens to be manager of an apartment complex, and who called law enforcement to a pool because people had the audacity to commit the egregious act of wearing socks in public.
I think there’s more going on here than just white people being racist, but we’ll get to that a bit later.
Now, I’m absolutely approaching this from a place of personal bias. I am extremely anti-socks. I hate socks. I don’t even care much for shoes. Given the option, I generally choose sandals, unless I know I’m going to be walking a lot. And I’m not making this up as a joke, I’m on the record being #TeamSandal, as this post of mine from last December indicates:
I’m a busy guy, I don’t have time to mess with socks or lacing up shoes when I can just slide into a pair of sandals in less than a second. And if you think about it, I’m really conserving resources by creating less laundry to wash. Everybody wins!
For the record, I fully support calling law enforcement on anyone who wears socks with sandals.
There is no excuse for it. Ever!
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But when it comes to telling others what they should wear, that’s none of my damn business. It’s certainly not the business of law enforcement, either. But, ‘Patty’ didn’t see it that way, according to a post made by Kam Porter, who was one of the individuals being harassed:
My boyfriend sat on side the pool with his feet in the water (with socks) while watching the babies play in the water. The woman that I had previously observed watching us then closely walked up and said something to him. I heard him state, “ok” and he continued watching the babies. Not even 2 minutes later the woman walks up to him again and state, “You need to take off your socks. I’m the property manager.”
My boyfriend states, “ok” and again keeps watching the kids. But at this time I felt the need to interfere being that I am the resident here.
I asked the woman what was the problem. She stated, “you can’t wear socks in the pool. The rules are only pool attire *as she points at the pool rules*” She goes on to say, “no socks, tshirts, hats, or things of that nature are allowed in the pool.” HER EXACT WORDS! I then notice that there are two guys in her group of friends and BOTH have on hats. Also, the other 25+ people around who don’t have on “proper swimming attire.”
In the video, you can hear Kam say “I think she’s calling the police because he has on socks.”
“So, she basically said no hats, no shirts, no socks,” Porter says. “We have two men, who are her friends, sitting right here in hats. Two hats. We have a man over here sitting in a hat.”
‘Patty’ had a change of tone though once the (black) law enforcement officer showed up:
After the incident, ‘Patty’ ended up losing her job.
“After assessing statements from Ms. Porter and determining that this former employee’s actions violate our company’s policies & beliefs, she is no longer employed by Riverset Apartments,” the managing real estate agency said in a statement to WREG13.
Yeah, it might be a bit weird to wear socks in the pool. Why you’d want to do it is a bit beyond me, unless you like your feet feeling extra mushy after you’re done. But overreacting to the point of calling the police is absolutely ridiculous and uncalled for, particularly when you’re not equally enforcing the “rules” for your pool.
Is ‘Patty’ racist? Maybe. It’s easy to just say she’s racist, because it draws a clear line in the sand differentiating “us” from people like Patty. But I think the truth of the situation is a bit more gray than it appears to be on the surface.
Last summer, we had co-host of the Friendly Atheist Podcast, Jessica Bluemke Greiff, on The Science Enthusiast Podcast. During the conversation, Jessica brought up the idea of implicit bias and its affect on us. Essentially, implicit bias is the things we think about without really having to think. They are stereotypes we’re not necessarily aware of that affect our understanding and how we interact with the world.
I would like to think that most of the situations by people like ‘Patty’ aren’t due to racism, but due to their implicit bias. They’re not intentionally trying to harass people of color, instead they’re succumbing to their own internal bias without even realizing it.
Jessica suggested that we listen to an episode of Invisibilia that addresses this issue more in depth. I listened to it and found myself questioning how I interact with others and I’ve worked to be more cognizant of what I’m thinking, and why I’m thinking it.
I’ve said this many times before: I’m not nearly as interested in what you think as I am why you think it. We can go around fixing the “what’s” of the world, but it won’t accomplish much if the underlying issues aren’t addressed.
It actually accomplishes very little to write off people like ‘Patty’ as being “racist” out of convenience. It puts people like her down while making you feel better about yourself. But it doesn’t solve anything, and the growing nature of “call out culture” is as unproductive as it is toxic (it’s why I used ‘Patty’ instead of her real name – her real name isn’t important and I’m sure she’s already getting enough harassment already). People make mistakes all the time, but if we’re going to actually effect positive change, we need to fix the underlying issues instead of just putting a bandaid on it by simply writing people off as “racist.”
I highly recommend listening to the episode of Invisibilia below (or finding it in any podcast app you use).