How 911 calls on blacks are a new twist on something old: white flight


John Blake | CNN

It’s getting hard to keep up with the latest hashtags devoted to 911 calls on black people.

There’s #SittingInStarbucksWhileBlack, #BarbecuingWhileBlack, #GolfingWhileBlack, #EatingSubwayWhileBlack, and even #WearingSocksWhileBlack. Those are just some of the infractions committed by black people that caused white callers to dial 911.

As stories of these encounters ricochet across the media, it looks at times as if some mysterious new contagion — a quickly mutating form of racial profiling — is taking hold of the collective psyche of White America.

But this behavior isn’t a symptom of anything new. It’s a modern twist on something old, say some historians and those who’ve lived through it. This aggressive patrolling of public space bears an eerie resemblance to another race-induced contagion in America decades ago.

When the courts outlawed overt segregation in the 1950s and ’60s, many whites reacted by trying to “privatize” public spaces. They wanted to carve out melanin-free zones in parks, pools and sidewalks to avoid what some folks called “interracial intimacy.”

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