I was accused of a hate crime and arrested because of how I look.
Outspoken celebrities, political pundits, and YouTube bloggers have built profitable public personas which create a perception that Caucasian blonde women are likely to be racist.
A few highlights (or lowlights) include:
Ann Coulter, an outspoken pundit, “regularly calls for the mass expulsion and even murder of immigrants.” https://www.mediamatters.org/ann-coulter
Tommi Lahren has over 1.4 million followers on Twitter and a daily public forum as a host on Fox Nation’s regular programs. Tommi recently sparked outrage by claiming that Beyonce’s Super Bowl performance was “trying to advance the notion that black lives matter more” and the Black Lives Matter movement to the Klu Klux Klan.
Paula Deen, a once-beloved television personality, repeatedly and shamelessly made racist gaffes and was caught on video using the n-word in 2013.
Let us not forget the blondest, and most orange of them all, President Donald Trump. Trump has made no secret of his anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim views. It seemed he had crossed a bridge too far in July 2019, when he tweeted:
“‘Progressive’ Democratic Congresswomen” should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came,”
However, last I checked he is still Leader is the Free World.
These celebrities use their public platform and millions of social media followers to normalize and encourage (implicitly or not) racism and religious basis.
This creates a vicious cycle, as bias works both ways.
I am also a blonde Caucasian, although unlike the aforementioned public figures I have considered myself a Liberal since I was old enough to comprehend American politics.
I am well aware that being born a white, middle-class female to college-educated parents has given me a relative leg up in life, and I do not take this for granted. This “privileged” status is simply an accident caused by the co-mingling of my parent’s DNA and does not give me the right to discriminate against or look down upon other human beings.
Last fall, three police officers came to my office and arrested me in front of my employees. I was handcuffed and transported to the local station to be fingerprinted and questioned. The charges I faced were Harassment and Disorderly conduct, which are classified as “Misdemeanor B.”
A few months before the arrest, I had had a thirty-second verbal exchange with an African American woman on the street in front of my apartment. A complete stranger at the time, she approached me in a sharp tone to let me know that she was upset that my dog was urinating on a flowerbed. I told her to mind her own business in a similar tone, got in my car, and left.
This woman then reported a “hate crime” to the local police. In her statement, she described our brief exchange, which I had all but forgotten about, in heated emotional language.
She wrote with certainty that I had screamed the N-word at her repeatedly, causing her much distress and anguish.
I was given no warning by the police that she had made this accusation, nor was I asked if I had used racist language. There was no video, no witnesses, and the incident which she described did not happen.
The news of my arrest ran in the “police log” section of our local newspaper, and it seemed I was guilty until proven innocent.
A Google search for my name now pulls up the following information:
- Business Owner
- Instagram and Pinterest User
The shock of being arrested was only superceded by the trauma of being accused of racism.
I ruminated on the worst-case scenarios, including jail, social isolation, and financial ruin. I thought about knocking on my accuser’s door, it turned out she was a neighbor, with a plate of cookies in hand to ask if we could talk things out.
The lawyer did not approve of my plan to have a neighborly chat to resolve our differences. I asked about mediation, which was not an option either.
He reminded me the allegations were quite serious, and that we are living in tense times as a country. Guilt can be decided in the public arena before a case ever goes to court.
Images of Paula Deen, Ann Coulter, and Tommi Lahren flashed through my head. It seemed that physical appearance was proof enough for my accuser and the police to think I had committed a hate crime.
The lawyer warned me that regardless of whether I had said “those words,” the incident could spiral out of control and permanently ruin my reputation. That I was not a “sympathetic” defendant, despite my innocence.
I have built my career on unwavering honesty, hard work, and trust. The fear of losing relationships that have taken over a decade to cultivate was all too real.
As I awaited trial, I made peace with the situation. I had no control over my accuser’s perception of me. While I will not speculate on her past experiences or the framework through which she views the world, I do have empathy for her.
I was offered the opportunity to plead “no contest” prior to the trial. This would have avoided a public hearing, as well as the potential for criminal convictions on my otherwise spotless record, and the risk of further damaging publicity.
As tempting as this sounded, the plea would have included my admitting to racist language which I did not use.
I decided that I was unwilling to compromise my ethics and go the safe route. Let the chips fall where they may.
During my testimony, I explained to the judge what I had actually said, and that I had not used racist or harassing language. I added that I also find the n-word highly offensive, though no one in the courtroom had asked my opinion.
In reality, this woman and I were both rude during our brief encounter that morning. Had the political climate been different, this might have been business as usual. Two neighbors having a quick, sharp exchange over where the dog could urinate. End of story.
I left the courtroom drained and confused as to how I had ended up there in the first place.
One full year after the incident occurred, I was acquitted on all counts. Not Guilty of Harassment, Disorderly Conduct, or Hate Crime.
I am disheartened by the current state of affairs in America. While I strongly support First Amendment rights, I wonder if celebrities and politicians might consider using their public platforms in a more thoughtful way, rather than to incite and fuel a cycle of hatred and shame.
Perhaps, there might be something more interesting to discuss.