|Jennifer Schulte AKA "BBQ Becky" calls police |
on two California men for "BBQing While Black"
Arguably one of the more innovative and positive responses to the petty, garden-variety bigotry which has blossomed in different parts of America in this second spring of the Trump administration, the "BBQing While Black" picnic was held in Oakland, California on Sunday.
As Laura Holson reported on Monday for the New York Times, hundreds of people came out to a picturesque section of park next to Lake Merritt in support of two black men who were quietly minding their own business enjoying a modest cookout on a sunny Sunday in April when "BBQ Becky" showed up and totally freaked out.
The hundreds of folks who showed up last Sunday had an old-school American-style cookout complete with food, drinks, music and dancing - and in doing so made the not-so-subtle point that all people, including people of color, have the right to be in the park in Oakland.
Now the person who sparked this business a month ago, Dr. Jennifer Schulte, is a bit of an enigma.
If you read her biography, she would seem to be a highly-educated individual steeped in science who specializes in "air quality and climate change" and has a Ph.D. in philosophy with a focus on chemical engineering from Stanford University.
Kind of makes her sound like a progressive-leaning liberal on paper.
(FYI - Stanford was quick to distance themselves from her but acknowledged she is a graduate...)
But if you take a few minutes to watch some of the highlights of the video (caught on cell phone) of her strange and loopy public confrontation back on Sunday April 29th (which has been viewed millions of times on Youtube), she almost seems the polar opposite of highly-educated.
In fact, in the video she comes off as obstinate, ignorant, uninformed, remarkably self-righteous and unabashedly racist.
|"BBQ Becky"in Ph.D. mode|
She approached two African-American men in a public park setting up for a BBQ in broad daylight and began confronting them about BBQing with a charcoal grill.
The afore-mentioned biography says that Dr. Schulte is "a recognized expert in the fields of air quality, emission estimation, air dispersion modeling" etc.
So was she viewing the use of a single charcoal grill in a public park from the perspective of a scientist concerned about the impact on air quality?
Or did she confront the two men about their cookout and call the police because of some kind of conscious or unconscious ethnic or racial bias on her part?
The woman in the video directly questions Schulte about why she's so concerned about two guys having a BBQ.
Schulte's answer is odd to say the least.
"Because it causes extra money from our city to do things when children get injured because of improperly disposable..." (that's what she said, watch the video.)
The clearly-flustered BBQ Becky kinda trails off after that completely nonsensical explanation, almost as if she knows it sounds like the total bullshit it is.
Becky is on her cell phone throughout the video and at some point as she's speaking with a police dispatcher (who must've been incredibly annoyed), she says's she's been waiting on the phone for two hours. Two hours.
Because two black guys are grilling food in a public park where it's permissible to do so.
So think about that, this woman confronted two men she doesn't know minding their own business, harasses them at some point, and then is on the phone with the police for over two hours trying to get an officer to drive out there and stop them from BBQing?
By the time Becky starts having a meltdown and whimpering like a traumatized child (falsely telling the police that she's being grabbed and followed even though SHE is wandering around the two men's BBQ area) and retreating into this weird kind of victim-act, it's pretty evident that something else is going on there.
Not something scientific, but something psychological.
My initial reaction seeing the video was (to borrow a phrase from writer Stephen King) to dismiss Becky as being "as crazy as a shit-house rat", but it's much more than that.
Many have characterized her actions as being a product of the white gentrification of the local Oakland community that has driven many long-time African-American residents out of the area due to skyrocketing rents in nearby San Francisco.
Personally I think Schulte's actions are rooted in something deeper, darker and much more sinister in the "primordial-American" sense.
|Susan Smith's 1994 arrest photo|
She was the white mother from South Carolina who locked her two sons, three-year-old Michael and 14-month-old Alexander inside her vehicle on October 25, 1994 then intentionally let it roll into John D. Long lake.
The vehicle was submerged under water 120-feet from the shore of the lake and both boys drowned inside as she watched.
Smith initially told police that a black man had carjacked the vehicle at an intersection and driven off and abducted the two boys.
Her hysterical pleas for their safe return were all over national television news for over a week.
She later admitted drowning the two boys because of her desire to initiate a relationship with a wealthy local older man and she apparently didn't want her "fling" to be encumbered by the two lives she'd brought into the world.
One of the things that always fascinated me about this story was that Smith's very first instinct was to try and cover up her heinous crime by claiming that a black man did it.
While it was later revealed that local investigators were skeptical of her story from the start, for more than a week that racist narrative played out on national television.
For those who may be too young to remember, when Smith murdered her two sons in the fall of 1994, this was at a time when parts of urban inner cities had been decimated by a brutal combination of high unemployment, underfunded schools, the crack-cocaine epidemic, a flood of readily-available firearms and rising youth gang violence resulting (in part) by the lack of economic opportunities.
|Ashley Williams confronting Hillary Clinton with her|
own words during a 2016 campaign event
This was just two years before then-First Lady Hillary Clinton gave her infamous speech at Keene State College in New Hampshire when she used the term "Super Predators" for the first time.
Which was in essence, a code-word for young men of color.
At a private fund raising event in Charleston, South Carolina in February 2016, then-23-year-old activist Ashley Williams (pictured above) famously confronted then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton with the cryptic words she used during that 1996 speech in New Hampshire.
So it shouldn't be surprising that Susan Smith understood how to leverage the vilification of African-American men propagated by the media, opportunistic politicians and advocates of the multi-billion dollar prison industry that channels profits from mass incarceration.
And for a short time in the fall of 1994, she bilked sympathetic people and wasted public resources using the police to chase a racist phantom she created to conceal her own crimes.
That's not new in America, and Susan Smith didn't invent it - nor did Jennifer Schulte.
|One of the many hysterical photoshopped memes|
of "BBQ Becky" circulating on social media
Conjured up from a place deep inside her own mind where two African-American men grilling some food in a public park becomes some kind of menace to public safety.
For those who view Donald Trump's election to the Oval Office as a titanic step backwards for the evolution of American society, it's hard to forget November 8, 2016.
It's almost as if a swath of the U.S. population suddenly felt empowered or liberated to openly express the most debased kinds of toxic hatred and bigotry against anyone they view as "other".
Sometimes for no reason at all.
16 months into Trump's tenure in office, the kind of divisive racism and irrational anti-immigrant hysteria and vilification that fueled his campaign has clearly manifested inside the minds of some Americans in some truly repugnant and ignorant ways.
Back on April 12th, a white female Starbucks manager called the police because two African-American men were "Waiting While Black" for a third man to join them for a business meeting before placing an order.
On the hallowed grounds of Yale University a white Ph.D. student named Sarah Braasch called campus police when she saw African-American female grad student Lolade Siyonbola "Napping While Black" in the common area of the dorm in which she lives on May 8th.
Back on May 5th, a white woman called police after real estate investor Michael Hayes showed up to inspect a house next door before renovation repairs were scheduled to begin in Memphis, Tennessee.
52% of white women voted for Trump in 2016 so I guess this moronic hysteria shouldn't be a shocker, but now we have "BBQ Becky" freaking out in Oakland over two guys "Grilling While Black".
It's unsettling to watch this rise in incidents of white people calling the cops on black people for doing nothing, and at some point, members of law enforcement are going to have to step up and start enforcing some kind of legal ramifications for those who clog police dispatch lines with this kind of childish nonsense.
There are laws against pulling a fire alarm in a building when there's no fire or emergency - there ought to be laws against calling the police on people for doing nothing.
It's Trumpification gone loco - and it's definitely not Making America Great Again.