Racially-charged calls to police spark new concerns across America and here at home

CLEVELAND -

"Permit Patty" was upset about a little girl selling water. "Bar-B-Que Becky" was trying to shut down a cook out.

Recent viral videos have shown white women calling the police on African Americans. We've even seen it here at home with a young entrepreneur in Maple Heights coming face-to-face with officers all because he was cutting a client's lawn.

"They are happening so frequently, they're hard to keep track of," Ronnie Dunn, an Urban Studies professor at CSU, said.

The trend is quite disturbing for those like Dunn who are working to improve race relations.

"I'm a veteran, and the things I see our country doing I never thought I would see in my lifetime," Dunn said.

Racial unrest, according to Dunn, is reaching new heights.

"People doing things no more than just being in public space," Dunn said.

And for some these days, that's enough to get police involved. It's a move Dunn fears could have deadly consequences. He is concerned about the ongoing interactions between African Americans and law enforcement.

"Just make sure that what activities you are observing, if that person was of another race or ethnicity, would you make that call as well?" Dunn said.

There's also a push to get police departments to change how they handle these types of racially-charged requests.

"Based on the information given, whether it is a call they need to respond to as well," Dunn said.

Anita Gray with the Anti-Defamation League has the same concerns about these calls.

"I think we need to take a step back and say, 'Whoa,'" Gray said.

Gray said this out-in-the-open hate can lead to change.

"It helps because good people of all colors and persuasions step up and say, 'Wait a minute, this is too much,'" Gray said.

As for where we go from here, Gray said everyone needs to listen, watch and speak up.

Some are looking to white Americans to be the catalyst for change.

"They are the ones initiating these calls when African Americans are just going about their daily lives doing innocuous activities," Dunn said.

It's something Dunn said will need to happen not on a national level, but right here at home.

"It's going to take communities to really engage in these important and critical dialogues," Dunn said.

Dunn said these calls are the result of pervasive stereotyping of African Americans as suspect.

"Never thought I would see America where we are at this point," Dunn said.

As cases like these pile-up, he said it is easy to become tired, but he is encouraging those on the frontline of race relations in Northeast Ohio to stay strong and not give up.

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