Racist Women Who Fake Victimhood Are Dangerous

Jennifer Schulte, Amy Cooper and Hilary Brooke Mueller (L-R) all feigned fear for their safety while unjustly calling the police on black bystanders.

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ntil fairly recently, I believed all women lived in a state of perpetual fear. It’s how we’re raised. Don’t wear that, don’t talk back, don’t get in that car, don’t walk there, don’t walk then. We might not all be scared to the same degree—it’s common knowledge that women of color and trans women experience disproportionate levels of violence—but we are all scared.

Or so I thought. In the last couple years, it has become abundantly clear that there is a subsection of white women in America who act as if they are positively invincible. And an awful lot of them are willing to exploit womankind’s victimhood for their own racist ends.

These women are all over the country. I’m talking about Oakland’s Jennifer Schulte (aka BBQ Becky). Hilary Brooke Mueller in St. Louis who called the cops on D’Arreion Toles for trying to access his own apartment. Washington, D.C.’s Brittany McNurlin, who called the cops on a black student for trying to go to the library. That Starbucks manager in Philadelphia who called the cops on two black men who were waiting for a friend.

There have been so many incidents like these in the last two years, I simply don’t have space to list them. And now, as of Memorial Day, we have Amy Cooper, the woman in Central Park who called the police because a man named Christian Cooper, who was birdwatching while black, had the audacity to ask her to leash her dog.

Calling the police on black folks for no reason is definitely not a female-specific activity. Just this week, footage emerged of a white Minneapolis man calling the cops because he didn’t think the black men in his gym “appear[ed] to be part of the” building. That’s certainly not an isolated incident either. But there is something about the way these women feign fear in the middle of their racist interactions that is particularly deplorable.

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When women experience actual threats from men in public, we tend to do one or more of the following: cross the street, walk (or run) faster, go inside the nearest store, jump into the first bus or cab we see (whether we need one or not), and get out our keys and/or pepper spray. We usually stay completely silent, sometimes politely ask to be left alone, or, in the most urgent of cases, we just start screaming.

What we don’t typically do is block the path of the person we’re scared of. What we don’t do is get closer to them. What we don’t do is lecture them about what they’re doing wrong, or question why they’re standing where they’re standing. What we don’t do is tell them that we’re going to call the cops. Because if you’re truly scared to the point of calling 911, you’re going to try and do that as surreptitiously as possible, lest you agitate your assailant. (It’s one of the reasons 911 dispatchers have silent call procedures.)

I will state this plainly: None of the women who have gone viral for racially profiling bystanders in public were actually scared—but they sure were pretending to be. The language is consistent.

Please don’t come close to me,” Christian Cooper said to Amy Cooper.

“I’m going to tell them there’s an African American man threatening my life,” she responded.

Excuse me, ma’am,” D’Arreion Toles said, trying to get to his apartment.

“I’m uncomfortable,” Hilary Brooke Mueller replied as she blocked his path.

When Jennifer Schulte called 911 for the second time, two hours after her first call to police in the now-infamous “BBQ Becky” incident, she repeatedly claimed to be under threat. (“They’re shoving me!” “They’re threatening me!” “They’re following me.”) The 911 operator was so perplexed as to why someone claiming to be in danger would fail to move away from the alleged perpetrators, she asked: “Are you living in the park or something?

These women definitely understand their own white privilege. That’s why “BBQ Becky” had no problem telling the 911 dispatcher that the man she was complaining about was African American, but declined to provide her own race, despite repeated requests to do so.

These women also understand that, because of the very real physical threats that millions of other women deal with on a daily basis, pretending to be a victim might be advantageous. And these women not only understand that racial profiling is a problem within police forces all over America, they actively seek to benefit from it. This is why they feel so comfortable calling 911 when they themselves are the instigators.

That toxic combination of white privilege and fake victimhood also came into play this week when “Target Jennifer” (so dubbed by the internet) got involved in the Minneapolis disturbances prompted by the death of George Floyd. “Jennifer” took it upon herself to head down to that store in a wheelchair to block an exit. Some witnesses have alleged that, while there, she was stabbing people who attempted to leave. After she was sprayed in the face with a fire extinguisher, initial reports painted her as a hapless victim, not someone who had actively chosen to insert herself into a scene of mayhem. “I was peacefully protesting,” she later said. “They attacked me from the front and back.”

When it comes to the now-viral video of Amy Cooper—and the plethora of others like it—our focus should first be on the egregious racism involved. But we also need to acknowledge what a disservice these women do to women everywhere. For those who have fought to be heard after experiencing real harassment and real violence, it is a proverbial slap in the face.