Calling 911 to harass or otherwise violate the rights of a person based only on their race would be classified as a hate crime that could lead to jail time and a fine under a bill passed by California lawmakers on Monday.
The legislation comes amid a nationwide reckoning on systemic racism and following confrontations across the country in which primarily white people have made discriminatory emergency calls to the police when encountering people of color bird watching and barbecuing in a park, among other everyday activities.
The problem has drawn widespread attention on social media, leading to memes coining the term “Karen,” a label given to people – primarily white women – who make illegitimate 911 calls targeting people of color or, more broadly, who are caught on video exhibiting racist behavior.
“You can make jokes about it. But it’s not a laughing matter. An individual could lose their life in the wrong situation,” said Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles), who introduced the bill. “I was watching more and more people being adversely affected by it as this (Trump) administration gave license for someone who was bigoted to target Blacks and Latinos.”