The New York Times has a solution to incidents where white people call 911 to report black people for crimes such as sleeping, campaigning for public office, hanging out at the pool, grilling, and sitting in a Starbucks, to name just a few. A video created by Taige Jensen and Jenn Lyon advertises a new hotline where black operators can soothe white people’s fears about their neighbor walking around in his own yard or seeing a person of color on a boat. Want to avoid becoming the next Permit Patty? “I’d like to introduce you to a radical new produce that will save you all the headache of being filmed and outed as a racist douche,” says host Niecy Nash in her introduction for 1-844-WYT-FEAR.
Obviously, the hotline is satirical, but the problem of white bystanders calling the police to report “babysitting while black” and other mundane activities is very real. The video, which doubles as an advertisement for the Times’ email tipline for reporting racist harassment, even features Darren Martin, the former Obama aide who was profiled while moving into a new building in New York City. But what happens if you actually call 1-844-WYT-FEAR? “We are here to address your urgent concerns about black or brown people living their life near you,” an automated operator assures callers. “Please listen to the following options before making your selection. If you are indeed white and feeling scared about a black or brown person in your proximity, press One. Warning: If hearing Spanish is triggering for you, please protect your ears now.”
If you do press One, the operator informs you (over some light jazz) that your fears about being around people who have a different skin color is minimal compared to black and brown Americans’ fears of police violence. You’re then given a range of menu options to report everything from a child selling water to a black firefighter doing his job, and no matter your selection, you’ll receive the same response:
Based on your menu selection, we have determined that you are not in danger and are probably just racist. In order to deal with this situation, you should put away your phone and move on with your day. Or, if you’re feeling particularly bold, you may introduce yourself and try being a person.