Police Were Called on Black Filmmakers Leaving Airbnb - Apparently Just Because They Were Black

The last few weeks have proven that black people can’t do anything while black without scaring or provoking the ire of some very fragile white people. We can’t get coffee, we can’t golf, and we most certainly can’t rent from Airbnb and ignore white people we don’t know. Failing to wave at an elderly white woman in a residential neighborhood became the most recent reason that the police were called on three black women who were simply leaving their Airbnb rental in Rialto, California.

The San Bernadino Sun explains what happened:

Officers were dispatched to a call of a possible residential burglary in progress at 12:36 p.m. April 30 at a home in the 2600 block of West Loma Vista Drive in Rialto. The caller told police several people, who were not recognized as neighbors or the homeowner, were taking suitcases from the home and loading them into a vehicle that was backed into the driveway. [...]

The neighbor had seen a strange car in the driveway and four young people — three black and one white — leaving in a hurried manner. The neighbor smiled and waved but got no response.

Sure, it might be suspicious to see people you don’t know in your neighborhood. That could happen to anyone. And for the sake of argument here, it may even raise one’s curiosity if those people you don’t know leaving your neighbors house in a “hurried” manner. But is it really a stretch to actually just assume that those people, who are carrying luggage, are friends who could be visiting your neighbors? Especially since this is taking place in the middle of the day, not midnight. Unless you live in a community that requires you to notify your neighbors each and every time you have a guest, calling the police on strangers with luggage at noon is extreme. Also, how egocentric to think that strangers must wave back because you’ve waved first. And if they don’t, they must be up to no good.

Oh, but wait. These are black women. And black people with luggage in the middle of the day who don’t wave to neighbors must certainly mean trouble. 

What a waste of police time and resources. But don’t worry—according to the homeowner, the neighbor who called didn’t call because she’s racist. It’s just because the women were rude.

“It was based on their rudeness and lack of good nature that caused her to call the police,” [Marie Rodriguez, owner of the Airbnb rental] said of the neighbor. “It had nothing to do with being black.”

Apparently the Rialto police pull out all the stops when they get calls about strange people with luggage who don’t wave to neighbors. As The Sun reports, they came ready to confront these criminals  travelers in a major way. Seven police cars showed up and a helicopter was dispatched to track the women.

Police initially called a helicopter, but it never arrived on scene. It was canceled before arriving, Hardin said. Officers also never displayed their firearms.

“However, during initial contact, the people that we stopped were in a car, and so when the officer made a frontal approach, he asked to see their hands,” Hardin explained. Their hands were below his eyesight, so he asked to see them.

While no one was injured, the entire encounter lasted for nearly an hour. The women were asked to establish their reason for being in the driveway. According to CNN, the police sergeant who arrived on the scene had no idea what Airbnb was. CNN writes: 

A police sergeant showed up, [Kelly] Fyffe-Marshall says in her account, and said he didn't know what Airbnb was. The group showed the police their booking confirmations and phoned the home's landlord to convince police they were telling the truth.
The entire episode lasted a frustratingly long 45 minutes, she said.
"We have been dealing with different emotions and you want to laugh about this but it's not funny," she wrote. "The trauma is real. I've been angry, frustrated and sad. I was later detained at the airport. This is insanity."

One of the women is the granddaughter of reggae singer Bob Marley. Her name is Donisha Prendergast and she and her friends are filing legal action against the Rialto Police Department. Who knows if they will win. Whether they do or not won’t change that it’s all too common for black people to have the police called on them for being black in white spaces. And apparently, not waving to white people can get the police called on you as well.

This is not just a police problem. It’s a problem that white people get scared so easily at the sight of black people. Oh, and just a reminder: this kind of thing rarely happens to white folks. 

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. AlterNet’s journalists work tirelessly to counter the traditional corporate media narrative. We’re here seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re proud to say that we’ve been bringing you the real, unfiltered news for 20 years—longer than any other progressive news site on the Internet.

It’s through the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to share with you all the underreported news you need to know. Independent journalism is increasingly imperiled; ads alone can’t pay our bills. AlterNet counts on readers like you to support our coverage. Did you enjoy content from David Cay Johnston, Common Dreams, Raw Story and Robert Reich? Opinion from Salon and Jim Hightower? Analysis by The Conversation? Then join the hundreds of readers who have supported AlterNet this year.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure AlterNet remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to AlterNet, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.

alternet logo

Tough Times

Demand honest news. Help support AlterNet and our mission to keep you informed during this crisis.