Waiting for sight beyond color

Alison Ettel threatened to call the police on a young African-American girl selling water on the sidewalk.

Alison Ettel threatened to call the police on a young African-American girl selling water on the sidewalk. (CNN/ youtu.be/lyJOYzof9R4)

The rash of videotaped incidents in which white people have called police on black people for trivial reasons has reached fever pitch.

In keeping with the Internet’s charming habit of boiling these incidents down to social media shorthand, allow me to recount for you the most egregious occurrences.

First there was Starbucks Stella, the Philadelphia store manager who called police on two young men in a Rittenhouse Square location because they committed the heinous crime of waiting while black. Then there was Golf course Gary, the York County, Pa., golf course manager who called the cops on five women for golfing while black. And who can forget Barbecue Becky, the woman in Oakland who called the police on a black family for grilling while black.

But none of these infamous people can compare to the latest alleged cop caller. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you, Permit Patty. She threatened to call the cops on an 8-year-old girl who was selling water to raise money for a trip to Disney Land.

Permit Patty, whose real name is Allison Ettel, said 8-year-old Jordan Rodgers and her mother were making too much noise while trying to sell bottles of water outside their apartment building in San Francisco, so she came outside and said she was calling the police. When she realized she was being recorded, Ettel ducked behind a wall as the child’s mother, Erin Austin, pursued her with camera phone in hand.

“Don’t hide, the whole world gonna see you, boo,” Austin said on the video. Then Permit Patty replied, ‘Yeah, illegally selling water without a permit.’

The video went viral, and when the press — and more importantly, the Internet — caught up with Ettel, she claimed she was only pretending to call the police.

And in a tearful interview on the Today Show, Ettel, who sells cannabis products for pets, claimed the mother and child selling water outside her open window were making such a disturbance that she couldn’t focus on her work.

She said race had nothing to do with it. She said she was frustrated after listening to the girl and her mother yelling outside her window for hours. She admitted she should’ve handled it differently.

I’m not buying it. At 44-years-old, Allison Ettel should understand how the world works, and if she doesn’t, perhaps she should take a look at the life and death situations that develop when police are called on black folks.

Cops shoot black folks who are selling CDs, as they did with Alton Sterling. Cops kill black folks who are selling loose cigarettes, as they did with Eric Garner. And in this case, if Allison Ettel had actually carried out her threat to its conclusion, she could have put a child’s life at risk for selling water.

But I’m so glad there are good people who don’t act like Allison Ettel. One of them is a musician named Jonathan Brannon. He’s a white guy who saw the video, and knowing that the child was trying to raise money to go to Disney Land, he bought four tickets and gave them to the family.

People like Jonathan Brannon give me hope. They let me know that we can still see beyond color, that we can still treat each other with kindness, that we can still bring a smile to a child. That we can still seek to do what’s right.

We can all learn a thing or thing or two from Jonathan Brannon. Let’s hope people like Permit Patty are taking note.

Listen to Solomon Jones weekdays from 10 a.m. to Noon on Praise 107.9 FM.

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