Strange Fruit

We’ve heard way too many Barbecue Becky and Permit Patty stories in the news lately. White people see black people selling lemonade, cooking on a grill, sitting in Starbucks, etc. They decide they shouldn’t be doing whatever they’re doing, and call 911.

Usually someone starts taking a video, which eventually makes its way around the internet.

What we don’t get to see is what happens in the 911 dispatch center. What do the people who take those calls think about these frivolous calls? What do they tell the police about the situation?

Rachael Herron was a 911 operator in Oakland, California, and she’s written about how she had to respond to racist calls every day. Rachael joins us this week to tell us what happens on the other end of those calls.

A lot of those frivolous calls are based on minor ordinances — so-called “quality of life laws” that dictate who can use public spaces and how.

History professor Andrew Kahrl studies the history of segregation. He thinks of these laws as the North’s version of Jim Crow. On this week’s show, we chat with Andrew about how small laws and ordinances are weaponized against certain types of people (the laws often call them “non-residents” but you can probably guess what they most often look like).

Laura produces Recut, Curious Louisville, Strange Fruit, and other audio news stories for WFPL.