All throughout the past few years where villainous white women were weaponizing a ‘pure’ and ‘chaste’ victimhood to call the cops on minorities, I wondered, how come it’s never the other way around? How come we never see BIPOC call the police on white female offenders? Then I realized that I did. I called. About 15 years ago.
A Weekend Trip to LA
Her long hair had the dark roots and over-processed blonde curls popular during the late 1980s, even though it was around 2006. My buddies and I rolled into the airport hotel parking garage near LAX. Our group of 4 Asian American guys took a weekend trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles for some film festival or random event I can’t remember. Was it close to 10pm on a Saturday night? An early night for us 20-something males, but probably a strenuous adventure for the senior couple holding up the lot with their slow parking.
Soon the anachronous 80s blonde chick who seemed to be in her early-thirties zoomed in and hard braked into the lot. Impatience didn’t even have a chance because she started honking on the horn, believing us to be the problem. Her rented convertible top down, it wasn’t hard to hear her yelling to “Get the fuck out of the way” in a midwestern?, northeastern?, well, in a very milque-toast American accent. In “fuck”, she tried to knead in a little Tony Soprano grit, but with pitchy failure.
Confused. We were confused. Then irritated as the horn kept blaring. Resentment caused us to turn our heads. And Albert tried to play the gentleman by popping his head out of the window to explain there was a hold up ahead of us. Blondie didn’t hear nor care. We stayed focused on parking and playing cool. All sorts of white sounds continued behind us.
A Hate Crime
Eventually we parked the car and started walking toward the elevators. But that’s when convertible blondie accelerated her car and hit Albert with intent. When I approached to see whether he was seriously hurt, she screamed, “Fucking Chinks!” It wasn’t a hard collision and to this day I don’t think Albert has any physical injuries, but it would be the start of some PTSD.
At this point in my life I was running a non-profit Asian American theater company in the bay area with a heavy emphasis on battling discrimination against Asian Americans in the entertainment industry. Add to that I was in my roaring 20s, where every battle attracted me like a moth to a flame. But this was vacation. It wasn’t my platform. And if Albert seemed to be cool to let it go, I wanted it too.
Upstairs, we were settling in, washing up in turn, with four of us cramped in a two double airport view room. Albert lingered on the edge of one of the beds. He sat next to the nightstand with his feet on the floor, staring into the carpet ahead of him. When we entered the room balking loudly at the crazy bitch and the injustice we had just endured, we checked in on Albert, who said he was fine. But now I could see he wasn’t. Somehow I knew. This was his first real moment with racism. Not ones that he brushed off, rationalized or didn’t notice. The first one that sank in. The moment that happens to all of us when we lose our racism V-card.
That Sinking Feeling
When was it for me? Was it at age 4 when the Baskin Robbins employee turned and spit on my double scoop cone before handing it to my dad to give me? Was it at age 10 when Carly Brown, a classmate and precocious Karen already wise in the white woman dog-whistle ways, threatened to use the school administration to punish me for my innocently trying to start a conversation by saying her name sounded like Charlie Brown?
Was it at age 18 when people either stared through me, stared puzzled at me, or stared away from me as they were shaking my hand? Or was it at age 23 when my car was vandalized and quite literally stomped on by my white Tibet-woke racist roommate? I don’t know, but by the time I was in my mid-twenties, everything conflated in an attempt to ‘forget about the past’ where I didn’t know when the first time it was when my stomach fell to the ground and sound disappeared from the room as my panicked short breaths turned into rage because of racism.
Albert wasn’t breathing right. And I asked him, “Is this the first time something like this happened to you?” He nodded. There really wasn’t a way for him to put his thoughts into words. This wasn’t my battle. But in a way, it was. Albert was hit, but she attacked all of us. My red light turned on.
“Want to go to the front desk and report it?”
Silence. A puzzled look on Albert’s face.
“Then, hold on. Let me at least call the front desk and see if we can find which room she’s staying in or report her to hotel management.” I picked up the phone next to him, got through to the front desk, transferred myself to the manager (yeah, Karen, I’m good at that too), and explained what had happened in the parking lot.
“Mmm..hmm… Mmm… hmm… Okay. So there’s no way for you to run the security cameras? Can you at least make a note that this happened and send it to the head office? Where would I call anyhow if I wanted to report this myself? Mmm… hmm… Hmm… Okay. Thanks.”
The hotel management didn’t grasp that anything wrong had happened. It was 2006. Hate crimes weren’t a thing yet. Heck, it was only back in 2001 when my friend Miho and I lobbied Stanford University to introduce its first-ever hate crime policy after racists had graffitied numerous chalkboards on the hallowed campus. Even pre-woke, liberal Bay Area Stanford didn’t register the concept of hate assaults if there weren’t swastikas or white hoods involved.
“Albert, is there anything else you want to do? The hotel says it can’t do anything.” The other guys stood around to console Albert with their body heat. On the other hand, my head started whirring hot with battle plans. Albert looked like he was about to lose it and shed some tears.
Calling the Police
“Fuck it. I’m going to call the police. I’m going to call the police on that bitch. Just watch me.” It was the first time I dialed 911. Hearing someone answer felt like I had just called the White House switchboard.
“I’m at the LAX ____ Hotel and I need to report a hate crime.”
“A hate crime. Somebody hit my friend with her car on purpose… A. Hate. Crime. OK, I mean… a hit and run. Hit. And. Run. I need to report a hit and run. My friend was hit by a car in the hotel parking lot. And the driver ran off.” Even in LA, I had to translate English that hadn’t made it into public consciousness yet into patriarchy English. And you wonder why we’re tired of educating white people all the time.
Explaining a Hate Crime
Three male police officers showed up. A variety pack of LAPD cops. White. Latino. Asian. All handsome. All at first impression seemed friendly and reasonable. But it would be a shame if this incident would end at just a hit and run. To honor Albert’s pain for this hate crime and to set an example to the bitch upstairs, I knew I needed to work on Latino officer and Asian officer. But I had to say hi to the white officer first. Racial hierarchy you know.
Half of me felt resolute from activist training while the other half full of adrenaline shot towards the police on instinct. Striding across the linoleum lobby, I immediately glared at the hotel manager whom I presume had taken my earlier call and greeted the officers with a quick hello and landed heavily on the words, “The hotel says it won’t help us find the woman who committed the hit and run in the parking lot. That’s why I had to call you sir.” Thank you to the American theater for the drama training. The stage fright and the improv laid out before me was exhilarating.
The white officer immediately turned to the hotel management for their side of the story because that’s what white does – talk to power first. Latino officer got my rough draft of what happened from a racist hate crime perspective.
“She hit my friend with her car. She called us Chinks. There’s clearly racist intent.” It wasn’t landing with Latino officer. He asked if I was the one hit, and I said, no it was Albert. So he went to talk to Albert.
I decided to change the beat and approach Asian officer on a brethren level. Clearly my being Korean and his being Chinese Vietnamese really means we’re strangers, but in America, we are Asian brothers. So I try to go heavy into it with the short time I have. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but I remember my objective – to trigger his feelings of racial discrimination within the police force. At this point the words just kept flowing out of my mouth from a typewriter of its own.
Something worked and the police said they would track the woman down to get her statement. We went back up to the room and tried to get back to normal. We pretended to watch the TV, but we really were waiting for the police to call. Soon, the phone rang and Albert and I went down to hear what the police found out.
“She says she’s sorry and that she didn’t mean to do anything wrong. You can press charges, but you’d have to come back to LA for a court hearing. And she’d have to come back from Chicago.”
Ah, so that explains the fake mobster accent. “And that’s it? There’s nothing we can do now? She can’t get a ticket or anything at least? Did you tell her she attacked us and committed a hate crime?”
Asian officer said, “Well, yeah, we rattled her cage a bit. Told her she could face charges or have to come back for court. It seemed to scare her a bit. We got you.”
At this point, I had to remember, this really wasn’t my drama even though I was thoroughly enjoying all of the real-life twists and turns. I asked Albert if he wanted to press charges. He said no. I asked whether I could press charges. I could. But I’d have to come back down to LA just to go to some court downtown. It was too much of a hassle all for a Kelly Bundy-wannabe so I said, “Naw, it’s ok. I guess that’s it then.”
“That’s it then,” said the officers. I thanked them. They left. Albert went up before me or was lingering somewhere behind because when I pressed the elevator button to go up, guess who was there meeting me one-on-one when the doors opened? Over-processed blonde racist bitch. I couldn’t believe it. If I had a cup of water I would’ve threw it on her. Or did I actually have a drink in my hand and just suppress the urge? I wasn’t going to go in the elevator with her, but I had to jump on this moment wrap it all up before the doors closed.
I tried to think of something racist to say. Just to even the scores. Get her to feel what we felt. But that’s the advantage of white supremacy. There really isn’t anything hurtful based on one’s white race that you can lob back at someone as a weapon. Plus, leaning on racism is pathetic. “Hope you enjoy going back to the trailer park, white trash.” That’s all I could come up with before the elevator shut.
Just before it did, I saw her roll her eyes up to the top of her frizzy bouffant. It was weak. It meant nothing to her. But at least I said something. And the universe granted me a final face-to-face to let her know that I called the cops on her.
Today, of course, I wouldn’t try to fight racism with racism. And that night showed me the racist is always the loser. For Albert, it was his first awakening to that pit of powerlessness in your stomach. But in that brief moment that night at a Los Angeles airport hotel, I hope I at least made a small ripple in time to show whoever was watching that it is possible to call the police on a white woman.