Here’s why the SoHo Karens aren’t Behind Bars

Earl Ofari Hutchinson

There was absolutely no question about what happened at a New York hotel. The young non-Black woman falsely accused a young African American, Keyon Harrold Jr. of stealing her iPhone. She physically attacked the young man in plain view of the many guests, the hotel staff, and the young man’s father. The attack was caught on a cell and went viral.  Tens of thousands saw it. Social media lit up with rage at what many called a racially motivated attack.

She was not questioned. She was not detained. NYPD officials, prompted by the public outcry, quickly announced that she would be arrested once they identified and found her. She was soon identified, and she was tracked to the Los Angeles area where she lives. Lots of details then poured forth in the press and on social media about her. Calls were made by local activists in L.A. for her arrest and extradition to New York.

Unfortunately, the first response from officials in these kind of cases is almost always silence, inaction, and delay. Worse, New York police officials at least initially said that the attack was not being treated as a racially motived attack. It may not have been. But then again, the fact that it was an unprovoked assault, the victim was Black, and the assailant non-Black, makes it pretty hard to swallow the standard denial of racial animus that officials reflexively claim in these attacks.

The pattern of official foot dragging, denial, and silence has been well established in these type cases. It drew special fury and disgust a couple of years back with the rash of incidents where whites falsely called the police on Blacks. That would have been laughable if the consequences of these blatantly bigoted acts didn’t pose such lethal peril to Blacks.

Black victims such as Harrold protest their innocence. The police come and survey the scene and often decide the claim of a crime is bogus. A video of the phony claim goes viral. Blacks loudly scream racism. The white accuser is publicly shamed and embarrassed; then makes a teary eye apology. In a couple of the more outrageous instances, the white accuser is canned from or reprimanded at their job.  

Then everyone goes on their merry way. That is until the next screech by a white fingering an alleged Black lawbreaker. And make no mistake there will be another, another and another such claim somewhere sometime against an innocent unsuspecting Black. There’ll be another, precisely because there is absolutely no consequence for picking up the phone dialing 911 and screaming that the innocent, unsuspecting Black presents some dire danger to the accuser. Or, in the extreme case, as in New York, there’s a physical assault.

A false police report is defined as intentionally giving false or incorrect information to the police about an alleged crime or an alleged perpetrator. This can be a crime that didn’t occur, giving a false name, exaggerating, or falsely describing the alleged crime or perpetrator, and most of all giving false information about the crime. In every one of the cases where whites called out the cops on a black homeowner entering his home, his apartment, or simply walking down the street, the information given was patently false. Needless to say, there was no crime committed. Typically, the police respond, determine no crime was committed, and then quickly exit.

In some states, it is a felony to file a false claim. And even in states such as California, where filing a false police report is a misdemeanor, a conviction carries a sentence up to six months. An added note, the false police report does not have to be made solely to the police. It can also be to a 911 operator.

Harrold Jr. never had the chance to make a claim that the charge of his stealing an iPhone that allegedly provoked the attack on him was phony. The disturbing question is what if he had quickly reported the attack and demanded an arrest? Would the hotel management detain the assailant and then corroborate Harrold’s story? And would police then make an arrest? We’ll never know because in the heat of the altercation, the assailant left the scene. The only consolation that Harrold and his parents got was an apology from the hotel.

But an apology is not an arrest. It certainly sends no tough message that false claims of theft by Blacks, and worse attacks on them to allegedly get revenge for the phony theft will go unpunished. The days when a fraudulent white accuser can effortlessly call the police on a Black kid playing ball or a Black getting into his own car, or worse take the law into their own hands and assault the Black victim should have ended long ago. But as the terrible event in a New York hotel once more proved, the glaring double standard when Blacks are on the brunt end of fists and little to nothing is done about it is still very much alive and well.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is the author of Why Black Lives Do Matter (Middle Passage Press) He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network.


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