On Tuesday, San Francisco’s board of supervisors voted unanimously to pass the CAREN Act, a bill making racially-based 911 calls illegal.
Officially known as the Caution Against Racially and Exploitative Non-Emergencies Act, CAREN was aptly named after an online meme that quickly became a term for White women who can’t mind their business.
All 11 members of the board voted in favor of the CAREN Act, which carries with it the basis for a discrimination lawsuit to recover damages of at least $1,000 plus attorney’s fees. The CAREN Act was introduced in July after several incidents of White women calling the police on Black men and women.
“We wanted to put something in place that’s going to stop these racist, prejudiced calls that weaponize police against Black people and people of color,” Shamann Walton, the Democratic supervisor who introduced the legislation told the New York Times.
CAREN-related incidents this summer include Amy Cooper, who called the police on a Black birdwatcher; Lisa Alexander and her partner, Robert Larkins, who called the police on a Filipino homeowner for writing Black Lives Matter in chalk outside his home; and Alison Etttel, who called the cops on a Black girl selling water on the street.
“The CAREN Act will expand the definition of a protected class in San Francisco to prevent false emergency calls with the specific intent to discriminate against a person or otherwise infringe the person’s rights or cause the person specified harms on the basis of the person’s race, color, ancestry, national origin, place of birth, sex, age, religion, creed, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, weight, or height,” said a press release on the bill, according to ABC 7.
The name of the bill has upset some, but Walton, the lead sponsor on the bill, told the Times the act’s name wasn’t his intent. The “Karen” trend has been criticized by some as sexist, ageist, and an attempt at silencing women.
Similar bills are being discussed or have been passed in New York, Oregon, and Michigan.