I’m the Angry Brown Woman Who Called the Cops On My White Neighbor
I felt shame when using my voice but I don’t regret what I did.
My neighbor, an attractive white woman, moved in about a year ago with her two kids.
Last night, I called the cops on her.
I don’t trust the police as a rule; I’ve had innocent black and brown friends harassed and held at gunpoint.
But last night I reached my breaking point with my neighbor.
We live in a predominantly white condominium complex. In the past couple of months, I’ve noticed that my husband and I are some of the only people who wear masks in the public spaces where we live. I can count on one hand the number of residents here who wear masks in public.
On May 1, a San Diego law went into effect that “requires the use of a cloth face covering or mask in all public spaces whenever you are within 6 feet of someone who is not from your household”.
But very few people in our complex follow this ordinance. Neighbors and their friends often meet up, sitting about a foot from one another, watching the sunset and drinking.
I walk by with my mask, waving but secretly resenting them. I don’t want to be that angry, unfriendly brown woman. In my mind, I’m thinking, “How the fuck are you above the law? Do you not care about putting others at risk?”
I’m fortunate enough that our public areas have enough space where I can stay clear of people, for the most part.
I’ve tried to quell my resentment towards them by telling myself that I can’t worry about what other people do, or I’ll go insane. I can only do my part in being safe during this pandemic. I can’t continually obsess over other people’s actions.
Until last night.
A month ago, this woman had a houseful of relatives visit from out of state. They’d often walk around our neighborhood, not wearing masks, taking up a great deal of space — in the streets, on lawns, in other public spaces in our complex.
Whenever I’d see them, I’d think, “I wish I could have visitors. I wonder why she decided to do that.”
I also thought, “Isn’t that a risk for everyone else living here?”
But her carelessness and disregard for everyone else in our neighborhood came to a head last night when she invited 15 or so kids over and all of them were playing in our common areas.
As I was making dinner, I hoped that they would stop soon and the party would disperse. But my anxiety continued to rise as they ran around, touching each other, touching neighbors’ doors, assembling in and taking up the entire street.
I really didn’t want to do anything about it. I don’t want to make enemies with my neighbors. And I have little tolerance for snitches.
But in the time of a pandemic, when people are blatantly disregarding others’ safety, I had to stop making excuses for her.
I thought about walking over to her house and having a talk with her. But her behaviors have shown me that she either thinks the pandemic is not a threat, or that she is above the law. I feared I’d be talking to someone who did not hear me.
My other option was to call the local sheriff.
My heart pounded in my chest as I dialed their non-emergency number.
“Um, hi. Uh, my neighbor has a bunch of kids over. They don’t live in her household, and they are playing in public areas. It’s not safe because none of them are wearing masks and we have a bunch of elderly people who live here and…”
“What’s the address?”
I gave them her address.
“What’s your address?”
I reluctantly disclosed my address.
Perhaps my voice was shaky because she didn’t understand the first time. I tried to sound clearer when I stated my address again.
“I’m just calling because I know it’s a pandemic and we’re supposed to stay 6 feet away from one another if we aren’t from the same household and we’re supposed to wear masks if we get close and…”
“What’s your name and phone number”
“Kelley Armstrong.” I paused before affirming my phone number. I suppose this was part of the process of reporting someone. But finally, I rattled off the digits.
I surprised myself by impulsively giving them my husband’s Anglo last name. In hindsight, I realize it’s because I thought my ethnic last name might undermine my credibility.
“So I don’t know how long they’ll be here but I’m worried for everyone and worried for us and I don’t want us all to get sick and…”
“We’ll send a deputy out there.”
“…so I that’s why maybe someone should come and see what’s going on and…”
I had to take Vistral, drink a glass of wine, and lock myself in my bedroom because, in addition to my anxiety over the call, I was concerned the police would come to our door. I was also worried she’d confront me. I did not want to come face to face with a police officer or with her. Both situations seemed risky and stressful.
And, I felt guilty for whistleblowing.
My husband told me when I woke this morning that a police car did come shortly after I called last night. One cop assembled the kids, the other went inside to talk to this woman.
My anxiety is almost under control today. I haven’t seen my neighbor, nor did the police come to our home.
I hate that I’m the angry brown woman who reported the pretty white woman.
I worry that our neighbors will shun me.
And I don’t want to stand out as the “enraged ethnic woman”.
But I am not sorry for what I did.
The few brown people in our neighborhood stay under the radar. They wear masks. They do not hang out or gather in public places here.
If she were a woman of color, I wonder if she’d feel emboldened to have a large group of relatives visit and hang out in our public spaces. Or throw a kids’ party in the heart of our complex.
I can’t change that most people in our neighborhood won’t wear masks. And that they gather and talk to one another closer than 6 feet.
But notwithstanding my anxiety, I am proud of myself for giving this woman a wake-up call. Her privilege was taken away for one night.
My voice was heard. I know I did the right thing.
As an ethnic woman, attracting attention to yourself amongst your predominantly white neighbors is not ideal. In fact, it’s scary. But when you are pushed so far that your insides boil with rage and you are frightened for others in your community, you have to risk speaking out.
So maybe they will see me as that angry ethnic woman who ruins parties and glares at people who gather without masks. I wouldn’t choose this. But albeit my fear, using my voice and being able to live with myself was more important than blending in with the mainstream.