(Probably) White Constituent Called the Police on Her Own Black Legislator

On July 3rd, Janelle Bynum, a member of the Oregon state House of Representatives, was canvassing a neighborhood she represents. She’s running for a second term in office and was going door to door, with about 30 houses on her list that day, talking to constituents and taking notes about their conversations on her cell phone.

One of her constituents, apparently, thought she was casing the neighborhood, not canvassing. Near the end of her list, Rep. Bynum looked over and saw a Clackamas County deputy deputy pull up next to her.

“I don’t believe this,” she thought.

The deputy asked if she was selling something. Bynum introduced herself and said that she guessed someone must have called the police. Sure enough, the officer said someone had called and reported her for “appearing to spend a long time at houses in the area and appearing to be casing the neighborhood while on her phone.”

Rep. Bynum says she’s knocked on 70,000 doors while campaigning over the years and often takes notes on her cell phone. She’s never before been reported to the police for doing so, probably because having face-to-face conversations with your constituents about their needs is not a f***ing crime.

“It was just bizarre,” said Bynum. “It boils down to people not knowing their neighbors and people having a sense of fear in their neighborhoods, which is kind of my job to help eradicate. But at the end of the day, it’s important for people to feel like they can talk to each other to help minimize misunderstandings.”

Bynum described the officer as courteous and professional; he even agreed to take a selfie with her. But she did tell the officer that, “when people do things like this, it can be dangerous for people like me.”

The officer said he hoped that he did not make her feel that way, and she responded that he hadn’t.

Still, Rep. Bynum should never have had to be in the position where her fate was determined by which officer responded to a call. Of course, this incident is just one of many, many, many similar incidents in which white people see literally everything black people do as either terrifying or somehow in need of regulation.

Black people cannot barbecue, get coffee, go out to eat, drive, have a pool party, go to a park, play golf, take a nap or do literally any damn thing without white people acting like the world is going to end. God forbid a black child tries to sell water in her neighborhood.

I’m making an assumption here, I’m aware. We don’t know who called the police on Rep Bynum. Unlike other instances of people calling the cops on black people for no good reason, this caller is still anonymous. This caller did not stick around to watch what happened, did not get filmed. This caller’s face did not go viral.

But you can bet that caller was white. Because just like mass shooters and Trump supporters, the people who call the cops on black people are overwhelmingly white. We’re the only people with the right combination of fear and power to think we can put another person’s life at risk because we’re uncomfortable with their existence.

White People: Next time you’re considering calling the cops on a black person, instead try just minding your own damn business.

Photo Credit: Janelle Bynum/Facebook


Marie W
Marie Wabout a month ago

Thank you.

Emma L
Past Member 7 months ago

Thanks for posting

Mia G
Past Member 7 months ago

thank you

Latoya Brookins
Latoya Brookins7 months ago

At least the police officer wasn't racist.

Peggy B
Peggy B7 months ago

Chad Anderson....my theory is propaganda. Make people afraid and they buy guns. Make them afraid and the government can justify being in the middle east where they have no business being. It's not as simple as this, but it wouldn't be the first time the government manipulated people to justify wars and let's face it, we all know the NRA pays lots of money to propagandists to troll social media and keep the guns selling.

Christine Stewart
Christine Stewart7 months ago

for pete's sake, she was going up to doors and knocking- it's not like she was skulking in the bushes!

Amanda M
Amanda M7 months ago

Chad A, you can blame 24-hour news coverage for turning us into a bunch of "Paranoid Pennys." Throw Twitler and his minions basically giving bigots and racists carte blanche for letting their hate and bigotry run amok into the mix, and you have one nasty stew. It was bad enough when parents got arrested or had Social Services sicced on them for simply letting their kids play IN THEIR OWN YARDS without Mommy or Daddy hovering around them like paranoid drones or allowing them to walk to or from school or the park by themselves, but to also have black people get the cops called on them for doing perfectly normal, everyday things in addition to that is a sign that we have seriously spiraled down beyond stupid!

Chad Anderson
Chad Anderson7 months ago

I heard this story before and am happy it all worked out and everyone handled it well, but I need to ask how we got to this point? Crime has been going down for a long time and yet everyone is more afraid.

Mary B
Mary B7 months ago

If Rep Bynum had been white do you think any one would have called the cops on her ? For those of you getting nit picky about the writer of this article and it's construction, I call BS. We ALL make assumptions based on our beliefs and social programming.

Winnie A
Winn A7 months ago