Expert weighs in on viral videos


Videotaping confrontations is not new, but the power of social media has led to instant outrage online and in some cases, has affected the businesses of the person being videotaped. 

The sociologist tells KRON4 this is essentially about justice, particularly for people of color and other marginalized groups who aren’t getting justice through official means. 

Instant justice? 

It’s a phenomenon that seems to be taking off. 

BBQ Becky, Permit Patty, Jogger Joe, and now Burrito Bob. 

Each viral video has inspired massive backlash on social media towards the person featured. 

In each case, they’re threatening to call police over a minor infraction, and in at least three out of the four videos, the target is a person of color. 

“One thing we have to recognize is that these callers are all white. And the white population doesn’t understand what it is like to be a person of color vis-à-vis the police. And so what they think is just a minor thing really strikes fear in many largely African-American and other poor and marginalized communities who see people of color being a target of police more often than they’re helped by them,” said Kim Richman, professor of sociology and legal studies at USF. 

And it’s not just online backlash. 

The woman known as BBQ Becky inspired “BBQ While Black” — a big public show of unity at Lake Merritt days after the viral video surfaced. 

CEO Alison Ettel aka Permit Patty stepped down after at least six marijuana sellers dropped her product. 

The man dubbed as Jogger Joe was arrested after throwing away a homeless man’s belongings.

“And it’s not farfetched although the prior instances are way more serious, it’s not farfetched to say that these more minor incidents are related to the trend that we’ve seen of police brutality being caught on film, where literally individuals are killed on film.. and then the perpetrator usually a police officer is not indicted and not held responsible. And so people in the community can extrapolate from that, can draw from that, ‘well nothing happens unless I draw attention to it myself,'” Richman added. 

Richman tells KRON4 we’ll continue to see this trend as long as people of color aren’t getting justice through official means. 



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