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Supporters of two Black ranchers who’ve faced racist retaliation from their neighbors in Colorado are calling on the state to pass the CAREN Act, a law that would make racist 911 calls a crime.

On Feb. 17, Courtney and Nicole Mallery of Colorado Springs stood in front of the state Capitol in Denver to demand lawmakers pass the new law.

For months, the Mallerys have faced sabotage on their 640-acre ranch as their White neighbors continually called the police on them for frivolous reasons. They’ve faced death threats and killing of their livestock.

When they tried to confront their neighbors, they were instead investigated by the local sheriff, who initially refused to hear their claims of racist abuse. Instead, the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office arrested the Mallerys on Feb. 6 after listening to their White neighbors.

“The act of falsely accusing someone of something because of their color is disgusting to me,” Courtney Mallery told the crowd, according to 9 News. “What me and my wife have been going through, I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.”

Living while Black

The couple have since gained the support of the local NAACP and the ACLU as the organizations represent them in their case and their efforts to pass the CAREN Act.

Melanin-deprived Americans were once legally entitled to wield the weapons of White privilege against innocent Black people during the Jim Crow days and earlier. It was a time when a Black person could be imprisoned or lynched simply for smiling at a White woman or for drinking from a water fountain.

No longer having the full backing of the criminal legal system, racists in the 21st Century continue to find creative ways to criminalize Black existence.

The list is long: Walking while Black, jogging while Black, banking while Black, babysitting while Black, barbecuing while Black, and even watering flowers while Black have all become hashtags after innocent Americans faced the threat of police violence for daring to live their lives in the presence of racist Whites.

Studies show the need for the CAREN Act

In 2001, sampling 215 Black folks, a study by Black psychologist Shawn Utsey, PhD, found that race-related stress negatively impacts the physical, psychological and social wellbeing of African Americans.

“Race-related stress was a significantly more powerful risk factor than stressful life events for psychological distress,” the study found.

Racism and the fear of racism also impacts the activities Black Americans choose to engage in.

Conducting a nationwide survey, Black sociologist Rashawn Ray, faculty associate of the Maryland Population Research Center, found that Black men in mostly White neighborhoods are less likely to exercise outdoors because of fears that they will be criminalized.

The CAREN Act stands for Caution Against Racially Exploitative Non-Emergencies. It’s named after the “Karen,” stereotype, which references middled-aged White women who use the police to endanger Black people and other persons of color.

San Francisco, New York and New Jersey have already passed similar versions of the CAREN Act, and the Mallerys, backed by the Rocky Mountain NAACP, are urging Colorado to follow suit.

“We need to pass the CAREN Act in the state of Colorado. I am personally going to be leading the charge with that legislation,” said Portia Prescott, president of the Rocky Mountain NAACP. 

Deon Osborne was born in Minneapolis, MN and raised in Lawton, OK before moving to Norman where he attended the University of Oklahoma. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Strategic Media and has...