Speaking to a crowd in Brooklyn after surveillance video proved he was innocent of sexually assaulting a white woman, 9-year-old Jeremiah cried, telling the world how he felt.
“I don’t forgive this woman, and she needs help,” he said. “Racism should be stopped.”
The modern day Emmett Till-like situation in Flatbush, Brooklyn involving a white woman who accused Jeremiah of sexual assault after his backpack accidentally touched her rear end has the city incensed, and promising to take actions.
The days of a simple sorry for racist actions or tirades are now getting a positive brush-off.
The recent viral spate of racist white women indignantly confronting Black folks across the nation is raising the question of whether there is a Trump-era rise in racist incidents or whether it is the access to social media that is allowing for visual evidence of a longtime problem.
“This incident was a modern day Emmett Till moment without the video footage. Far too many people believe dialing 911 is not a tool to enforce criminal behavior but to enforce their racist views toward young men of color,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams.
“When I was first sent the story, I was disgusted and angry. My inbox on social media was filled with messages about this ordeal and the Till case. By the way, we are still waiting to see what the authorities will do in the case of Carolyn Bryant Donham [Emmett Till case]. It’s been over a year since the case was reactivated and we are still waiting on the outcome,” said filmmaker, Keith Beauchamp.
The activist investigated the 1955 racist murder of 14-year-old Till, who was murdered by the husband and bother-in-law of Carolyn Bryant Donham, the white woman Till allegedly whistled at.
Beauchamp stated, “I’m outraged to know that in 2018, the ongoing epidemic of white victimhood is still our reality. You would think as Americans we would have learned from our dark past (Scottsboro Boys, Rosewood, Emmett Till, etc.), but in a country where Trump reigns, anything is possible. We as Black people have never had it easy in this country or abroad; with that said, we will survive as always.”
The incident is just one of several similar incidents that have occurred around the country, in which white people call the police on Black people for doing ordinary things. The occurrences are a constant reminder of America’s racism.
The situation in Brooklyn occurred last week when white Flatbush resident Theresa Klein was at Sahara Deli Market on Albemarle Road. Klein accused the boy, identified as Jeremiah, of touching her behind and allegedly called the police to have the boy arrested.
Video of what happened outside of the store was posted on Facebook. Klein can be seen on her cellphone saying that she was calling the police and saying she was sexually assaulted by Jeremiah. The NYPD said that they never received that call. She also falsely claimed that she was a police officer. While she was on the phone the boy can be seen sobbing to his mother thinking he’s going to jail. “I want the cops here right now,” Klein says in the video. “The son grabbed my ass and she decided to yell at me. I will be more than happy to submit the police surveillance video for evidence. I was just sexually assaulted by a child.”
While on the phone onlookers were trying to defend the little boy and accused Klein of being racist. The four-minute video, which has gone viral receiving more than 8 million views, garnered national attention, with Klein being dubbed “Cornerstone Caroline” and “Bodega Betty.”
Many are comparing the incident to the 1955 incident that led to the murder of Till. While at a store in Money, Miss., Till was accused of having an interaction with a white woman that resulted in him being kidnapped, tortured and murdered. The woman who accused him recanted her story decades later.
The man who shot the viral video of this most recent incident, Jason Stovetop Littlejohn, said that he began shooting after he walked in on the incident. He said the woman has a history in the neighborhood.
“I was walking to the store and I was about to go in,” Littlejohn said in an interview. “He didn’t look like the kind of little kid that would grab someone’s butt. Everyone is outraged and we aren’t accepting this. Racism is alive and well in 2018 and it’s not getting better.”
Littlejohn also said that Klein has allegedly been seen writing racial slurs in chalk on the sidewalk and has also called police on other people. He has vowed that the community wants her out of the neighborhood that has been heavily gentrified.
As media outlets began to pick up the story, Klein was shown surveillance video of the incident that proved that it was Jeremiah’s backpack that touched her and not his hand. She eventually apologized via television news to the boy.
“I was wrong,” Klein said. “Young man, I don’t know your name, but I’m sorry.”
Littlejohn said that the apology is too little, too late.
“That’s not enough,” he said. “We need to get Theresa Klein out of the neighborhood and bring her up on charges.”
As efforts continue to get Klein out, the community has rallied around Jeremiah. A GoFundMe was created this week to support the boy’s college fund that has raised nearly $17,000 as of Wednesday.
At a rally this week in Brooklyn held by Borough President Eric Adams, elected officials and community residents said that gentrification is to blame for what happened to the boy. New white residents are moving into mostly Black neighborhoods and acting in fear of longtime residents.
Adams has offered support to the family traumatized by the matter and has called for the New York City Police Department to investigate the incident as he hoped for a “public speak-out on the impact of threatening public behavior when living in a diverse community such as Flatbush.”
Adams, a cop for 22 years who retired as a captain, said, “There is no excuse for Ms. Klein’s behavior at the Sahara Deli Market in Flatbush Wednesday. Our community is rightfully outraged by this incident that has gone viral and brought shame to our borough. My office is seeking contact with the family of the young boy traumatized by this matter, in the hopes that we can connect them with follow-up emotional support. I am also asking the NYPD to investigate if she broke the law by impersonating a police officer. We cannot dismiss false complaint calls to the police with mere apologies, sincere or not.”
Jeremiah’s mother spoke at the rally and said that the experience has been traumatizing for her family but they appreciate the support they’ve received.
“With that day, this fear was placed into my children’s heart,” she said. “Having to explain to your 9-year-old son what assault is, what sexual assault means, and having to go over the term with him what racism is. And having to witness and see he’s crying all over again.”
Among calls for the police and/or the Brooklyn D.A.’s office to take action against Klein for at least impersonating an officer, D.A. Eric Gonzalez finally stated, “We are looking into the disturbing incident involving Teresa Klein.”
Jeremiah’s incident is just one of a slew that have been caught on video of white people calling the police on Black people.
Recently in St. Louis, Black resident D’Arreion Toles was stopped and followed by a white woman in his loft apartment building. The woman, Hilary Brooke Mueller, claimed she didn’t know Toles, who proved he lived in the building but had the police called on him. The video was posted to Facebook and viewed nearly 8 million times.
Mueller was fired from her job and claimed she’s not racist because her ex-husband is Black.
For filmmaker Beauchamp, a step forward would be holding white people accountable for making false claims to the police.
He explained, “I do not believe that the rise of white women victimhood today is a coincidence. Some will blame it on social media and technology, others will say white victimhood was always here. I believe that calling 911 on Black people is a last-ditch effort to preserve white supremacy. White people know that if a Black person has an encounter with a police officer, nine out of 10, the encounter will not be favorable to the people of color. I would support any hate crime bill that is created to help stop these calls from happening. People need to be held accountable for their actions.”