Once again, as NAACP leaders in the state of New Jersey, we must come together to denounce the visceral and systemic racism that is eating away at our society. This time, racism led to a former elected official calls the police on a nine-year-old black girl doing something positive for her community – all because he apparently felt fear.
As long as black girls are believed to have lost their innocence, black people are portrayed as dangerous, and the black community has reason to fear a response from the authorities, black New Jerseyans can never live in safety. We have the right to exist freely and unchallenged in the same spaces as other communities, but we are forced to be vigilant about ourselves and our loved ones in public. This is not what the freedom of this nation can look like. Just ask Bobbi Wilson and her mother, Monique Joseph.
On October 22, 2022, nine-year-old Bobbi was in her Caldwell neighborhood experimenting with a homemade mixture to kill lamprey flies. It’s a laudable goal that matches New Jersey’s goal Trample it company. Apparently, however, Bobbie’s presence threatened her neighbor Gordon Loshe, a former Caldwell councilman and leader of the city’s Republican Party, who called the police on her.
In a released recording of the conversation, Loschi referred to Bobbi — who is nine — as a “little black woman” and said: “I don’t know what she’s doing. However, it scares me.” When asked to describe it, Loschi said that Bobby was “[r]ok real little woman. Real tiny” and mentioned that she was wearing a hood.
Like any child, after seeing the authorities talk to her parents about their actions, Bobbi had to ask if she was in trouble. Of course not, and thankfully the responding officer made that clear to Bobbi and her family.
We don’t know what Lawsch saw that made him mistake the nine-year-old for a “little woman,” but we do know that Bobbi was never a threat. Even when the responding officer explained the situation to Losha, he continued to blame this innocent girl, proclaiming, “What a freak, huh?” and then asks, “What’s next?” Losche’s actions here are nothing but arrogance and monstrosity.
First, we must commend the response of the responding officer. If there is ever a question about how law enforcement should respond to calls like this, this should be considered a model. The officer never escalated the situation and conducted an efficient investigation to determine the purpose of Loesch’s call. As past practice has shown, such interaction of law enforcement agencies in the investigation of members of the black community is not always so positive.
Further, profiling the black community in public places raises important questions about cognitive biases that even the community’s best allies must work to unlearn. Would Losey have called the police on Bobbi if she was a white girl? Would he have called if she was a white adult? What if Bobby asks Loscha for permission to walk around her neighborhood? Again, we can’t answer these questions, but we do know that prejudice and a sense of (white) entitlement often led to these situations.
Finally, the undersigned are calling for greater accountability of our elected officials in New Jersey. Regardless of the intent, after Losche called the police on Bobbie, the little black girl was afraid to do something positive for her community in a public place. Caldwell’s GOP should condemn such harm and make it clear that its politics have no place for such behavior. Across New Jersey, we must resist the rise of anti-black sentiment that poisons politics for the rest of us.
Something like this must never happen again. But we’ve said it before, and we know it will continue until we all finally take a hard look at how racism continues to manifest itself in our society. United, we simply ask: Will this finally be the end?
Richard T. Smith, President of the New Jersey State Conference of the NAACP
Greg Zeff, Legal Aid Chairman – New Jersey State Conference NAACP
Darryl Jeffries, president of the NAACP Oranges and Maplewood Branch
Deborah Smith-Gregory, president of the Newark chapter of the NAACP
Roger Terry, president of the Montclair chapter of the NAACP
Jasmine Jones, president of the New Jersey State Conference on Youth and College Affairs of the NAACP
Derek Demery, Esq.