For black men and women in the United States of America, racism is never out of the realm of possibility.
It sometimes appears subtly. At other times, it comes in brazenly. It is difficult to be prepared at a moment’s notice to defend yourself from the bigotted words and deeds of others. However, it is a reality that comes with being black in America.
On Sept. 24, a California woman was caught on video unleashing a repulsive, race-filled tirade at a black woman outside a CVS Pharmacy in the Eagle Rock neighborhood of Los Angeles.
At the start of the video, Heather Lynn Patton is seen jumping up and down yelling very loudly, “I hate n*ggers.” She then walks out of the pharmacy towards her car while the woman recording, a black woman and the target of this racist outburst, says Patton, “is on drugs or something.” Patton replies, “no I just hate n*ggers.”
Patton continues to loudly yell about her hatred for black people while saying the N-word once more. She then goes on to say “I would kill a n*gger but the law says I can’t kill the n*ggers. If the law didn’t say I couldn’t kill the n*ggers they’d all be dead.” Patton then says here is her license plate number and rattles off the N-word several more times until the video finally ends.
Adrene Ashford, the woman filming, told heavy.com that the incident began with an unprovoked Patton screaming at her and verbally assaulting her inside the CVS store. Ashford began recording because she wanted the police to see video of what had happened. Ashford also told heavy.com that she went to the Los Angeles Police Department and filed a report. An officer told her she would hear back from the police department in about five days. The LAPD told the Los Angeles Times and KTLA-TV that a hate crime investigation is underway.
But by Sept. 25, the video had already circulated enough times on multiple social media platforms for it to have gone viral and be seen by people all over the world. Along with the video and the many opinionated comments from social media users, an apology posted by a fake Heather Lynn Patton on Instagram had also made the rounds online.
As far as people and confirmed public records know, Patton is a 49-year-old Los Angeles resident who works in the TV and movie industry as a costume designer and wardrobe assistant. Patton also has been issued two restraining orders filed by her neighbor. In an interview with KTLA-TV, one of her neighbors said Patton “has a long history of erratic, unstable behavior and making violent threats to him and his family.”
Coincidentally, Ashford also works in costume design within the film industry. She could have at some point worked with Patton, a person who is capable of uttering such racially motivated hatred.
Since the incident, Ashford told heavy.com that she has been unable to sleep and eat and recalls how Patton followed her around in CVS yelling racially demeaning words at her. Ashford describes how she interpreted this incident and why she doesn’t intend to be silent.
“That’s against the law. That’s a hate crime.” Ashford told heavy.com. “I want it to be known that this is a hate crime and this type of behavior isn’t OK. She is not a safe person to have out here in the community. I have to be verbal, I have to take a stand, because so many of us don’t speak up. I’ve got to stand up for myself and fight and be a voice and say what happened. She was in the store verbally assaulting me.”
The mindset Ashford has in response to this incident is quite admirable. People should not only be disgusted by Patton’s remarks but also aware of Ashford’s courage and commendable outlook on the situation. Some people in her scenario may not have been brave enough to continue to record someone screaming they would kill people of your race if it wasn’t against the law. Some would subdue themselves because of their lack of faith in the justice system to provide protection for its civilians.
Sadly incidents like these are not shocking. Videos of white individuals calling the police on black people for no reason are not odd. Videos of white people saying racial slurs like the n-word to degrade a black person are bound to appear on a local news outlet or make waves on social media sooner rather than later.
From the time Alison Ettel, more famously known as “Permit Patty,” called the police on an 8-year-old black girl selling water at a nearby park in San Francisco, California in June 2018. In July 2019, there was the non-nicknamed Nancy Goodman, who was recorded saying the N-word at a black woman in a Bonefish Grill restaurant in North Carolina because the woman and her friend were being “too loud.” Goodman then memorably told NBC-affiliate WRAL, “I’m not going to say I’m sorry to them because they kept pushing at it,” Goodman said. “I would say [the N-word] again to them. They are the rudest individuals I have ever seen.”
Even the Northeast is not immune from videotaped racial spats shared widely on the internet. In March 2019 at an East Haven Shop Rite, Corrine Terrone, a white woman who once worked in Hamden schools, angrily called an African-American man the N-word multiple times with her two young children beside her. The reason – she felt provoked.
Patton’s viral racist rage is just another incident in the prejudiced record book.
Another troublesome aspect of this story is that the CVS Pharmacy in Eagle Rock seemingly did nothing to protect Ashford. In fact, Ashford told KCAL-TV that she begged the workers to call the police and when they failed to do so, another customer called. Ashford even told heavy.com that she went back to the store the night of the incident and expressed her frustration. She was only given information for the store’s corporate office.
Also, when Ashford went to the LAPD, she was told that it would take them five days to get back to her case. Assuming the police watched the video she captured on her phone, why would it take them five days to investigate when you see the woman and her license plate in the video. Again, this is the time frame it would take for the police to respond back to Ashford’s report; not the amount of time it would take for the LAPD to charge Patton with a hate crime.
The mishandling from the CVS and the LAPD are both deplorable and at best fall quite short of any adequacy. There should be skepticism to whether that CVS or the LAPD value Ashford’s well-being.
The well-being of Patton ought to be questioned based off her unhinged volatility and fearless use of the N-word. The very easy and likely excuses that would be made for Patton’s actions are that she could very well be drunk, on drugs (as Ashford suggested in the video) or mentally ill.
Yes or no question: does alcohol or drugs make someone say racist things like the N-word?
The answer to that question should be no since there is no such side-effect that makes anyone say the N-word uncharacteristically.
Another yes or no question: does mental illness cause racist thoughts and actions.
I believe that would be the same answer as the first question.
Racism and hatred are not things people inherit. They are also not things that can be triggered by simply putting something in one’s body. Racism and hatred are learned behaviors and come out while under the influence or sober-minded. In both cases, every grown person should be held accountable for their disgraceful behavior at variant degrees. Especially if it threatens the safety of an innocent victim.
The degree of belligerence to which Patton displayed at that CVS should be represented as what it clearly looks to be, no matter the circumstance. If she was suffering from a mental ailment or under the influence of something that can cause her to act the way she did, why is she driving to CVS alone? If she is liable to be mentally unstable around black people at any time, how does she work as a costume designer? No matter what hypothetical you look at to possibly justify her actions, there is no reason for this occurrence to come to fruition.
Some may be shocked that this incident happened in Los Angeles in 2019. As cited earlier, there are examples of racially insensitive and harmful acts from down South as well as both coasts. According to the public records discovered by heavy.com, Patton once lived in Brooklyn, New York. She could have done this anywhere. People like her are all over the country. Racism does not discriminate based on location nor does it come in the same form.
Patton’s actions do not represent the actions of white people in the United States. It shouldn’t. But if the perpetrator was a non-white person doing the same thing, would some so easily point towards mental health as the cause for a racist outrage? Would more people generalize and think that this person collectively represents most if not all of his or her group? Had roles been reversed between Patton and Ashford, would the CVS have called the police? Would the LAPD already ran the license plate and questioned their perpetrator? Would some people quickly excuse an enraged black woman as mentally ill?
I believe the answer is no to all those questions.
My advice for all black people are words rapped by Childish Gambino: “This is America. Don’t catch you slippin’ now.”