Girl, 9, racially profiled while spraying invasive insect in New Jersey town honoured by Yale
A nine-year-old Black girl whose neighbours called the police on her as she was spraying to eradicate an invasive insect species from her home town in New Jersey has been honoured by Yale University.
Bobbi Wilson’s efforts to remove spotted lantern flies from the town of Caldwell were recognised at a 20 January award ceremony at the prestigious Ivy League college, according to the university.
Bobbi also gave her personal lanternfly collection to Yale’s Peabody Museum collection, and was named as the donor scientist on its official database.
On October 22, the young girl prepared a homemade repellent of water, dish soap and vinegar and was using it to kill the destructive pests on trees near her home for a school project.
Gordon Lawshe, a former treasurer of the local branch of the Republican Party, called 911 to report that a “little Black woman” in a hood was spraying sidewalksand trees near his home.
“I don’t know what the hell she’s doing, scares me though,” Mr Lawshe said, according to a recording later released by the Caldwell Police Department.
The incident prompted a national debate about racial profiling after her elder sister Hayden, 13, spoke up about the encounter at a town council meeting.
Bobbi’s mother Monique Joseph said at a recent ceremony at Yale to honour her daughter that the experience had been such a visceral shock that the only thing she could compare it to was when her mother died.
“You know, you hear about racism; you kind of experience it in your peripheral if you’re lucky in your life. It doesn’t come knocking on your door. That morning when it happened, my world stopped,” she said in remarks published by the university.
Organiser Ijeoma Opara, an Assistant Professor at Yale School of Public Health, invited Ms Joseph, Bobbi and Hayden to tour the university campus in Connecticut in November after hearing about the police callout.
She described the recent award as “something unique to Bobbi”.
“We wanted to show her bravery and how inspiring she is, and we just want to make sure she continues to feel honoured and loved by the Yale community,” Ms Opara said.