A viral video appears to show a white man telling a black teen she “doesn’t belong” in his gated, Florida community, and it turns out this man works for the Immigrant Department of Homeland Security.
Before the video begins, a group of teenagers, one of whom is black, were riding a Golf Cart on the street of a Gated Community in Palm Beach Florida. The White Man begins to follow them with his car, and the teens allege he tried to hit the back of their golf cart. The teens then park the golf cart in front of their home, the man begins to yell and the camera starts rolling.
Of course the video doesn’t show the full encounter but what is shown is pretty upsetting and difficult to watch. The video opens with the man shouting “You don’t belong in this development” and demanding the teens give proof they live in the community. He then tells them he is going to “have them all arrested” because “you do not deserve to be in here”. The teens ask why he’s threatening to run over 15 year olds and he replies “because you’re 15 years old, you could marry in Alabama and Florida”. When the girl’s grandfather enters the scene, the man denies that he ever threatened or yelled at the teens, and the video ends.
Some people online were quick to defend the man’s actions and assume that before the girl’s started filming, they must have done something to justify this response. One user tweeted “So these girls are driving around without a license inside a gated community? I don’t see anything wrong with this guy confronting them. Where’s the other video? My guess is that it is more damaging to these girls than this guy.” Another said “I get his attitude is incorrect but based upon what I heard in the short clip, he was more concerned about the girls driving in the neighborhood without licenses. We must be careful of drawing conclusions from short clips”.
The golf carts may have been against the rules, but some people were quick to point out that these are children, and no matter the circumstances his word choice was out of line. One tweet said “it’s not about the golf cart. He said “You Don’t Belong in this development, why are you here” trying to make it about something it’s not” and another “ and another tweeted “Teenagers being Told they “don’t belong” in any neighborhood of America, is wrong. Wake Up! Not realizing this is a problem, IS the problem” and “saying you don’t deserve to be in this neighborhood” speaks volumes.”
A lot of people feel like the golf cart was not this man’s motivation for confronting the kids. The meaning behind his words was racially motivated – He was a white man who wanted the black teen to know she wasn’t welcome in his community
Some quick detective work on twitter quickly revealed that this man is Lee Jeffers, an employee in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services branch, in West Palm Beach Florida. The USCIS has released a statement on the video saying they “hold their employees to the highest standards of integrity and professionalism regardless if they are on or off-duty” they say the video is “certainly disturbing” and they are “working to get all available information in considering what action, if any, may be appropriate for the agency to take”.
People online were not satisfied with this response and they expected more immediate action by the government, as government employees should be held to a higher standard than your normal neighborhood man. One user said “No one with this embedded type of hate needs to be employed by our government. If my tax dollars are paying this man’s salary, I want him fired NOW.” Other twitter users are calling for Homeland Security to re-evaluate any immigration cases Jeffers worked on, as the video should be evidence of his racial bias that could have illegally kept people out of the U.S. One said “Any investigation he’s been a part of needs to be re-opened immediately” and they should investigate “any work he has done that could have directly impacted someone coming into this country.”
A lot of people also picked up on Jeffer’s comments about consent laws, and many are saying this is the creepiest and most inappropriate part of this whole interaction. When the girls ask Jeffers why he is harassing 15 year old girls, he replies that they could get married in other states at 15. One twitter user replied to the video by saying “this dude knows where he can marry 15 year olds better than he knows respect and that’s a big problem”, and another saying “I’m never comforted when a man is too familiar with the laws of consent in various states.” and “Who even thinks that in a confrontation? Was he watching them and looking for a reason to interact? Creep! Every parent in the neighborhood should be on alert” and another “The problem is he saw them not as young girls or children, but as women able to marry. That’s sick, problematic and very telling”.
Frequently black children and teens are forced to grow up quickly in our society and face the realities of racism, sexism and bigotry much earlier than their white peers, and this man made clear he sees these teens not as kids but as objects he could marry. A twitter user summed this up by saying “once again, black children are treated and expected to act older than they are. They are not seen as young people”.
What do you think? Was the marriage comment out of line? Should Immigration employees be held to a higher standard? Was he exhibiting racism at all? We want to hear from you in the comments below or tweet us your reply!