Yesterday, I read about a white Michigan couple who were basically bullbaited in the parking lot at Chipotle Grill. By now, you’ve probably seen the scary pictures and video involving Jillian Wuestenberg, 32, and Eric Wuestenberg, 42, both of whom were arrested on Wednesday of this week because Ms. Wuestenberg aimed a handgun at a black woman and her daughters. When I saw the headlines, I inwardly sighed to myself, because it looked like yet another example of middle-aged white women behaving badly toward people of color.
I have never made it a secret that I don’t like call out culture, nor do I think it’s right to ruin people’s lives over what they say and do in altercations on the street. I will grant that a lot of the time, the altercations that get filmed and disseminated do make the “almost always” middle-aged white women look bad. However, that’s just a sliver of a person’s life, and I don’t think it’s right for the public, 99.9% of whom were not there to see the incident themselves, to play judge, jury, and executioner for other people’s lives. They almost never have all of the necessary facts to make such a judgment, and it’s almost always colored by their own opinions.
The longer I live in Germany, the more I appreciate that over here, you have the right to be forgotten. In fact, here, the names and identities of criminals are largely protected. They don’t publish the full names of people in trouble with the law, and when they take photos, their faces are usually covered. Privacy is very important. While I can understand the satisfaction many people feel when people are “outed” for behaving badly, I also think people should have the right to redeem themselves. And I especially think that should happen in this case of egregious baiting that led to people getting fired and being arrested.
In the uncensored video, we hear a very upset black woman yelling at a white woman, Jillian Wuestenberg. Apparently, Ms. Wuestenberg bumped into Takelia Hill’s daughter and didn’t apologize. That part of the incident wasn’t recorded, so we have to take them at their word that’s what happened. Hill claims that Ms. Wuestenberg not only didn’t apologize, but she “cursed” out her teenaged daughter. If that happened, it shouldn’t have. Ms. Wuestenberg should have simply said “I’m sorry” or “Excuse me” and moved on with her day. That would have been the polite thing to do. However, people bump into people all the time, and they aren’t always polite. Most reasonable people simply go ahead with their day, even if there isn’t an apology when someone does something rude. That is clearly not what happened in this situation.
Evidently, because Ms. Wuestenberg didn’t apologize to Ms. Hill’s satisfaction, she deserved a hostile confrontation in a parking lot. We can see and hear Takelia Hill loudly and and aggressively confronting this couple over the slight. It’s plain to me in this video that this couple repeatedly tried to get out of the situation and deescalate it. At 1:12, I even heard Jillian Wuestenberg repeatedly say, “I care about you.” to Ms. Hill, and she also apologized that Hill had evidently experienced an incident that has made her feel “like that”. But Hill continues to verbally harass her, doesn’t lower her voice, back away, or calm down, so Jillian also says, “You can’t go around calling white people racist.” Why she didn’t just roll up her window at that point and drive away, I don’t know.
Jillian’s husband, Eric Wuestenberg, eventually tries to intervene. Hill then threatens Eric, saying she’ll “beat [his] white ass, too”. He responds by asking Hill who the fuck they think they are, which I can hardly fault him for doing, given the extremely hostile tone of everyone involved in this ridiculous incident. The confrontation continues to worsen, with both women yelling at each other. I’m reminded of animals who are attacked and harassed to the point of snapping. The couple tries to leave the parking lot, but Hill gets behind their vehicle and hits it with her hand.
And that’s when Jillian Wuestenberg took the unfortunate next step, which was to get out of her car, scream at Ms. Hill, advance toward her, pull out a handgun, and aim it at Hill, who doesn’t sound at all like she’s frightened. I hear Ms. Hill’s daughters screaming in fear, and I can see on Jillian Wuestenberg’s face that she’s scared and angry. She’s probably humiliated and furious, and it looks like she might also be pregnant, which could have affected her behavior. I do not at all condone Jillian Wuestenberg’s use of a handgun in this incident. She is clearly guilty of a crime. Watching it unfold as someone who is not involved, I can easily think of other things she could have done instead of pulling out a gun. I think it would have been much better if she’d simply rolled up her window and sat in the car to wait for the cops to arrive, since the parties called the police on each other.
However, I also don’t think Takelia Hill is at all innocent in this fiasco. She deliberately provoked the Wuestenbergs into reacting by screaming in their faces, threatening them, and striking their car. And while I understand that black people have historically and repeatedly been harassed and arrested and provoked, too, this is not the way to make that problem go away. Two wrongs don’t make a right. There’s no reason why this situation should have gotten to the point of people getting arrested and losing employment. I get that people are tense and angry right now, for a lot of reasons. But the jails don’t need more people in them. The court system doesn’t need more cases to try. And someone really could have gotten hurt or even killed over a mundane thing that happens to people every day. There’s no reason why this situation had to escalate to verbal abuse and threats with a firearm.
Jillian Wuestenberg and her husband were legally permitted to carry the weapons they had, although they had to give them up after they were arrested and charged with felonious assault. Mr. Wuestenberg was fired from his job at Oakland University. All they wanted was some food from Chipotle! What a shame it is that they had to literally run into people who seem hellbent on creating a situation that grants them fifteen minutes of fame. This is yet another endorsement for staying the fuck at home!
What I found even more disturbing, though, besides the awful comments from people who clearly didn’t watch the whole, unedited video, was that the Wuestenbergs have already been doxed. Just a simple Google search turns up a Web site where their private information has been made public. In fact, they even include passwords for the couple’s email accounts. The reason given?
Reasoning : Aiming a gun at blacks for no fucking reason justice they shall serve
How in the hell is that LEGAL? That site should be taken down and the people running it should be sued! Watch the video. Was pulling out a gun an overreaction? Yes, it was. But it was a long time coming and certainly not without provocation. I wouldn’t say she pulled out the gun for “no fucking reason”. Jillian Wuestenberg probably did feel threatened and may have been on the verge of an anxiety attack at that point. I’m sure her fight or flight response was fully engaged.
We have a court system for a reason, folks. It’s not for the public to be the judge, jury, and executioner of everyday citizens who bump into each other and don’t apologize. I think the charges against this couple should either be reduced or dropped. I also think Takelia Hill should be brought up on charges for harassment. She’s at least as much to blame as the Wuestenbergs for the fact that this happened. And it’s not like the police don’t have better things to be doing with their time than breaking up these kinds of squabbles.