BBQ Becky: The "Woman on the Phone Meme," Explained

A lesson in minding your own business.

by Catie Keck

Though it may sometimes feel like we’re rotting our brains with asinine and essentially meaningless memes, every once in a while the internet lands on one that sticks. As it happens, one of May’s most prolific memes is great for reasons both hilarious and important. Her name — or the one by which she’s come to be known — is BBQ Becky.

The “woman on the phone meme,” as some are calling it, arose after a video of a white woman calling the police on two black men in Oakland, California, surfaced online late last month. It appears to show a white woman in sunglasses and a dark sweatshirt calling the police on the men for barbecuing at Lake Merritt. The video was shot by a woman identified as Oakland resident Michelle Snider, the wife of one of the men, and posted on YouTube on April 29.

The nearly 25-minute video has been viewed more than a million times since it was posted to the platform. Since hitting the internet, it’s sparked dozens of memes and ignited a conversation around implicit racism. Here’s what to know.

How It Started

The confrontation reportedly started at Lake Merritt over a charcoal barbecue, which the woman in the video can be heard saying is “illegal.” SFGate reported May 10 that, while the grill was indeed in a location that did not allow charcoal, one of the men said people had been barbecuing with charcoal in the same location just a week prior.

According to Onsayo Abram, one of two black men barbecuing, the woman said the group depicted in the video “weren’t welcome at the lake,” and referred to the public space as “my park.” When asked whether he felt the incident was racially motivated, Abram told SFGate he believed it was, adding that he “felt the energy and felt that it was really directed toward me.”

The Response

Since hitting the internet, the video has sparked countless memes poking fun at the apparent absurdity of a white woman policing a cookout by two black men. Some of the memes depicted the woman policing black culture, while others show her reporting innocuous action.

According to Fox-affiliate KTVU on Tuesday, the incident has since empowered the black community in Oakland to hold protests and parties in the park.

“If the real problem is with the policy of the park, [and] is all about the cleanliness of the lake, then we should find policies around that — not chasing people away or calling the police,” Snider told SFGate of the incident. “We shouldn’t criminalize people for barbecuing at the lake.”

Let this be a lesson in minding your own business.

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