American Witch

This is a journey meant for your anxiety.
–Rob Zombie, “American Witch

I don’t know whether to say this is a story “straight out of the Jersey suburbs,” or “straight out of a Rob Zombie song,” but I guess those aren’t mutually exclusive: the Jersey suburbs are something out of a Rob Zombie song.

When Bobbi Wilson, 9, took it upon herself to spend hours of her summer aiming to obliterate the invasive spotted lanternflies that were ravaging her northern New Jersey community, she did not expect much attention. She just wanted to help.

She went out to the streets of her neighborhood in Caldwell, N.J., armed with a container with a mix of dish soap and water — a recipe to disarm the bugs that she found on TikTok, and enhanced by adding apple cider vinegar. She was determined to get as many of the insects as she could.

But her one-girl extermination campaign got her reported to the police about three months after it started, when a neighbor complained about a “little Black woman, walking and spraying stuff on the sidewalks and trees” a few houses from the girl’s home on Oct. 22, according to a recording of the call obtained by CNN.

Make sure you click on the CNN link for that video: priceless. “There’s a little black woman, walkin’ and sprayin’ stuff on the sidewalks and trees, on Elizabeth and Florence. I don’t know what the hell she’s doin’. Scares me, though. Real tiny. She’s got a hood on.”

Black. Little. Woman. Hood. Sprayin’ stuff on trees.…Witch.

The Jersey suburbs are full of tough guys and concerned citizens too afraid in a situation like this to walk outside of their homes and ask the kid what she’s doing. I guess a 9-year-old girl is scary to a grown man, but a confrontation with the police is supposed to be a perfectly normal experience for a 9-year-old child. We really haven’t outgrown witch hunts.

All’s well that ends well, though: Bobbi and her lanternflies ended up at Yale. “Do you wanna know where their dreams come from?” I guess we do in this case.

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