Have you ever been stopped by the police or sheriff while walking or driving? I have. I was going a little too fast. Once, I made an illegal u-turn. Other than that, I’ve made it through over forty years of driving without being stopped.
And I have certainly never been stopped because I was female and white.
You know where this is leading.
Since the events in Ferguson MO, I have been – again – doing a lot of thinking and reading about race. How can we not?
But most of us don’t go very deep.
I was raised with what today is called “white privilege.” I don’t know what it was called back when I was being raised with it. It probably wasn’t yet called anything.
I didn’t know I had white privilege. It was easy to not know this because other than two families who had slightly darker skin than my family did, everyone in my neighborhood, everyone in my school, in fact, looked just like me. It was simply “normal” to have light skin, a dad with a good job, and a mom who was a housewife.
in high school, I got to know a few minorities. However, it wasn’t until after graduation that I understood that every single one of the black students lived, literally, on the other side of the tracks. It wasn’t until after graduation that I learned about the swimming pool in the basement of the high school that had been closed down because “the Colored” wanted to swim there, too.
So what does it mean to have white privilege?
For one, it means I don’t have to worry about being pulled over for some obscure reason when I’m driving. And if by some chance I am, I have no fear of being shot. Even if I question the officer’s motives in stopping me, said officer might get a bit testy, but I won’t have a gun pulled on me. I won’t get shot.
I know far too many young black men who have been pulled over – repeatedly – for daring to drive down our county roads. In broad daylight. At night, they’re pulled over and the office approaches, hand on gun. These are young men who live here. They must be sick of it. I would be.
White privilege means that if I chose to, I could purchase a rifle, sling it over my shoulder, and walk through the local grocery store.
I don’t know a single person who is not white who could pull that one off. In fact, just a few weeks ago, a young Black man was in Walmart. He picked up a pellet gun in the toy department. A customer saw him with the gun and dialed 9-1-1. He never had the chance to set the gun down before the police shot him. Can you imagine a young white man being shot for picking up a pellet gun? Can you imagine someone even dialing 9-1-1?
No once crosses the street because she is afraid I’ll grab her purse. And if I did grab that purse, it’s not likely I’d get shot while running away.
No one follows me through a department store, fearful I’ll be shoplifting. I had a white girlfriend in college who shoplifted and no one ever gave it a thought when she went into a store. My black friends were closely watched.
Over $400,000 has been collected to support the policeman who shot Michael Brown – before he’s even been charged with anything. And some of the donors have made such racist, hateful statements that it is shocking, even to me, one who has heard quite a bit.
I am not sure what we do about this except to speak out. Over and over, Black youth – and adults – are gunned down before they can even explain what they’re doing. Remember Renisha McBride? She was in a car accident and her cell phone was dead. She knocked on a door and when no one answered, turned around to leave. That’s when she was shot by the homeowner.
We all, whatever our race and whatever our privilege or lack of privilege may be, must speak against the madness of assuming that Black = dangerous. We need to all stand together on this. Letters to the editor. Attend rallies in each other’s neighborhoods. Cross the race barrier.
I marched for equality in the 1960s. It saddens me, sickens me, that I have to do it still today.