“What is white privilege?”
I receive this question in my ask box at least once a month. Either that, or the statement that it doesn’t exist.
Well, let me give you an idea.
I went to Cheyenne this weekend to a political meet and greet, then decided to meet up with some pals at a dive bar that evening. I was heading down Pershing St. through a residential neighborhood, window down, smoking a cigarette, and listening to Dead Prez. Loud. It was dusk and nice and cool, so why not?
Suddenly, two cruisers pulled up behind me. Mind you, I was going maybe 31 in 30. I slowed to exactly 30. One officer pulled up beside me on the driver’s side in a 20 mph zone, and rolled down his passenger side window. He peered into the driver’s side of my car. His compadre was right on my bumper. The cop next to me flicked off his flashight, stuck his hand out of the driver’s side window, and waved back at the other officer, who proceeded to back off. They fell back, and within a block, they were both gone.
Why is this an example of white privilege? As analyzed by a pal of mine, Daymon, who is a person of color and went to high school in Cheyenne:
“1. Your first thought was that you were speeding, not driving while Black. Like me. That’s the flank move. Assuming they’re gonna need backup because your ass IS GETTING PULLED OVER.
2. You never turned the music down or anything. Why would you? It’s not like it suddenly made you more Black, unlike me. And by that, I mean a dangerous, suspicious Black man in a mostly white neighborhood. I’m probably there to do something to their daughters, you know? Doesn’t matter I was a loan officer in town when I moved back. A professional. Who lived in that neighborhood. I was just a snazzy-dressed uppity negro in a nice car daring to roll through their neighborhood.
3. When they found out you were white, you got a golden ticket instead of one for noise ordinance. I know a bunch of guys who got tickets for noise in white neighborhoods, even though we had our shit lower than their precious lily-white Ashleys and Dakotas listening to Eminem or some shit emo. If it had a beat, and you’re Black, obviously you’re a gangsta looking to deal those kids dope.
4. You wondered what the hell happened and shrugged it off. I don’t get that luxury.
In summary, congratulations, you’re white. Please move to the front of the line.”
I would imagine he’s not the only man who’s experienced this, nor the only person of color. And that, my friends, is an example of white privilege and its not-so-subtle benefits. I feel like an asshole for not recognizing it off the bat for what it was — like I said, I thought I was getting a speeding ticket.
And anyone who claims we live in post-racial America, well, I invite you to drive down Pershing Ave. listening to hip-hop — or another major residential street in a “nice” neighborhood. Daymon said he’s been pulled over on that street every single time he’s been home to visit family, even when listening to NPR — as he said, “it isn’t the stereo, it’s the skin, but listening to loud hip-hop isn’t going to plead my case for being a ‘legitimate’ Black man. This shit doesn’t happen in Denver. As much.”
Do it. See if you get flanked. Two cops having a bad night, a good night, or yet another example of systemic racism? You can probably guess where I stand.