What does white privilege look like for me, a nice white lady in the suburbs?
Cautionary warning: Stories of police brutality and murder.
Written for white folks who may see themselves in me, and the blatant white privilege I’ve benefitted from. I did not include reference links because I don’t want to spread images and videos of violence against BBIPOC. Do your own google-ing if you must.
Let us compare and contrast my experience with that of people of color.
You may relate to some of the stories. Or maybe you know someone else who had this experience.
- I got pulled over for speeding in a school zone. But I did not fear for my life.
Maurice Gordon was pulled over for speeding on the NJ turnpike and was fatally shot by the police on May 23, 2020.
2. I got a ticket for having an expired license plate, something I didn’t know because I had recently moved out of state and the paperwork got lost in the mail.
Chief Allan Adam of Athabasca Chipeywan First Nation was forcibly removed from his vehicle for having expired plates, and was beaten up by two Canadian police officers on March 10, 2020.
3. I was given warning and stern talking-to for not having my license or any form of ID (just my debit card!) on me when I was pulled over.
Walter Scott was pulled over for a non-functioning brake light, and was shot and killed by the officer in April 2015. Both of these are “fixable” offenses — meaning ones that once you fix it (or in my case, mail in a copy of valid ID), the fine is lifted, and you go on your way.
And let us not forget that Breonna Taylor was sleeping in her bed at home when she was shot and killed by police, who entered the wrong house in a botched drug raid.
Now let’s go back — all of those violations I had?
IT HAPPENED AT ONE TIME.
Yep, I was a ditzy 22 year old, who wasn’t paying attention. I had taken a few days off for a road trip, and forgot that it was a) a weekday, and b) the first week of school. My shorts didn’t have pockets, and so I just grabbed my debit card to run out and buy us breakfast. I had also just moved to CA a few months prior, and hadn’t gotten around to updating my plates to my new home, or realize that those MA plates were expired.
So to sum up: Speeding. Expired plates. No valid form of ID on me. AND no “proof of insurance”, something I didn’t know I needed in CA, and was supposed to have gotten CA plates when I moved there 3 months prior.
Was I an idiot? YEP.
Was I scared for my life, or did I just giggle and smile at the cop, and say “sorry?” NOPE.
Did I leave that incident unscathed, unharmed, and with more “fix-it” tasks than moving violations? YEP/
And was I still able to drive my car on that planned road trip, promising the cop that I would take care of it as soon as I got back? Crazy but true. Looking back, I honestly have no idea how I did that.
The cases I mentioned are just a few of the examples of POC being pulled over for simple infractions, and having it escalate into something much deadlier. I don’t have to fear for my life when I see the police. My parents didn’t need to have THAT talk with me about how to interact with police or other authority figures. Instead I get to continue being my friendly, sassy, nice white lady in the suburbs.
Defund the Police
I’ve heard a lot of groans about this idea, all from people who relate more to my lived experience than that of Black folks. This call is a reimagining of what city workers can do, and how many things police don’t need to be in charge of, like reprimanding people for broken tail lights (why not just have city workers who can help you get that fixed so we’re all safer?), or dealing with mental health or domestic violence cases.
Don’t try to tell Black folks that they need to rebrand it to make you more comfortable. It’s not about you. Let them lead, and use your white privilege to educate yourself, your community, and amplify their voices.
And give them your money.
This is an updated version of another piece I wrote about white privilege three years ago. Check that one out here.