On White Privilege and Taking Sides

Tutu“It’s like someone getting killed during a funeral service.” – Scott Woods

I do not want to hide behind whiteness or succumb to numbness. So I am going to tell you a story — a story of white privilege. My own.

“Castile is at least the 506th person shot and killed by police so far in 2016, according to a Washington Post database that tracks such shootings.” :: read more  

These are people’s LIVES. Not hashtags, not statistics. LIVES. The insanity of sanctioned racism and murder has got to stop. This would never have gone down this way if he, Philando Castile, his girlfriend (who was HANDCUFFED while police “sorted things out” — this after she watched her boyfriend die of four gunshot wounds), and her four-year-old daughter had been white. If you don’t believe me, you are part of the problem.

A few weeks ago, I got pulled over for driving on the shoulder.

Both of my kids were with me, Aviva in the front seat and Pearl in the back. I was driving on the shoulder because I wasn’t sure if Pearl’s bike was secure in a new bike rack. I had already stopped to check it once, and saw that one of the clips had popped open. I was nervous and decided to return the bike home instead of risking it. But I was driving way under the speed limit, and thus, on the shoulder.

After a mile or two of this, a police officer signaled me to pull over. He asked for my license and registration. I handed him my license, but before I even took out my registration, I said, “Can I just explain to you what’s happening?” He said ok. I proceeded to tell him that this was a new bike rack, the clips had unsnapped, we were about to drive 200 miles north, and I was returning it home so that we could drive safely.

I was nice. I was charming. I was petite. I was white.

Instead of insisting I give him my registration, instead of going back to his car to check my license and background, and instead of giving me a fine, ticket, or even a warning, this policeman stood in the middle of Route 116 and escorted us across the center line into a gas station parking lot. There, I got out of the car and walked freely around to the back, where the officer HELPED ME get the bike correctly, securely, and safely into the clips. Then he sent us on our way to Vermont.

I realized after the fact that my state inspection sticker had been expired. He didn’t even notice.

This — this is white privilege. I didn’t ask for it, but I reaped its benefits. White people — I — need to be talking about these things instead of just accepting and benefiting from them. We need to be doing more to change this. We need to be sitting down and listening, and also showing up and telling stories like this one. And we need to not act surprised, over and over and over, that “this kind of racism exists,” in the words of Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton. We need to take sides and take action.

“Last night, I watched the video of the shooting of Alton Sterling. To me, it looked like an execution. This morning, I learned about the shooting of Philando Castile and asked myself, how many more? How many more people of color will be shot and killed by law enforcement officers before we act to protect all of our citizens? No one, not anyone, can hide behind their badge to commit murder.”  – John Lewis

Dig, do your own research and reading, listen, watch, learn, and share. Start and keep having difficult conversations. Take the time to educate yourself. Now is the time to take sides.

Here are a (very) few suggestions. Please feel free to share relevant links in the comments.