Every so often, even well-meaning people will pooh-pooh the notion of “white privilege.” Most of us who enjoy that privilege fail to recognize how it works, both for us and for those who don’t benefit from the unspoken assumptions evoked by white skin.
What made me think about the subject was an email I received the other day from a (white) friend. She wrote
I’m currently reading “Ted Koppel Off Camera” a book of his daily journal of news and personal observations from 1999. In it, he says he read a statistic that was so incredible he didn’t believe it – that 8 of 10 blacks had spent time behind bars. That includes people held for short times in jail and released for lack of evidence or wrongful arrest, but nevertheless, he was incredulous. So he asked 5 blacks with whom he worked if they had ever been arrested and spent time behind bars, and every one of them had -one repeatedly for driving a new car which police didn’t think a black man should be driving.
Her email reminded me of my own dumbfounded reaction several years ago, when I was part of a small group that later became the much-larger Race Relations Network of the Greater Indianapolis Progress Committee. There were approximately 20 of us in that early group, about half and half white and black. Most were professionals, or highly-educated executives with local companies or organizations.
For some reason, the discussion turned to speed limits, and someone asked “How many of you have been stopped for speeding?” All of us raised our hands. The next question was more pointed. “When you were stopped, how many of you were asked ‘Can I search your vehicle'”? Every black hand went up; no white ones did.
Tell me again how “white privilege” is a myth….