Racial Inequality Note From a White Man
At first I didn’t understand. I have spent years believing that it was about politics, each side stoking up fear simply to push voters to their designated voter box. I understood that accidents sometimes happen and we can’t blame an entire system that is “designed to protect all of us”. I have gotten pulled over a time or two and dealt with cops at busted parties. It’s pretty clear to most people, I think regardless of color, that the justice system uses intimidation and fear to do their job. People are less likely to act out when the punishment seems severe or they are frozen in fear due to what might happen.
I have felt this... on a small scale, obviously. I was once pulled over while driving home from college at around 1:30 in the morning. I knew that I had a back tail-light out so when the cop pulled me over I knew I had been driving illegally and was likely to get a ticket before. I hadn’t ever gotten a ticket before so I was nervous as the cop approached my car. I had my license and insurance ready to go and my hands on the wheel when I rolled down the window for the officer. We discussed why the cop pulled me over and I explained that I was driving back to my parents house and was getting it fixed the next day. Then he walked back to his car to run my license. I was still nervous to get in trouble when he returned and asked me 2 questions that I have always prepared to answer defiantly. He first asked, “Do you have any drugs or alcohol in the vehicle?”
Confused by the alcohol portion of the question, since I was 21, I answered, “No,” strongly and confidently.
He then asked, “Would you mind if we searched the vehicle?”
Now this is the moment I had been waiting for, buck struck by anxiety I softly answered, “Yes,” with an almost trembling voice.
The officer leaned in towards the vehicle and asked, now with a demanding tone, “What was that?”
And I quickly, nervously, responded, “I mean, I guess you can, but there’s nothing here and I’m still like 45 minutes from home.” The officer then backed off from his questioning and told me to get home safe without giving me a ticket for the tail-light.
I’ve always understood that there was a certain level of privilege involved in that interaction as well as any other I have had with the police. If I hadn’t been a middle class white kid driving that night, it may have been an entirely different story. I may have gotten a ticket. They may have searched my vehicle, but nothing worse than that could have happened, right? That’s what I’ve told myself all these years.
It wasn’t until recently that it finally clicked for me. I’ve spent the past week watching the news and talking to friends. I was at a birthday party for a friend, who is of African American descent, and listened while him and a few friends discussed and argued passionately about the looting and rioting while the peaceful protest rolled on a few blocks away in downtown Dallas. I had never seen such passion and anger also be so measured. Over the past few days it’s become clear to me that the system treats us differently. Although I’ve never really liked dealing with the police and have felt stressed and intimated during those times. It’s clear that for black people it is a completely different level of fear.
In the past few years innocent black people have been murdered while jogging, sitting in their homes, and sometimes when they are dealing with police during times of possible petty crimes just like the broken tail-light that I was driving around with. If I had been black, would I have gotten to drive home to see my parents that night? Would they have woken up and cooked me breakfast to welcome me home, or would they wake up and have to wonder where I was?
The system is broken. Police officers will continue to abuse their power until they are stopped and the peaceful process didn’t work. As the night fell and the rioting continued across the country, our president shut the lights off. He gave up and went into hiding.
It’s clear that the leaders would rather have order than justice which is completely unacceptable. We all; white, brown, black, purple, and green, need to stand up and stop what is happening.
I don’t know exactly how to help or what to do right now. But I am with you.