Wednesday, June 10, 2020

What White Privilege Looks Like (A First Hand Experience)

For years I never quite grasped the meaning of "white privilege." My father grew up in extreme poverty and worked his way out. This is America and others from all races, many who never even spoke a word of English, went from rags to a decent life in one generation.

Then I reflected on an incident from my life which I'd never viewed through the lens of privilege, a story which I share with you here.

* * * *
We moved to our rural home while our children were still young, 4 & 6. We had a little land, added a couple small shed-sized barns, and acquired some animals, geese, a duck, pygmy goats, rabbits. The kids learned responsibility and we all enjoyed the hobby farm experience.

We had a problem, however. One of the neighbors had a dog that was accustomed to running free, and he took an interest in visiting our critters. He was aggressive and they were intimidated, frightened. After several such incidents I began to wonder where the law stood with regard to shooting the dog if things continued this way.

Mind you, I do not own guns and would not have done such a thing, but it did make me curious as regards where the law stands on the matter.

It just so happened that as I was driving home from work the next day I was thinking about this question as I drove past a police car with two officers in it. (Proctor police have had a reputation of no mercy for people going faster than the 30 mph speed limit through town.) As I drove by I looked into the face of one of the officers and considered stopping to ask my question.

In the next instant, the red lights were flashing and it became quickly apparent that it was I whom they wanted to stop, so I pulled over. What happened next surprised me though.

Both cops got out of their car and pulled their guns. They made their way slowly along both sides of my car. I watched each in the two side mirrors, curious about what was going on. I was almost laughing because it seemed such an over-reaction. I had not been speeding. I could not imagine what was happening.

I rolled down my window and asked what was going on. He replied that they thought I was someone else.

I then said, "Oh, while you're here, I have been having a problem with the neighbor's dog," and I explained the situation.

He said, "You can shoot the dog."

* * * *

How does White Privilege relate to this story?

My REACTION to being approached by two cops with pistols drawn illustrates White Privilege. I thought it amusing, even funny as it was happening. It was such an obvious over-reaction that I couldn't take it seriously.

I'd be willing to bet money that there are not a lot of African Americans in most parts of the country who would have reacted that way. Two cops approaching with guns drawn? I'm guessing the heart would be racing a little faster, maybe even some praying. Possibly even a temptation to take off and try to get away. Just as a dog can sense our fear, the police might sense this man's fear, and emotions would escalate.

It's more than unfortunate that this situation exists in so many parts of the country, if not most. I do not know how to change it, but it's useful to have a clearer understanding of what people are trying to change. I didn't always "get it."

* * * *
We didn't have any more problems with the dog, only because the neighbors dealt with it themselves. And no, even if we did I would not have tried to shoot him. That's not who I am.

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