The red and blue lights turned on and began to circle as Mom looks in her rear view mirror. The police car that sees her before she sees it is pulling up closer to her car from the rear. I am in the front passenger seat facing forward unaware of the cruiser quickly approaching us.
Mom, with a disappointed tone in her voice says, “ahh shoot, I am being pulled over for speeding.”
Mom brings the car to a stop on the shoulder of the rural road. The police officer approaches the car as Mom searches for her insurance card and asks me to get the registration out of the glove compartment.
The officer now standing at Mom’s window asks for the two pieces of information we are trying to locate. Nervous fingers and hands often pass over the obvious. The officer is understanding and tells us to continue to look as he returns to his cruiser. Unfortunately, he promises to be right back.
As soon as he leaves and we are able to calm down the registration and insurance card are found. Mom notices the insurance card shows it expired the day before. Mom recalls the new insurance card is on the kitchen table, 25 miles away.
The officer is now back at the door with a pink ticket. He explains Mom was doing 48 miles an hour in a 35 mile per hour zone. He checks her insurance card and notices it has expired. Mom explains she has the new one at home and he is very understanding.
He hands Mom a warning and asks that she pay more attention to the speed limit in this area. She thanks him and he tells her to have a nice day. He returns to his cruiser.
Mom turns to me and says, “Well, that was lucky.”
We continue down the road and I reflect on the many times I have been pulled over by the police. Luck has never been so favorable in my encounters. If I had a Leprechaun with a pot of gold in the front seat my luck would not have been as favorable as Mom’s luck today.
I am conflicted with my thoughts. My initial thought is that if I had been driving I would have gotten a speeding ticket and a ticket for no insurance. Did Mom get a pass because she has less melanin in her skin? How would this have played out if I was the driver?
The only time I ever got a warning and not a ticket was when I was pulled over with two white college friends in the car.
Is this an example of white privilege or me being paranoid. Since there is no way to verify either way I wrestle with the thought that because of my skin I am treated differently or I am being too sensitive.
When I go to the store and I am ignored is it because I am black? When I go to the store and I am given too much attention is it because I am black?
Experience has taught me my skin color may be a factor. I have been conditioned to question its involvement whenever I am treated rudely or unfairly. It is the first thought that rushes to the front of my head.
“Did they do that because I am black?” I spend then next 30 seconds debating the question. It is automatic and a conditioned response.
This past summer I sat in a room with mostly white adults and we openly talked about white privilege. To be in a room of whites who admit there is such a thing as white privilege was an experience in itself.
They were transracial adoptive parents and they were fearful of how white privilege would affect their children.
Since that conversation I think a lot about how it affects me and this is a great example. I am not saying all incidents like the ones above are racially motivated.
The gray area of doubt that accompanies how I am treated and why gives way to a 30 second debate several times a day. To be free of this debate would truly be a privilege.