White Privilege

One of my job responsibilities is to have regular check-ins with our City Directors. These calls are usually filled with laughter, frustration, anger, and occasionally the unexpected. This past week the unexpected happened.

We were about 30 minutes into our conversation, when all of a sudden the person on the other end when into a minor panic moment. Like me she was multi-tasking. The call started with her working from home, then she packed up and headed to her car to go to a meeting. In the process she went from talking on her headphones to switching to her car’s Bluetooth system. The crisis happened about 5 minutes into her drive. At first I was worried she had gotten into an accident. This was not the case.

She had forgotten to take out her wallet and put it on the dashboard. Her panic seemed a little unwarranted to me. So in a silly attempt to say “no big deal” I started laughing. For her it was a big deal.  In a moment of grace, on her part, she proceeded to explained things to me. It went something like this:

“Glenn, I am a black woman driving a car, if the police decide to stop me I don’t want them to think that when I reach for my wallet that I am reaching for a gun.”

This staff person is close to my age. Both of us have been driving for 30 plus years. In all of that time I have never worried about where my ID is. To be honest I don’t even panic if I forget my ID at home. Getting a ticket would suck, but I wouldn’t be afraid of the encounter.

For more than 30 years my friend and co-worker has had to think about where her ID is every time she gets into a car. This grows out of a very real concern for her life.

Privilege, particularly white straight male privilege, means that I get to go about my day-to-day life without worry. For the most part I do not need safe places, mostly because the world is my safe place. I don’t always know what to do about my privilege. I didn’t earn it, it simply is. One thing I am slowly learning is to listen to the concerns of my friends of color and those in the GLBTQI community. Their fears are not “boogeyman-ish;” they are real. All you have to do is turn on the news. Somehow I want to find a way to be part of the solution. This is my hope and dream.

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1 Comment

Filed under A New Kind of Christian, Bearing Witness, being wrong, Beloved Community, Christian, church, conversion, cultural insensitivity, culture, diversity, Fear, inclusion, listening, Solidarity, theology, Uncategorized

One response to “White Privilege

  1. Joan

    Two things I might mention. SW FL is a real piece of work (and, no, not Sarasota). The police can do no wrong. My suggestion relates to their insistence that they test for DUI. The police impounded the car of a close to 80 something friend and made him walk home . . . and he was German and straight!!! Said he blew over the legal limit (not true). Here’s the solution. Should one find oneself in such straights, grab your chest, say you’re having chest pains and demand an ambulance. Have blood and urine tests done by the hospital! See how fast the all knowing police back down.

    As for the white privilege thing . . . make it work for you and all your friends, no matter the color. Worked in law in Chicago for 35 years. When I saw something hinky (racially or sexually) I would immediately offer to go as a witness with the offended person to report to HR. I always opened my big mouth and made a stink. Use your white privilege! Make it work for everyone you know.

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