Emily DeTar, Traces of Privilege, 3
Online later, I was explaining this to my black girlfriend Ashley, and she was shocked. “You did, WHAT?”
“Yeah, I just called the police. They came over and helped. They were really nice about it.”
“That would never happen.”
“Well what would you do?”
“Call AAA. But never call the police. A black woman outside of a locked car, trying to get in? I would get arrested.”
I was stunned silent, slowly realizing how truly she spoke. I thought back about the scene. I was in Beechwood, a suburb of East Cleveland that had a large black population. I just happened to be white. But just happening to be white, made a huge difference. I was never asked for my ID, or my driver’s license which I had on me. If they had researched the license number, they would have seen the title in is my parent's name and not mine, something that could have easily been suspicious if I was taken as someone not to be trusted. But I was trusted, because I didn’t appear as someone who was scary. I wasn’t threatening, because I was white.
Even more stunning, was the realization that it never occurred to me that it could be a bad idea to call the police. Growing up in a small town, I had been locked out of my parent’s car before. And my parents told me to always call the police. My parents taught me to trust the police, and that they would always help me. When I got locked out of my car, I had known about the national political discourse surrounding police brutality. I knew that when it came to larger events like murders or violence, that police should be questioned. But this was just getting locked out of a car? Why would anyone have trouble with the police with something as routine as this?
In order to truly work for a world that gives everyone their holy respect, my faith calls me to constantly unpack my white privilege. Unpacking racial privilege for me, means consistently challenging my assumptions, making and quickly learning from my mistakes, and listening without defensiveness or interjection to the needs and realities of oppressed peoples. I know that this example is only a very small example of the privileges of being white, but it helps point to the larger reality of an unjust world we are called to change. May this memory help you to reflect on your own experiences of privilege, so that we together can work to uncover injustice and build a more just and loving world.
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This is part 3 of an ongoing series, "Traces of Privilege," which explores privileges I possess, and what my faith as a Unitarian Universalist calls me to do about them.
Traces of Privilege, 1: The UU Privileges and Purposes
Traces of Privilege, 2: Unitarian Universalism Has Class -- Meaning Economic Privilege
Traces of Privilege, 4: The Privilege of Working for Black Lives Matter