But it IS a big deal, and I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately. Everyone is talking about Trayvon Martin, and with good reason. That kind of thing would be fucked up even if race had nothing to do with it. Shooting an unarmed teenage kid in his own neighborhood? I’m surprised people aren’t even more pissed. However, it would appear race DID have something to do with it and that complicates the aftermath even more. It’s probably going to be a long, drawn out, messy sort of case that most people will still manage to forget about a week after it’s over.
As terrible as that event is, that isn’t specifically what I’ve been thinking about (though it was the catalyst this time). I was thinking about the effect being white (or not) has on what happens when you really might be doing something that, while not wrong, may still be illegal or at the very least unpopular. Note that I am among the first to call bullshit when an unpopular person blames their unpopularity on their race or gender instead of their grating personality. I can’t stand that kind of victim mentality, in large part because it insults people who do everything right and still suffer because of actual discrimination. And it’s annoying. And kind of insulting when you accuse me of it, since I try to only dislike people for who they are deep down inside. This gets me yelled at a lot by people who don’t bother to ask me if I just don’t believe discrimination is real in general before assuming. ><
It does exist though, and it affects what I can and can’t do, often in my favor. If I decide to commit civil disobedience it might be a little scary, but not so scary that I don’t feel relatively safe not only risking arrest but being a disrespectful bitch in the process. What are they going to do, make me spend some time in hand cuffs and do some community service? Unless things take a turn for the worse sooner than expected (or I move to Oakland) that is exactly what will happen. Let’s expand the scope to things with no higher purpose or altruism whatsoever. Loitering? It was my hobby for the majority of my teenage years and only a few times was I ever hassled for it. I’ve gotten away with more petty crimes and regular incidences of shoplifting than I can count, and looking like a 17 year old white girl for most of my adult life was a big part of having the balls to think I could pull it off. I trespass because I can say I’m lost and smile and then do it again next week with no penalty. I often walk around at night wearing dark clothing and carrying a backpack and the only time someone stops me it’s to make sure that I’ve heard of rape and know I’m dangerously close to bars full of frat boys. All this, even though I usually have a bright mohawk and a closet full of antagonistic home made tshirts, limited people skills, and have never once bothered to dress like a “responsible adult”.
Could I have managed all that if I was black, or latina? If I had a foreign manner of dress or an accent? Maybe. Probably not. Who knows? In any case, it would be something I would have to consider every time I set out to do something that might piss someone off. Maybe even when I was just doing normal things that shouldn’t bother anyone.
I’ll never know what it’s actually like to experience racial profiling first hand. I’ve watched it happen to friends and been told to “just let it go” when I start getting ready to unleash a torrent of abuse at the perpetrator. I respect this, because I know how it feels to have someone try and fight your battles when you just want to get through the day quietly, but I think I’ve found an alternate outlet for this frustration. This last November while waiting with the rest of Occupy Charlottesville for the police to show up and kick us out, I had a conversation with my friend Luis, who has an amazing talent that I lack. The ability to speak about volatile subjects with more diplomacy than I can usually manage to order a sandwich with. Seriously, he’s one of the few people I look forward to having awkwardly tense political themed conversations with. 😛
“I’ve decided what I’m going to do with my white privilege.”
“What is that?”
“I’m going to get arrested for stuff like this as often as I have the opportunity. I’m going to be a huge pain in the police’s ass and get away with it.”
“Good. That’s what it should be for.”
I won’t go out of my way to get in trouble for nonsense, but I will make sure that I always have someone willing to feed my cat just in case trouble finds me. Judging from the messages making their way around the internet urging the white middle class to start purposely copying “suspicious” behavior and dress to make a point, others have had similar ideas. Join us. It might be for a good cause. Something even more important than antagonizing authority figures!